Italian Delicacies: Porcino mushroom of Borgotaro PGI
ITALIAN DELICACIES: PORCINO MUSHROOM OF BORGOTARO PGI
A look at Porcino of Borgotaro: the highly valued mushroom variety from central Italy which obtained Protected Geographical Indication. Find out why.
One of the most precious ingredients used in cooking is the Boletus Edulis, the Latin name for the king of mushrooms. The boletus Porcino mushroom of Borgotaro PGI (Italian Protected Geographical Indication label) is a product of the highest quality, deemed to be one of the most valuable and sought-after porcini in the world, celebrated for its intense yet subtle aroma.
WHAT IS THE PORCINO MUSHROOM OF BORGOTARO AND WHERE IT GROWS
The Porcino mushroom of Borgotaro PGI is the name of a typical Italian product of protected geographical indication (PGI) which attracts mushroom foragers from all over Italy in Autumn. According to the local tradition and trade, the term ‘Fungo di Borgotaro’ stands for four species of porcini: “boletusedulis”, “boletusaereus”, "boletusaestivalis” and “boletuspinicola”.
These mushrooms grow in the marvellous woodlands of the Val di Taro, at the centre of the Tuscan-Emilian Apennines, in central Italy. This is the only PGI mushroom in Europe. Along the Apennine backbone, corresponding to the municipal districts of Albareto, Borgotaro and Pontremoli, mushroom foraging is a tradition dating back many centuries.
A LITTLE BIT OF HISTORY
The fact the Porcino mushroom of Borgotaro PGI belonging to the boletus family have been widely known, consumed and appreciated for centuries is evidenced in a document dating back to the early 18th century which states: “… the soil of these mountains produces boletus mushrooms” which confirms that they represented a source of domestic income, since the womenfolk used to collect and sell them, either fresh or dried to neighbouring villages.
To control and protect such a precious and sought-after resource from excessive exploitation, the first special reserve was set up in 1964 for the sustainable foraging of mushrooms and, in the space of a few years, other neighbouring municipalities followed suit, to protect the mushrooms and to control collection. The Protected Geographical Indication trademark was awarded in 1996 and today, foraging and trading activities are safeguarded by the Consortium of the Porcino mushroom of Borgotaro PGI,to which a “Porcino Mushroom Trail” has also been dedicated, this being a fine food and wine experience leading visitors to discover the area and its excellent gastronomic products.
The growth of a mushroom is a tiny miracle and, like all miracles, it cannot be commanded because there are so many variables that come into play: climate, warmth and humidity. The mountains of Albareto and Borgotaro offer a unique and favourable environment in which the warm brackish air of the Tyrrhenian Sea encounters the cool nights of the Apennine mountains. This combination gives this mushroom its unique aroma. But what makes the porcini of this particular area so special? Their woody aroma and a clean smell recalling hazelnuts, liquorice or newly cut wood. There is no trace of that smell of hay which often defines less valuable mushrooms.
Since this is such a precious ingredient, Porcino mushroom of Borgotaro is well worth knowing how to store it properly. If the mushrooms are fresh, eat them immediately and avoid any contact with water; otherwise they may be frozen sliced and stored in suitable containers. They may also be preserved in oil or dried in slices. The dried porcini you buy may be kept for years in a paper bag in the freezer.
Porcino mushroom of Borgotaro may be used in a vast number of recipes, from starters to main courses, and even as a dessert in the form of ice-cream. Chefs from all over the world have tried their hand at interpreting them in theme menus. Preserved in oil, pan-tossed, grilled, served with polenta, fried, served raw in very fine slices, as a sauce for pasta and as a filling for tortelli. The most iconic mushroom dish of all? Thomas Keller’s recipe for Mushroom Quiche. Try making it with a few PGI porcini. Heavenly.