The mushroom of spring

When one thinks of mushrooms, their presence is usually associated with autumn and a wet and rainy season. But there are varieties of mushrooms that are born, and can be found, in the spring, and, together with the swallows, announce their arrival. One of these is the Calocybe Gambosa, a mushroom that is also popularly called in many other ways. For example, it is called the mushroom of San Giorgio, because tradition has it that it starts on April 23, when there is precisely the anniversary of this saint. It is called prugnolo, because it uses to be born in the midst of thorny bushes, or beetle, to remember the fact that it can be found in the undergrowth until May. The beetle mushroom is much appreciated by connoisseurs, and is often associated, for delicacy, with the porcini mushroom.

The characteristics of the beetle

The beetle mushroom is found therefore in the period that goes from March-April to May, but obviously these dates can change according to the altitude to which the search is effected. Generally the specimens of this species grow in groups, arranging themselves in a circle, which in the past was thought to be the circles of witches. They are found in the middle, or near, to bushes of hawthorn, canine rose or blackthorn. The beetle can be recognized for its color, which fluctuates between white and pale yellow, and the smell, which makes one think of flour, as well as the taste of its flesh. The hat is more curved when the beetle is young, and tends to flatten at the edges as it ages. The stem is firm and solid, and reaches even eight centimeters in height, while the cap can reach a diameter of 10 centimeters. The gambosa name alludes to the fact that the stem often has a reddish color.

How to collect the beetle

The beetle mushroom is very valuable, and it is also a species protected by precise regulations, because a collection method that pays little attention to the protection of the habitat has greatly reduced its population. In some Italian regions, for example in the Marche, it is expressly forbidden to use the rake to sift the undergrowth, because in this way the spores that allow the reproduction of the mushrooms are killed. When a beetle mushroom is found, it must be carefully picked using the special small knife. Unless you are very experienced, it is always good to ask for confirmation of your identity at a specialized center, because it could be confused with other species that are harmful to health, maybe even lethal. For example, the beetle looks a lot like the Inocybe patouillardi, which is poisonous.

Beetle: How to cook the beetle

The beetle is a highly prized mushroom, highly sought after for its good taste. In the sixteenth century it was even considered a food suitable only for the tables of the nobles, and it was forbidden for peasants and farmers to consume it, if they found it. Today, festivals are also dedicated to him, and many recipes are known to bring out the best aroma. The beetle can be eaten raw, in salads, and this type of consumption is good for health because it helps lower blood glucose levels. The salad is prepared with slices of colonnata lard, salt, pepper, lemon juice and balsamic vinegar. Alternatively, it can be used to make a sauce with which to dress the tagliatelle, to accompany with a glass of white wine. The beetle in fact has the virtue of enhancing the taste of a good wine.