(Agencies / Photo: JP file)The rain is good for wild mushrooms, we're told, but they are at their best with 'quiet' rain and several days of sunshine after that. Frost doesn't help either. According to Jimena Councillor for the Environment Noelia García, the 'jewel of Los Alcornocales Nature Park', the chantarelle (cantarellus cibarius), is particularly scarce this season because heavy rain has been followed by frost. Families who depend on them for a seasonal living are having another financial burden on top of the financial crisis. Added to that, there are people out there picking them when they are too small to sell commercially and are thus 'mortgaging' their future because the mushrooms are not being allowed to produce spores that will become next year's harvest.>The main commercial mushroom at Jimena's lonja micológica (market; photo) is the chantarelle, but there have been none since Christmas.
García points out that some 65 local people are regular collectors, who depend on the harvest, but the financial crisis has forced that number to double or even triple. The trouble is, many are inexperienced and thus collect them before they are properly ready. "Several wholesalers have returned lots because they were not in a proper state to sell," says García. More than a ton has been returned to the market for that reason.
Other species, such as níscalos (lactarius delicious), lipiotas (lipiota procera) or pie azul (lepista nuda) are in certain abundance, but these, although well regarded in the kitchen, are not so commercially viable at the market. A kilo of good chantarelles sells wholesale for between €8 and €10, though prices can rise to €16 or €20. A kilo of níscalos will never reach these prices.
Similar problems are arising at other Campo de Gibraltar locations associated with the chantarelle, such as Los Barrios and Algeciras.