Mushrooms in Argentina (Patagonia)
Finally, I’ve got some time to write about my mushroom findings in Argentina. The mushroom hunting was not our primary goal for the trip though it was interesting to find out about wild mushrooms growing there. To start with I’d like to mention that most of Argentinian population does not speak and does not understand English, so we had to learn some Spanish The first Spanish words I’ve learned were “hongos silvestres” which means “wild mushrooms” or to be literal “mushrooms wild”.
The first day on our arrival to Buenos Aires we’ve visited local vegetable/fruit store (in Spanish”Verdulería-Frutería”) where we’ve noticed cultivated champignons on sale. In fact, in some places in Argentina those champignons are served raw as a part of the starter or salad (which surprised us a lot as we have not seen raw mushrooms in any dishes of any public places in European countries). Unfortunately, the lack of Spanish language knowledge did not allow us to explain our question about where we could find wild mushrooms to the sales man. However, I kept trying asking in all the places we have visited in Argentina (one might think I’m a mushroom maniac asking everywhere about wild mushrooms )
So, out next stop was one of touristic places – Puerto Madryn (on the Atlantic Ocean cost) where we’ve planed to watch whales, pinguins, sea elephants, sea lions, guanacos and any other available animals If you look on the Google map of Argentina you’ll notice that the most of Southern part (everything what is in the Southern direction from Buenos Aires) is flat which means that it looks totally deserted – endless sandy land with little bushes and strong winds moving that sand in all directions. The mountains and some greenery is located on the West of Argentina (on the border with Chile). So, there was no chance we could find any hongos silvestres in the area of Puerto Madryn. During the excursion to the Natural Reserve Peninsula Valdes our guide has told us one possible place where we could find wild mushrooms – Esquel. I’ve kept this name in my memory.
On our last day in Puerto Madryn during the walk through this little, cosy town on the shore we’ve came across the very nice store “Barrika” (Av. Julio A. Roca 109) where they sell wines, sweets, herbal and berries tea, jars with various preserved delicatessen. Among other things we’ve found jars with wild mushrooms pate (so I could not resist and bought one for us) and the little plastic bags with dried wild mushrooms. What surprised me that there was no clear indication what mushrooms those were. The label just said “Hongos silvestres” As I have figured out later it’s very typical for Argentina to avoid clear indications on the mushrooms. According to my personal experience I would say that they were either Leccinum or Suillus species because they were the slices of pored mushrooms which got dark during drying process (Boletus edulis never darkens during drying). Anyway, having wild mushrooms pate was enough for us In fact, we have tasted it later and it was really great! I liked it a lot.
The next stop of our trip through Patagonia was little town El Calafate which exists mainly from the tourism (it’s famous by its Glaciers National Parks) and where on the Minitrekking excursion to Glacier Perito Moreno we’ve met Luis.
As it turned out Luis is a great mushroom lover and on the top of Perito Moreno where we’ve climbed with crampons attached to our boots he has told us that yes, the wild mushrooms can be found in this region. So, at the end of October (which corresponds to April in Northern hemisphere) he has gathered a basket of Morels in El Chalten area. We have agreed that next time he’ll make photos and share it with us.
It seems that Boletus species can also be found there (e.g. Boletus edulis – Cep, Porcino or in Spanish “Seta calabaza”).
So, having confirmation on the wild mushrooms growing in the woods along the border with Chili and hoping to find some of them we have moved to Esquel – the area where lots of pine trees are growing. In fact, we could see a lot of those trees on the excursion to the National Park Los Alerces. And, I’ve been lucky to find an edible parasitic mushroom which grows on trees – in the past native Argentinians were eating it and gave a name to this mushroom “Shau-Shau” which means “tasty”
Though Luis has told us that he tried it and it’s plain in taste and does not justify its name
I did some search on internet and have found that the scientific name for this mushrooms is Cyttaria darwinii (Darwin’s fungus). Here is a good description of this Darwin’s fungus Unfortunately, no other fungi than that were found but I guess it’s because that was a spring (the main season for pored mushrooms at the end of summer – autumn).
In the Esquel’s supermarkets we could see the plastic bags named “Hongos silvestres” with dried pored mushrooms though they had white mold. In fact, the same story was in Mendoza – our next destination. Plus, in one case the content of the package was indicated as Boletus luteus which is wrong because this mushrooms was re-classified and currently is called Suillus luteus. So, to me it seems that people in Argentina do not care how the mushrooms are called and what quality of those mushrooms shall be. Selling the dried mushrooms with mold is direct way to possible poisoning (an expensive way as you have to pay money for that ) In Mendoza they have few shops which are dedicated to the dietary products, so they sell mostly various spices, grains, flour and some protein products for body builders In all those shops we could find same dried pored mushrooms as we’ve seen in plastic bags in supermarkets though one can buy them by weight. The quality of these dried mushrooms is not the best. And only in one shop we have found dried Boletus edulis sold by weight.
All the land of Argentina has ownership and access is restricted by the fences, so there is no easy access to any forest around. The only way to get to the woods is to pay the ticket to the Natural Reserve. On the other hand it sounds weird – to pay the ticket to get to the Reserved place to collect wild mushrooms (Reserve suppose that you cannot collect there anything). However, that is how most of local people are doing. On the excursion to the Park Los Alecers our group was taken to the little souvenir shop on the Park territory where the owner (descendant of the Polish immigrants) explained that dried and preserved in glass jars wild mushrooms he sells are collected in this park.
As a conclusion to our wild mushrooms investigation in Argentina I would say that if you know Spanish language and the right people who can guide you to the wild places it’s worth to hunt for wild mushrooms there.