January 12, 2018 Fly me to the moon

The Mushrooms of Greece: History, Foods and Festivals

The mushrooms of Greece are yet another fascinating aspect of Greek culture.  They are a part of the gastronomy, and even a way of life.

The Amazing Mushrooms of Greece

There are more than 2,400 species of mushrooms in Greece. Out of them, only 150 are edible but they are incredibly tasteful and healthy.  They are a wonderful addition to many Greek meals.  Here’s more about the history and food culture of the mushrooms of Greece.

Source: http://meteoramuseum.gr

Mushrooms in Ancient Greece

While most people love mushrooms in their meals, it’s no secret that mushrooms have also been ingested for their mind-altering effects on people.  In fact, the psychedelic effect of mushrooms was well known during ancient Greek times.  In a mystical ancient festival called the Eleusinian Mysteries, religious rites were held for a cult for the goddesses Demeter and Persephone. There are even depictions of Persephone and Demeter holding mushrooms featured on ancient pottery and paintings. The cult-like festivities were based at Eleusis which is a city that can be visited today, located about 20 kilometers north of Athens.

Meanwhile, the great Greek thinkers of ancient Greece wrote about just how special mushrooms are.  Praise about truffles for the diet appeared as early as the 4th century BC in writings by Theophrastus, the Greek encyclopedist and one of Aristotle’s students. Hippocrates, the father of medicine, taught his students about the beneficial properties of mushrooms as well as the poisonous properties of them. The great tragedy writer, Eurepides, warned about the possibility of mushroom poisoning.

Foraging and Festivals for Greek Mushrooms

Throughout Greece, wild mushrooms are sought after in the forests, by rivers and by lakes.  During the spring, foragers head on excursions to find these prized mushrooms.

For more about mushroom hunters of Greece check out our earlier post: The Art of Truffle Hunting in Greece 

The places that foragers head to and are known the most for having excellent mushrooms include western Macedonia, especially in a region called Grevena.

In Grevena, you can enjoy Greek mushrooms by celebrating them! During the Mushroom Festival, held each year, you can enjoy Greek dancing and music plus you’ll also have the chance to try all types of homemade local foods where mushrooms are the star ingredient. Think everything from mushroom pies and stews to more unusual – yet tasty –  creations like mushroom liqueurs, cakes and desserts.

For more about the Mushroom Festival in northern Greece, check out our earlier post: Gastronomy Festivals of Greece

Mushrooms in Greek Cooking

Any gourmand or foodie can appreciate how mushrooms can transform a recipe.

Here are some of the most popular incorporated in Greek recipes today.

  • Morel – This conical mushroom known as morel is one of the most tasteful.  It’s known to smell like liver or foie gras. Greeks have recipes for soups, sauces that feature morels.
  • Chanterelle – This colorful orange or yellow mushroom has an odd, trumpet-like shape.  Greeks like to add it to poultry and lamb dishes.  Its fruity aroma is a good combination in certain Mediterranean sauces.
  • Cep –  Take a whiff of a cep and you might smell chestnuts.  Greeks add the cep mushroom to omelets, rice dishes or grill them as a side dish.
  • Horn of plenty – These mushrooms are shaped like little black trumpets. They are known to be very tasteful when incorporated with meat dishes.
  • Caesar’s mushroom –  This mushroom is known to taste like shellfish.

Mushrooms of Greece: Experience It

Mushroom picking and truffle tasting is one of the wonderful food travel tours you can plan for when visiting Greece.  This unique gastronomy experience is possible as you explore the region of Macedonia, including the cultural sites of Dion, Vergina and Thessaloniki.

Do you enjoy truffle hunting or trying out recipes with local mushrooms during your travels?

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