Monday, 1 February 2010

Countryside offers alternatives to unemployment

(Agencies / photo of cooking at El Anón: EuropaSur) With unemployment reaching unprecedented levels, the countryside around Jimena, and all over the Campo de Gibraltar, offers a way of complimenting benefits and raising some more money: chantarelles, the jewel in the crown of local wild mushrooms, are selling at up to €16 a kilo. However, this year has not been a good one for wild mushrooms, as we reported here, despite recent rains. Heavy storms can 'drown' the incipient musrooms before they mature, to which must be added>
the fact that many collectors, inexperienced as they are, are cutting much too soon, and badly, which threatens future harvests as the spores that ensure next year's collections are not being allowed to develop. This, according to reports, is owed to the fact that people once employed in a comparatively inexistent construction industry, and to collect oranges in the groves of San Martín del Tesorillo, San Pablo and the Guadiaro Valley (hard hit by storm damage), are pouring into the countryside to collect mushrooms instead.
Indeed, wholesalers have had many of their orders returned as defficient. The principal export markets for the Campo de Gibraltar mushrooms, chiefly chantarelles, are in Switzerland, Germany, Holland, Belgium and France. Meanwhile, local restaurants in Jimena are having trouble with their supplies, as well.
That plus the fact the Jimena's mushroom market (lonja micológica), the only one of its kind, is also closed for renovations to a building next door.

According to experts at Jimena Town Hall, the only hope is for a 'benevolent' Spring, which could save at least part of a chantarelle season that runs from September to May.

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