This year is what is known as an “anno fungaio;” essentially the combination of heavy rains followed by hot days have created perfect conditions for spontaneous mushrooms to make a most welcome appearance. Tuscany is a region of foragers. Cars are parked up and down the country lanes as fungaioli take for the woods and emerge with heavy baskets full of mushrooms. Our neighbours very kindly shared some of their precious bounty so there was no option but to celebrate with a mushroom risotto.
It is impossible not to eat according to the seasons here in Italy, and to observe and prioritize provenance and ingredients. Our recipe includes several ingredients that can only be found easily in this period of the year and in this geographical area.
Aglione della Val Di Chiana has been grown and prized in Tuscany since Etruscan times. This mammoth garlic, with bulbs weighing up to 800 grams, has a lower content of allina and is beloved for its sweet taste and because it is easy to digest. It is usually harvested in July and available in August and September. Nepitella (calamintha nepeta) is an indigenous Tuscan herb with a strong flavor that is a combination of mint, oregano and basil. It is best picked in summer and autumn. Like oregano, it can easily overpower a dish, and should be used sparingly. Last but not least, the wild mushrooms themselves, that were presented in an unceremonious paper bag. Ovoli (amanita caesarea) were considered by the Romans to be the food of the gods. To eat something that must be consumed when fresh, that can only be found by experts when nature obliges - what a treat!