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An early mushroom
If autumn can be defined the season par excellence in which to go in search of mushrooms, since it is in this period that most of the species is born, it is also true that there are atypical mushrooms. Not all, in fact, grow in autumn, and the most typical example is Hygrophorus marzuolus. The Hygrophorus marzuolus in fact appears at the end of winter, often when there is still snow on the ground, and can be found between the months of February and March. In Italy it is not widespread: it is found especially in Tuscany, and more precisely in the Vallombrosa area. Its rarity, and the difficulty encountered in distinguishing it in the winter undergrowth, make it a very coveted mushroom. It can be eaten, since it is an edible mushroom. You can cook in many ways, at a time when it is practically impossible to find other fresh mushrooms.
The characteristics of the Hygrophorus marzuolus
Hygrophorus marzuolus is commonly called marzuolo, because the month of March is the month in which it is most likely to be found. In jargon it is also called sleeper. The reason lies in the fact that it is a semi-hypogean fungus, which means that it grows almost completely underground. It looks like he sleeps under snow and leaves. For this reason it is so difficult to find: its hat has a gray color, which becomes lighter or darker depending on the humidity present, with a slimy or dry cuticle. Sometimes, if you see it on the ground, it may simply look like a stone: and you may happen to bend down to pick up a marzuolo, and instead find yourself holding a piece of rock. Furthermore the hat, which when the fungus is young is hemispherical and then gradually flattens out, never exceeding 10 centimeters in diameter, so it is not very large. The stem is white, a few centimeters high, almost completely buried.
Other peculiarities of the Hygrophorus marzuolus
The Hygrophorus marzuolus has candid gills just below the hair, which could be the easiest part to identify, but which are often buried, like the stem. Its scent is very mild. The marzuolo usually grows in coniferous woods, or in mixed woods, and is a gregarious mushroom, so if one is found, there will certainly be other small groups nearby. Its internal meats are hygrophanous, meaning they change color when placed in contact with water, and are white and firm. Their flavor is sweet, vaguely fruity. Hygrophorus marzuolus is practically impossible to confuse with other types of fungus: at most it can be mistaken for other species of Hygrophorus, such as the agathosmus, which, however, is smaller in size. In Tuscany there is a prohibition on collecting more than three kilos per day, but usually it is already fortunate to fill a basket.
How to eat Hygrophorus marzuolus
Hygrophorus marzuolus must be washed very carefully before being consumed, because it is usually very dirty with soil. Fortunately, unlike most mushrooms, its meats are not porous and therefore, if washed with water, they do not lose their flavor. The best way to wash the marzuoli, in fact, is to soak them in water and vinegar, and then brush the lower slats well. At this point, mushrooms can be cooked in many ways. For example, you can thinly slice and sauté in a pan with oil and parsley, or you can use it to make sauces to dress a pasta dish. For storage, the recommended mode is the oil. His flesh is beloved by some, by others instead considered insipid: the main peculiarity of the marzuolo is surely that of being a first fruit.