Reflections on my Camino – Mushrooms

“I’ve never met a mushroom I didn’t like.”

So before the comments start, no, I did not walk the Camino only to find mushrooms. They were there and so was I. Was it another bit of randomness or a function of the fall season? I will never know. 

Before beginning my trip, I had toyed with the idea that I would challenge myself to not keep my head down surveying the ground for interesting mushrooms. But I found that it was more intrinsic to me than I had thought. It also proved the value to walking sticks as I could not keep my eyes from wandering to and fro over the ground. The sticks kept me from falling over as I wasn’t paying attention to where I was walking.

As with many talents on the Camino I was able to share this passion for funghi with others. As we walked along I would point out the different kinds of mushrooms and the trees they were associated with. I found it interesting how people who now had the time to look, began to find mushrooms as they walked. The questions would come up about the edibility and I enjoyed sharing the “pick only what you know” rule. Some people really got into it and would call out a find and we would look it up and discuss what it was.

As happened so often during the trip, I found something I could share with others in a random act of kindness. When I was walking up to Foncebadón on the way to the Cruz de Ferro  I found a large patch of porcini. It ended up being about 3 kilos worth.  

It was the first good porcini I had found all year. I took it to an Italian restaurant in Rabanal Del Camino  The owner couldn’t believe that I was giving them to him. The guys in the bar said that it the first time that autumn that they had seen good quality porcini’s. It made the owner’s day and he offered me dinner if I would stay. As I needed to continue up the hill and it was getting colder, I kept going. 

The higher up the hill I went the colder and wetter it became. This was the first time that I seriously doubted I had the right gear with me. It was miserable. I decided that I needed to warm up and dry out a bit instead of continuing. There was a general store called El Trasgu de Foncebadón in Foncebadón that was open and appeared to have a fire going. Walking in, I found a large, group table and a well stocked store. I ordered a hot chocolate…a real hot chocolate and not a coco. As my wet clothes steamed near the stove, I talked to the owner about finding the mushrooms. It turned out, he was one of the mushroom controllers in the area. So as the hot chocolate thick enough for a spoon to stand straight up arrived, we discussed all of the mushrooms in the area. He told me that the forests around the Cruz del Ferro had a lot of very good mushrooms. Finishing my chocolate and thanking the owner, I headed out into the cold rain (now ice rain) and headed up the hill. 

As I got closer to the top of the hill the forests thickened and more mushrooms grew along side of the road. When I was almost in sight of the cross, I found this beauty.

My pictures by the cross finished, I headed across the road and into the forest. It was carpeted with mushrooms.

I found another good porcini and packed it away. If I was lucky I would find a place for them to be cooked for dinner. It was a long way down the hill, getting dark and colder so I wound my way out of the forest…and met Ye-eun, the Korean chef who I had walked into Leon with. We spend the next hour walking down the hill discussing mushrooms before she stopped for the night and I went on. It was dark when I arrived in El Acebo, but the lady who owned the Hostello invited me in. She cooked my mushrooms with eggs and jamon for dinner. It was in El Acebo that I got to know Martin who I walked with the rest of the trip.

It was interesting how people brought their talents and interests to the Camino and then integrated them into their experience. For me, it was one of the highlights of my trip to share my love of mushrooms with others.

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