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Interviewer “What kind of mushrooms can you eat?”

Professor (smirking) “You can eat whichever ones you like, but some you will only eat once.”

The Italians have a love affair with mushrooms - especially porcini - and with the autumn rains arrives peak funghi season. The Italians will then take to the fields and woods in large numbers hunting for these delicacies. Unfortunately, every year about 40,000 cases of poisoning result from these activities so we tend to give the roadside porcini sellers a very wide berth…

Porcini translates as “little pigs” although why this should be the case is not clear. Rich in protein, these mushrooms are highly valued for their intense nutty taste that famously complements tagliatelle and risotto or produces a wonderful sauce to accompany pork. Whether fresh or dried, the porcini mushroom gives the cook another umami dimension.

Porcini are found predominantly in Marche, Tuscany, Alto Aldige, Piedmont, Emilia Romagna, Umbria, and the Veneto. Interestingly, they are extremely diffficult to cultivate as they need to grow in and around the roots of trees and, as far as we know, there have been no successful attempts to cultivate them.

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