It’s that time of year again and Autumn is in full swing here in the Central Spanish Pyrenees. The hillsides and valleys are awash with colour, temperatures are dropping, days are getting shorter, mushrooms are erupting from the earth, chestnuts are ripening…
It is a wonderful time to be in the mountains and as long as you’re able to be outside, it doesn’t matter what your cup of tea is, it’s just a joy to be here .
Whether you’re on a simple stroll through the towns of Jaca or Benasque, hiking one of the fabulous trails in Ordesa & Monte Perdido National Park, biking along the Aragonese route of the Camino de Santiago or climbing a multi-pit
ch route on the spectacular conglomerate rock of Riglos, the magic of Autumn pervades the environment.
One of the most popular activities for local residents at this time of year is wild mushroom harvesting, and on weekends the forests and hillsides are full of fungi “hunters”, with their wicker baskets and penknives. Most are seeking these edible jewels for their own consumption but others make a good seasonal living from it, selling their finds to local restaurants or even shipping them to bigger cities where the markets are willing to pay higher prices. These folks are often quite secretive about their destinations and will go to apparently absurd lengths to keep the whereabouts of their favourite locations well-guarded from the prying eyes of the competition.
One has to be careful if gathering for yourself as many varieties not only taste bad but are venomous, some lethally so. Every year there are deaths in these mountains due to consumption of poisonous mushrooms, so it’s not something to be taken lightly. It’s recommended to start off by learning to consistently identify a couple species and only progress to new ones once you are 100% confident of recognizing them.