Hunting the Elusive Funghi
Mushroom hunting is definitely my kind of hunting and here, in Piedmont, it is a competitive sport. No, I’m not kidding. Serious mushroom hunters wear camouflage, have special mushroom collecting baskets and wake up extra early in order to beat everyone else to the mushroom hot spots. We heard a number of stories from Summer, Fabrizio and their friends about their many mushroom hunting shenanigans and were dying to go. So on Saturday we woke up early, finished some crushing/destemming at the winery and headed to the forests of Alberola and Sassello to rustle up some funghi.
You have to purchase a license at a little sandwich shop in the town at the mouth of the forest in order to ‘hunt’ the mushroom. This is the place where you size up your competition over a focacia sandwich and an espresso, eavesdrop on people chatting about spots in the forest where their friend’s, uncle’s, daughter-in-law hit the funghi jackpot, and hope that no one notices the two American’s sitting in the corner because our kind is apparently prone to running excitedly when we find one mushroom, inadvertently crushing many others in our haste. This is also an amazing place for people watching. I wish I had pictures I could show you of some of the outfits but I didn’t think that would go over so well with the hunters. Just believe me when I say that some of these people are hardcore.
So after our sandwiches we were off to the forest. We were totally clueless and excited all at the same time. Within our first five minutes of searching, Fabrizio found a nice sized porcini mushroom. It was perfect, now we knew what we were looking for. Within 15 minutes I found 3 more porcini’s and my plan B in life, if my winemaking plan went bust. I quickly realized how this could become an addiction. Everything in the forest is the same color and the mushrooms aren’t easy to spot, so when you actually find one, you feel like you just hit the jackpot and are determined to find more.
We ended up with two baskets full of different varieties of mushrooms at the end of the day, which is apparently a pretty meager load (due to the lack of rain not our skill level, of course). We’ve heard stories of having so many mushrooms that you can’t fit the people back into the car. Matt and I only ended up finding 6 edible mushrooms between the two of us and Fabrizio found the rest. We were completely impressed by his 6th sense for finding mushrooms. That fact that he was able to spot some of these mushrooms was pretty unbelievable.
That evening we ended the day the way mushroom hunters should, by enjoyed two amazingly fresh mushroom salads with dinner and a magnum of Iuli Nino pinot noir. Perfecto!