The Pharmacist and the Mushrooms

This is a strange tale of knowledge lost and found.

Country people everywhere gather food from the wild and, given the desperate times Spain and Andalucia suffered during and after the Civil War, it is not surprising that the villagers of Cartajima learned long ago to feed themselves from the rich natural larder around them. At any time of the year people can be spotted pulling unrecognisable plants from the ground, clambering over the rocks for a special herb, using arcane knowledge to put food on the table. The treats from the wild include oyster thistles, asparagus, nettles, garlic, many herbs, madrona berries, and, above all, edible fungi.

TAGARNINA

There are two sorts of mushrooms in these parts: those that grow under the chestnut trees and those that grow in the Riscos, the craggy mountains behind the village. The chestnut tree mushrooms are autumnal and of them, the most delicious and most extraordinary is the amanitas Cesaria or Caesar’s mushroom. They are considered a great delicacy…

Caesar's Mushrooms gently brushed clean of soil

…. but only recently. Until a few years ago, the people of Cartajima despised them. When they saw them growing under their chestnut trees, they kicked them down, terrified of their presumed poison.

Now this is strange as Caesar loved them thousands of years ago and exported them to the colonies. So what went wrong? How was valuable food knowledge lost. Well, nobody can tell me that but they do know how the knowledge was rediscovered.

About fifteen years ago, a new pharmacist arrived in the village to take charge of the pharmacy (strangely!) When he realised that his new neighbours were denying themselves the best wild food of all, he proceeded to enlighten them by eating large quantities of this fungus in the local bar to prove that it was OK. He lived and the Cartajimeños now spend many hours every autumn foraging under the chestnuts for these divine fungi.

Amanitas Cesaria

And enjoying them sprinkled with pomegranite seeds, olive oil and salt. Divine. Fare fit for a Caesar.