I first discovered mushrooms as a small child watching “Fantasia:”
Through the years I learned a great deal more and got to see photograph scores of unusually shaped and colored fungi. The most unique setting, however was in Bourré in the Loire Valley.
In this little quaint town, 164 feet underground is La Cave dems Roches, or The Cave of Rocks. This is the world’s only example of mushrooms being cultivated in a subterranean labyrinth of nearly 75 miles of galleries on seven levels, spaces that are dank and somewhat chilly for humans at 53°F, but ideal for growing tasty fungi.
Fortunately I don’t have a fear of dark places, although the entrance to this face was a bit intimidating – I could only see a few feet ahead and there are so many turn and tunnels, without a guide I would have been instantly lost.
What was equally intriguing was a gallery of stone friezes and sculptors within these caves,constructed by an artist who was concerned that the very porous stone that the caves are made of is disappearing. See the pics on Facebook. And Instagram – they are imaginative, humorous and so creative – the artist had no blueprint for what he made- it just poured from his brain – trees, dogs and cats trying to get into a doorway, Dutch wooden shoes, umbrellas, a woman looking out a window and more.
With proper direction we discovered a trove of mushroom – from buttons, to cremini, oyster, chanterelle, morel and more. I learned that the luscious portobello ( not grown here) is the final stage of growth of the button mushroom. Later in this tour, true to its name, I got to take some of these most flavorful mushrooms to cook my own flavorful risotto – more on that later.
For now – take a look at this collection of delectables: