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Mushroom hunting in Ikaria

Dear friend of Ikaria

One of the most entertaining activities for the Ikarians during autumn is mushroom hunting.

Every year in autumn from October to December the locals are praying for rain, followed by a couple of days of sunshine. The reason is simple: that kind of weather helps the wild mushrooms to thrive.

Every terrain and landscape has different species of mushrooms. The kind of mushrooms you will find, depends of the location (high in the mountains, or closer to the coast), the vegetation growing around it and many other reasons. Every single kind has its special taste, color and shape. Most of the mushrooms are difficult to find: hidden as they are, covered with pine needles or leaves, waiting to be discovered.

The ''Kalamara” mushroom is a beautiful and very tasty variety that signals the opening season of the mushrooms. They look like small umbrellas and they never grow alone, so if you find one, you will surely find many around it.

Mushrooms don't talk and they don't make noise so you have to look for them. But how? Ikarians usually go for a long hike in the forest. They walk slowly and patiently, scanning the terrain carefully. As soon as they see a strange puff of pine needles they look under it. Sometimes they find a mushroom, but not always. This kind of walk might take for hours, especially when the baskets are filling themselves with mushrooms.

Some species, such as “kalamares” and “pefkites”, grow under pine trees. “Fouskes” are like small puffs, white and grey, and you’ll find them in clusters. “Hondrites” are white and easy to find; they look like an upside down funnel. Also the “sfoygarites” and “akisarites”are easy to be found.

For some other types you need a sharp eye and of course some luck. “Koumarites”, for example, our favorite kind of mushrooms, usually grow near arbutus trees. They have an orange color up and down and they look like short umbrellas. They are cooked on the grill with a little bit of olive oil and served with lemon. It’s a very tasty pickle.

“Somanites” are quite rare to find, as they are always hidden under pine needles. They have a smooth velvety texture and they smell like heaven. Whomever knows that mushroom will tell you about that special aroma. Their taste is even better: strong, quite stiff and bitter. Cooked on the grill with a bit of olive oil and served with lemon. Also the ideal kind for pickles.

Some rare to find species: “Perdikoklonares”, they look like sea corals and taste amazing, “nevrites” the wild version of Plevrotous with a very good aroma and taste, and “dafnites”, which are purple electric. All of them grow up in clusters and you’ll find them in more or less the same places every year.

Many kinds of mushrooms are very poisonous. And did you know that even a normal one can turn poisonous when it grows next to garbage?

We have many funny names for the poisonous kinds: “skilomanites” or “dog mushrooms”, “famelites” because only one of them can kill a family, “elikopterites” because you will need an helicopter to fly to a hospital and so on. For the lovers of the sixties we also have a psychotropic kind, the “lolomanites” or “crazy mushrooms”.

However there’s nothing to worry about, as long as you keep the following two simple rules in mind:

  • Never collect mushrooms next to irons, rusty things or in a dirty environment.

  • Always show your mushrooms to a local who knows about mushrooms (and most of us do).

Whenever you set off to find mushrooms, please take care of the forest and be modest and kind to the environment. Always cut the mushrooms with a knife, leaving the root inside the ground so you won't spoil the seeds. Put the mushrooms in a basket so the seeds (the ones under their umbrella) will be spread around while you are moving.

And a tip: don't try to find mushrooms in a place that is shepherd by goats, the goats will have found them long before you.

Mushroom hunting was one of my favorite activities when I was a child, as I was growing up next to a pine forest. Unfortunately, that year isn't those years weren’t all too good for mushrooms, due to lack of rains.

Hope you enjoyed the content ...

Mazari G. Eleni


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