Between fallen leaves and chestnuts, the soil of forests, fields and mountains offers in autumn small gastronomic treasures whose collection is almost a ritual for those who are passionate about mycology. The níscalo or robellón stands out for its presence and demand as one of the most popular mushrooms in our country, also one of the most appreciated in the kitchen. A common and highly valued product in the best restaurants, chanterelles are a delicacy that we can enjoy at home with all kinds of dishes.
Its price can vary a lot from one season to another, but it is clear that it is not exactly a cheap ingredient to waste. Going out to look for mushrooms to collect them for yourself is a tremendously satisfying activity, although this year things are complicated by the mobility restrictions derived from the pandemic. We will always have go to our markets in search of the best mushrooms to cook them at home.
How to recognize them? Description and characteristics
The níscalo, also known as robellón, rebollón, revollon, guíscano, guízcano or pinetell, among many other names and nicknames, is one of the species easier to identify and distinguish in its natural environment, and also usually stands out in the markets.
It is a fungus of the family of Russulaceae, of which there are more than a thousand cataloged species, and belongs to the genus Lactarius. Normally, when talking about chanterelles or robellones, we refer to the specific species of Lactarius deliciousus, the most widespread and consumed, although to this genus of mushrooms belong others that are also edible -and some inedible- with which it is sometimes confused or treated indistinctly.
It is a mushroom that attracts attention for its reddish color, which can tend towards greener or brownish tones depending on the soil where it grows. The hat is marked by concentric circles of cream or paler color, surrounding a darker red center.
The foot, usually short, is narrow and grows cylindrical and hollow, of the same color or slightly lighter, with some spots. The hat can reach a diameter between 4 and 15 cm, even occasionally exceeding that size. At first it is convex, becoming flat in the center, with a slight depression that can end up acquiring a funnel shape depending on the age of the mushroom. The younger, the more inwardly rolled the edges are, which flatten out as you age.
The bottom of the hat, the hymenium, which is one of the key parts to recognize edible mushrooms, is made up of thin, tight, narrow and decurrent plates, also orange. Has a firm and tough meat, compact, somewhat brittle if broken with the hands, and the internal color is paler orange or yellow tones.
Another characteristic of chanterelles, and from which their scientific name comes, is that gives off a viscous latex when cutting the stem, whose color varies depending on the species of lactarius, more orange in the case of delicious, redder and darker in the chanterelles sanguifluus. In addition, they tend to oxidize easily once they are collected, especially if they have been damaged or broken, acquiring a greenish hue.
Habitats and times of growth in Spain
The robellones are fungi that grow, especially in pine groves or coniferous forests. It develops forming mycorrhiza -symbiosis- with trees, in spacious and more open vegetation soils, appearing between the needles or dry needles of the pines.
The chanterelle grows in wet soil pine forests throughout Spain
Its season can start as early as the end of August depending on the area, and can extend into winter. It needs a lot of humidity, so the first chanterelles can appear with the first abundant rains which sometimes appear at the end of summer, although its best season is usually between the last days of October and the month of November. Depending on the year and region, chanterelles may also be abundant in December.
Like any mushroom, the rain favors its development, as long as the soil remains humid and well drained, as these waters also promote the accumulation of organic matter. It also requires some sunlight, but frosts that are too strong and early can spoil your season ahead of time. It grows best in young pine forests or repopulated areas, when it does not have as much competition with other fungi.
Main varieties of chanterelles
As we have already commented, there are different species of lactarius all over the world, very Similar each other and that are often generically referred to as chanterelles or robellones because they are, for the most part, all edible mushrooms.
- Lactarius deliciosus. The chanterelle par excellence, the most widespread, is differentiated by the aforementioned characteristics, particularly its orange color, tight-layered hymellium and a sticky, orange-toned latex.
- Lactarius salmonicolor. Also called spruce níscalo, the stem is somewhat more solid and its color is more homogeneous, also orange although less intense, rather salmon-colored. It grows particularly in spruce areas.
- Lactarius sanguifluus. The hat usually does not exceed 10 cm in diameter. Its exterior color is lighter or muted, closer to ocher or yellow than deep orange, and the base may even appear white. It usually shows a flatter hat and rarely forms a funnel in older specimens. The color of the latex is darker and reddish.
- Lactarius Vinosus. With a short and whitish foot, with small holes, its orange color tends to acquire more reddish shades, with purple tones not too dark. The blades of the hycelium are pink or lilac, usually with greenish spots.
- Lactarius quieticolor. It clearly differs from the previous ones due to its color, much paler, ocher or cream, with orange hues but very muted, without shine. The plates do exhibit a more orange color. Nor are they usually found specimens that exceed 10 cm in diameter, with a hat that tends to develop flat, after a more convex young stage.
- Lactarius torminosus. The so-called false chanterelle is not a toxic species but neither is it edible, as it is a fungus with an unpleasant taste that can be very indigestible. It can be distinguished because it has a woolly or bearded hat brim. It is also paler in color and the latex it gives off shows a white or milky tone.
Nutritional properties and benefits
Like all mushrooms, robellones are a very nutritious food with low caloric density, as they barely provide 15-20 kcal per 100 g of edible raw portion. They hardly have fat and, although they have a small amount of good quality vegetable proteins (slightly less than 2 g), the great component that stands out in these mushrooms is the Water. As for carbohydrates, they provide just under 7 g, almost all in the form of fiber.
It stands out for its potassium and antioxidant content
Regarding vitamins, chanterelles are a source of vitamin A, niacin and vitamin C and D, with less presence of group B. They also stand out for their mineral content, being a great source of potassium, phosphorus and, to a lesser extent, magnesium, selenium and calcium.
Different studies indicate the presence in these mushrooms of bioactive compounds such as polyphenols, flavonoids and lycopenes, which properties antioxidants and antimicrobial. In addition, it is believed that its regular consumption can help prevent and mitigate the effects of metabolic diseases such as diabetes or cardiovascular problems.
Due to their high satiating power and great concentration of nutrients in small quantities, chanterelles are a very healthy and beneficial food to include in the daily diet, perfect for weight loss diets. They are also very useful for those looking to reduce their consumption of meat or sausages, especially in stews with legumes, traditionally very fatty.
How to choose and keep chanterelles at home
If we are lucky enough to live in a setera area, we can encourage ourselves to look for chanterelles in their natural habitat, always complying with the regulations current and taking due precautions, as detailed here. It is always advisable to be properly informed and it does not hurt to have a specialized guide or consult experts, in the case of having doubts about the species found.
To collect them, like all creeping mushrooms, you have to cut them by the foot using a razor adequate, curved edge, without damaging the mycelium. They are transported in a wicker basket, with care, so that they perspire, avoiding at all times the plastic or rough handling that could crush or damage them.
In the market, the chanterelles should be healthy, if possible whole and well treated, not too crowded on the stall. The ideal is to be able to observe the lower cut of the foot to verify that there is no signs of worms or larvae, a regular visitor to the chanterelles, which many times we will not be able to see until we are in the kitchen at home. Possible holes in it or in the hat can also be a sign of unwanted tenants.
The green spots They do not by themselves indicate the quality of the mushroom, since it is a simple oxidation reaction when cutting or handling, but they can indicate a greater or lesser freshness from its collection.
Once at home, it is convenient consume them as soon as possible, ideally within a maximum period of 24 hours. After checking that they are not invaded by larvae, so that they hold up well we can arrange them in an open container, in the least cold part of the fridge, unwashed, in an opaque paper bag or between sheets of kitchen paper.
They are cleaned at the time they are to be used. Following the advice of Elena Lucas, chef at La Lobita, the best mycological restaurant in Spain, chanterelles are much better washed by immersing them in water. The most superficial dirt must first be removed and scraped, and then washed under cold water to remove all the encrusted dirt, especially between the sheets. Of course, afterwards you have to dry them very well.
It only remains to prepare them according to the recipe or the use that you want to give them, being able to extend the conservation by dehydration, freezing or home canning in oil or pickle.