[PHOTO GALLERY]: Hundreds of enthusiasts take to the Parque Natural de Los Alcornocales and Pinar del Rey to see the myriad of mushroom species that bloom at this time of year.
After a rather dry autumn, mushroom enthusiasts are now enjoying a great December in the Campo de Gibraltar as a delayed mushroom season commences. Inland municipalities like Los Barrios, Castellar and Jimena de la Frontera all have strong traditions based on mushroom sighting and picking, which is why every year they are home to conferences, workshops, gastronomic experiences and tours through the natural parks…
Covid-19 restrictions this year have meant that some of these activities have had to be cancelled; but this has not discouraged people from venturing outside and taking part in activities which have been adapted to the anti-Covid restrictions in Spain.
For example, mushroom sighting tours in Pinar del Rey (which took place on the 12th, 13th, 19th and 20th of December) were organised by the San Roque Environment delegation. Of course, the tours were subject to strict guidelines and involved mushroom picking and lessons on identifying the most common species of fungi in the area.
Mushroom picking tours were carried out in small groups guided by experts from the specialist ‘MicoTime’ company – a technical and management consultancy company which specialises in mushrooms. As the Sanroque Counsellor for the Environment, Juan Serván, explained, the walking tours in Pinar del Rey were followed by a workshop where participants learned to “till” saprophytic mushrooms and then classify the strains that were collected – with emphasis placed on distinguishing between edible and toxic mushrooms.
Microtime reminded guests that mushrooms, at least the edible ones, are “nutritious and healthy; an ideal addition to our diet”.
So, through these activities, visitors are encouraged to delve into the mysterious world of mushrooms by creating their very own “mycoexperience” (a play on the word mycology – mushrooms – and experience) and learning about; how mushrooms reproduce, which ones are edible, how to differentiate and classify them and how to properly collect them.
Groups in the Campo de Gibraltar like the “Asociación Micológica del Estrecho Mairei” (AMEM) and the “Asociación Micológica y Botánica Los Alcornocales” have played a major part in the recent explosion of interest in mushrooms. As AMEM explained, these groups intend to “channel and promote the interest that already exists for the scientific, gastronomic, medical and toxicological aspects of mushrooms…”
As explained by the experts, the Los Alcornocales Natural Park, which boasts the most extensive forest of cork oaks in Europe as well as an abundance of undergrowth and gall oaks, is a “unique setting with a mycological wealth within reach of a few territories in the country” which, together with the unusual climate in the Strait – high humidity in the mountainous region – makes it a “paradise” for mushroom enthusiasts.
As Juan Antonio Valle Viana, a prominent member of the Mairei Association, told ReachExtra: “the Fungi Kingdom requires organic matter and moisture for its entire life cycle if it is to survive”, and explained that in Northern Spain “our region, with a Mediterranean climate, only has an abundance of sustenance and moisture during the rainy season”.
Mairei told us that “in flat areas with an abundance of calcarenites (limestone), as is the case in El Pinar del Rey, we see an abundance of ‘kastanozems’ (rich soil) which allows for the growth of Lactarius, Xerocomus, Amanita, Macrolepiota mushrooms”, as well as other species of fungi. In the middle slopes of Los Alcoronocales, which has “acidic soils which help cork oaks, strawberry trees and heaths grow”, there are “good harvests” of Boletus, Yemas, Crespas, Rúsulas, Trumpetas and other fungi variants.
He continued to explain that “in lands which have enjoyed recent sediment and abundant water, such as ravines and spouts,” you will find mushroom as varied as the “red caltrous, the Calocera cornea or the Dichomitus campestris”, while in the “gall quejigales superhumid”, there are many emblematic species such as the Chantarela, the Amanita phalloides or the Boletus aereus, among others.