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Perfecture of Grevena

For decades, a unique form of 'hunt' has been taking place on the slopes surrounding the Valia Kalda valley in the prefecture of Grevena, northwestern Greece. The so-called "mushroom hunting", or wild mushroom picking, is a trade that has been passed down from generation to generation. The region is known for the more than 2,600 species of wild mushrooms that grow there, many of them edible, and for the plethora of local dishes featuring them, as well as an annual Mushroom Festival in the summer. A Mushroom Society has also been set up, which informs the public about the area's mushrooms and how to cook them.

Whether a hobby or profession, mushroom picking is part of the daily life of Grevena. Indeed, wild mushrooms are an important source of revenue for Grevena, with many locals involved in the trade, while there is even a specialised local taverna that features dishes with more than 100 wild species throughout the year.

Considered a select delicacy, some of the local wild mushrooms have a market value well above that of black caviar.

The forests of Grevena host tens or even hundreds of mushrooms. It is wonderful to look at them, distinguish them, thrill your senses with their splendid taste and aroma, feel their texture or…even hear them being sautéed! Mushrooms belong to the fungi kingdom. If you know how to distinguish edible from poisonous mushrooms, then you will have the chance to enjoy a very delicious dish.

Today, mushroom recorders give valuable advice on this matter and demolish old theories according to which the mushrooms that have a ring or change colours during cooking can be safely consumed. In fact, only an experienced observer can distinguish the various species of fungi. However, the inhabitants of Grevena know how to distinguish mushrooms, cook them and serve them. Mushroom gathering is actually one of the favourite occupations of those who live in the villages of Mt Voio in particular. So, if you visit the regions of Spilaeo, Alatopetra, Polyneri, Philipaioi and Kalloni, you will have the chance to taste traditionally cooked local mushrooms! In Grevena, you can savour “toursi” (pickles), mushroom pies or meat dishes served in various mushroom sauces.

Moreover, you can find excellent mushroom varieties such as oysters (Pleurotus ostreatus), shaggy-manes (Coprinus comatus), chanterelles (Cantharellus cibarius), mushrooms that grow in pine forests – they mainly belong to the genus Suillus – or the Russula mushroom species that have a green cap.

© photography by christos drazos