Mushrooms: Poor People’s ‘Meat’

I read that among all Europeans, Greeks and Albanians are the peoples less interested in wild mushrooms.  They are afraid that they will be poisoned and avoid them in general. This has changed in recent years, following French and Italian trends, and there are now organized mushroom foraging weekends in several parts of central and northern Greece. But I have yet to see individuals forage for mushrooms.  There are some exceptions, of course, like our friend Eva Green, a Greek-Australian painter who spends 5-6 months on Kea, and then goes back to Sydney, thus enjoying summer all year round. Eva has a passion for mushrooms and wanders around the mountainous central and eastern parts of the island, under the oak trees, where she once found some wonderful porcini. But, the other year she got some sort of mild –fortunately– mushroom poisoning, and she seems to have lost her enthusiasm…

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Tourists visiting the islands in the summer probably think that mushrooms won’t grow in this rocky and arid landscape. But in the winter all over the Cyclades a wealth of wild mushrooms emerge among the wild greens. Even in our garden, under the olive trees, we get a few glystrites (Volvopluteus gloiocephalus) each winter; not a particularly delicious mushroom, but very common in the Cyclades. They are called lardites in Amorgos (lardi means ‘lard’) and islanders used to eat them in the old days dredged in flour and fried, like meatballs; they were often called ‘meat of the poor!’

MUSHROOMS FROM OUR GARDEN in KEA
Glystrites (Volvopluteus gloiocephalus), called lardites in Amorgos (lardi means ‘lard’).

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For two years we had in the northeastern corner of the garden the rare Colus hirudinosus; they begin their development in the form of a structure shaped like an egg.

See the Recipe: Charcoal-grilled Oyster Mushrooms with Garlic-Lemon-Honey GlazeFellow food writer Faye Levi recently asked her Facebook friends if we had any recipes for king oyster mushrooms, and I remembered Costas’ charcoal-grilled version that I had published a few years back in a Greek magazine. They are absolutely delicious and can be served as main course, accompanied by bulgur pilaf that complements beautifully the mushrooms’ earthiness.

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