Mushroom Picking in Italy
Italy's fields and forests have a wide variety of edible mushrooms. Find out how to get a mushrooming licence and what mushrooms you can expect to find...
Rain and sunshine are the perfect combination for the growth of mushrooms, which means that summer and autumn each year are mushroom seasons in Italy.
Mushrooms are picked in many different areas and play an important part in Italian cuisine. They are eaten in many different ways: together with meat, game or poultry; used as a filling in ravioli; as part of a pasta or risotto dish; in soups or to make thick spreading creams.
When preserved in olive oil, mushrooms are also served as a starter, together with other antipasti. They may also be dehydrated - this is mostly the case for ceps (funghi porcini) - sold in little sachets and then rehydrated before use. Also traditional is the white truffle (tartufo bianco) from Alba in the Piedmont region; a truffle is essentially a fungus that grows underground while a mushroom is an above ground fungus.
Mushroom picking is treated as a hobby by many people and, in order to regulate this, a law was established on a national level, which is then adapted locally in each region.
A licence (tesserino) is required to pick mushrooms everywhere in Italy. In some areas, this licence will be delivered once the person has attended a basic course and passed a test; in other regions the licence is given without conditions.
The licence can be bought from the Mountain Community (comunità montane), the Consortium of Management of Parks (consorzio di gestione dei parchi), the Province (provincia) or the City (il comune).
Each region or province has its own regulations, and also decides on a calendar (days when it is authorised to pick mushrooms and days during which mushroom picking is prohibited), as well as the quantity of mushrooms allowed per person (usually two or three kilograms per day per person). In some areas, there might be additional specific restrictions applying to certain species of mushrooms.
Each year about 40,000 people suffer from mushroom poisoning in Italy.
There are about 300 different types of non-edible mushrooms in Europe. Eating them can cause problems such as digestive discomfort (nausea, diarrhoea) for a limited period of time or more serious ailments such as convulsions, tachycardia or kidney infection.
In order to avoid these problems, the sanitation authorities (Unione Nazionale del Personale Ispettivo Sanitario d’Italia) offer the following advice:
- never pick mushrooms in a polluted environment, close to a highway or a rubbish dump
- do not pick up mushrooms just for the sake of it
- put mushrooms in a wicker basket
- if unsure about the safety of a mushroom, do not mix it in the same basket with ones that are certainly safe
- get advice from a health professional: the staff of a local health department (ASL Agenzia Sanitaria Locale) will be in a position to provide free advice on the mushrooms collected
In case of poisoning, call or go to the Emergency Service (Pronto Soccorso). If possible, take some of the mushrooms or the remains of the dish eaten. Never try to self-cure, do not take any drugs, do not attempt to vomit.
- Funghi Magazine (in Italian)