There is a real madness for the islanders
about going out to the forest hunting for the "pebrasus"
We adore cooking and eating this specific
mushroom in different ways and recipes, though there is not
a proper tradition for the "Fungus Culture" in the
Balearic Islands. There is a little bit more in Mallorca,
but nothing like there is in the Basque Country, Catalan Country
or in most of France.
For instance, here in Ibiza, there are very
few who know - even among the old, almost professional mushroom
hunters - that what we call pick up, cook and eat as an only
and singular species, "Pebrasus" (some even use
this word for all kinds of mushrooms).
It is in fact, three different species of
"lactarius", "Lactarius sanguifluus",
"Lactarius semi-sanguifluus" and "Lactarius
vinosus", very similar species that grow at the same
time, with the same climatic conditions and in the same environment,
the dry Mediterranean forest, with mostly pine trees where
they grow in symbiosis with their roots.
The differences among them are very subtle.
The best way to find out is the colour of the "milk",
the "Latex" that all "lactarius" contain.
It shows when you cut or break them. ("Lactarius"
with white or yellowish latex are bitter or pepperish, some
a little bit poisonous and not edible).
It varies from saffron or carrot colour
("semi-sanguifluus") to dark, with greenish reflections,
red wine of the "vinosus" (the other differences
are to be seen in the microscope, the spores etc.). If you
ask to locals the reason for this, most probably they will
answer that this is something to do with the place where "pebrasus"
grow, with the colour of the clay of the ground.
They may be right in part, some grow better
than others in different areas, but the fact is that there
are three difference species ("gourmets" say that
the ones with darker latex have a sharper, stronger taste).
Perhaps it will be good to know (good at
least for this exclusive mushroom, so they don't have to support
all the pressure just on them) that there are a lot of profitable
ones in our fields and forests, some with a lovely taste and
texture, real "delicatessen" standard if they are
cooked properly, that are being ignored by the great majority
of us, basically because this fact is unknown and also because,
for so many years, there were plenty of the proper "pebrasus",
and they could be used for any recipe with mushrooms in it,
even eaten raw in salads; there was no need for using "second
There is also a "black legend"
about poisonous toadstools; you don't eat a wild mushroom
if you are not two hundred per cent sure of what you eat.
Obviously this is a very good advice; much better to be safe
In all of Spain, according to the statistics,
there are six to ten people killed by eating poisonous toadstools
every mushroom season, though none on Ibiza, as far as we
know, basically because the great majority only collect "pebrasus"
and they cannot be confused. Most of the victims are young
children, by accident, far more of the victims, of any age,
need medical assistance for no fatal intoxication, even from
edible ones, because mushrooms contain proteins and a lot
of water (ninety five per cent in some cases), but they go
off very quickly if not kept properly. Mushrooms have to be
eaten fresh, like fish.
In Ibiza, I know of three cases in my neighbourhood,
none of them fatal. The first one was two sisters and a brother,
from six to ten years old. They were playing, picking up mushrooms
like grown-ups do, imitating their mother cooking, they ate
some raw "boletus", edible if they are properly
cooked, but indigestible and a little bit toxic if eaten raw.
They were sick for a day or two, but the
second case was more serious. Two brothers, five and six,
ate, directly from the ground, a very common, small and pretty
mushroom, with a sweetish taste, "lepiota" that
grows by their house.
This type of toadstool is one of the most
poisonous in this part of the world, the worst one we have
on the Island.
They spent over two weeks in hospital; no
doubt they would have died if they had eaten more of them.
The third case I know even better: it was
myself (twice) in my younger experiments, but I feel a little
bit embarrassed to speak about it. There are different types
and levels of fungus intoxication, always according to personal
sensibility and health, but if symptoms appear within the
first hour or two after eating them, don't panic. Normally
it is not a very dangerous intoxication.
So, what is to be recommended to anybody
who is interested in enjoying Nature this way and to anybody
who lives by the forest, especially with young children, is
to have a good mushrooms & toadstools guide-book. It is
better to have one specific to your own country. Read it (of
course!) and take it with you on your country walks.
Start with "the bad ones" and
make sure that you can recognise the ones that can really
do damage and make sure that children understand the danger
of them as well. There are not so many on this island - twelve,
fifteen at the most - which can be classified as really dangerous
In Ibiza and Formentera we don't have the
most poisonous "amanitas" (there are no records
of them in the last thirty years) "Amanita phalloides",
"Amanita verna", "Amanita pantherina", common in Mallorca and Menorca.
In fact, our fatal and most dangerous mushrooms
are quite small, three to six centimetres, ten at the very
most, the diameter of its hat, such as "Lepiota rhodorrhiza",
"Lepiota cristata" "Lepiota josserandii"
and very similar species, that contain a big concentration
of "amanitina", one of the fatal toxins of the "amanitas".
Another group of our dangerous poisonous
toadstools is "Mycena pura" and "Mycena rosea,"
also common and small, up to seven centimetres at most. They
contain "muscarina", as well as "Clitocybe
dealbata" and most of the small, whitish "inocybes,"
"Inocybe fastigiata" "Inocybe heimii,"
"Inocybe geophylla" or "Panaeolus sphinctrinus"
that grow on cow manure. These species provoke a serious neuro-toxic
intoxication, but "never" fatal.
There are also several species of "russulas",
"cortinarius", "entolomas" "hebelomas",
"hypholoma" and others, such as "Pleurotus
olearia" that give, or can give serious gastro-enteritis,
kidney and liver problems. Some can become fatal if a sick
person eats too much of them. Others which taste good are
only poisonous if eaten raw, "giromitra", "hevella,"
some "boletus" or, only if mixed with wine or any
alcoholic drink, "Coprinus atramentarius" etc. (It
can help the hospital, in case of food or drink intoxication,
especially toadstools, to save some vomit in a plastic bag
and take it along with the patient).
It is also to be recommended not to eat
too much of any mushroom, especially if it is the first time
or a new one. There are people very allergic to some of them,
especially if mushrooms are old and not very fresh. Even the
best ones can give indigestion to some.
Mushrooms can also absorb and concentrate
in them heavy metals from the ground, such as lead, cadmic,
mercury, copper, selenium and others. It is when there is
a high pollution of these minerals in the area where they
are collected, near big factories, by the side of roads, rubbish,
etc., that eating mushrooms can become a health problem for
its accumulation in the human body.
(To be continued next week)
Lactarius vinosus (Edible)
Lactarius semisanguifluus (Edible)
Lepiota josserandii (Deadly Poisonous)
Lepiota rhodorrhiza (
Lepiota cristate (Poisonous)
Inocybe geophylla (Poisonous)
Inocybe rimosa (Poisonous)
Mycena pura (Poisonous)
Mycena rosea (Poisonous)
José P Ribas