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There is a very specific reason why you should visit Grevena. Specifically, to learn all about mushrooms, mushroom picking and mushroom tasting, as the city of Grevena is considered to be the “mushroom capital” of Greece. Once there, don’t be surprised by the many sculptural mushroom clusters that adorn its parks, squares and nodes. You are in the first town on earth to be officially declared a “mushroom town”.

The region of Grevena has a long tradition in the recording, collection and the multifaceted promotion and utilization of wild mushrooms, which nature has generously given them. Throughout the prefecture more than 2,500 species of mushrooms have been recorded, out of the 7,000 species in Greece, and although hundreds of them are edible, only ten species reach our tables and trade. Mushrooms –and this is no exaggeration- are part of the local culture and have evolved into a top brand for Grevena, attracting thousands of visitors all year round.

George Konstantinidis is a teacher and president of the Friends of Mushrooms of Greece. For the last 33 years his name has been identified with the promotion of mushrooms in Grevena, but also in the whole country, contributing to the identification of hundreds of species, the writing of relevant books, the organization of events, etc. As he says, mushrooms are part of the local culture in Grevena: “Their collection, consumption, cooking recipes, preservation techniques, folk names, proverbs and myths that have developed around their appearance and growth are part of the local tradition, heritage, history and economy,” he says.

Indeed, nature has generously endowed Grevena. The variety and dispersal of dozens of species of native mushrooms are not only an important element of the biodiversity of the region, but have made the southernmost prefecture of Macedonia a top destination for mushroom picking – and for the enjoyment of their consumption – in Greece, becoming a driver of mild economic activity and local development. “The wild mushrooms of Grevena, a trademark of our region, are an alternative and ecological driver of development, contributing to attracting many visitors from Greece and abroad. The aim of the Municipal Authority is to further strengthen this unique local product that has made our town the “mushroom capital” ”, says the Mayor of Grevena, Giorgos Dastamanis, noting that they have contributed substantially to the increase in the number of visitors to the area.

The wild mushrooms of Grevena, apart from being a fine food and raw material for the preparation of high quality food, are also a source of inspiration for lovers of photography and arts (painting, sculpture, etc.). A stroll around the town will prove the latter, as you’ll be impressed by the many artistic works that adorn the town’s central spots and the many catering and mushroom processing businesses. In 2019, Grevena and the region’s mushrooms were featured in an extensive feature on the National Geographic network in Great Britain.

In the woods for mushrooms

The mushrooms are found throughout the prefecture of Grevena: north in Voios near the border with Kozani, but also in Orliaka, Valia Kalda and Baltses. Look for them in the dense forests of oak, black pine, hybrid fir and beech, as well as in the meadows and on the banks of the rivers Aliakmonas and Venetiko.

Searching and collecting mushrooms in the rich and wild nature of Grevena is a unique experience for the whole family, combining knowledge, recreation and physical activity. For those who are “mushroom connoisseurs”, recording, photographing and identifying the hundreds of species of mushrooms in the area, offers additional intense emotions.

Get up early in the morning, dress warmly and in waterproof shoes – to be prepared for any eventuality this season – and set off on your walk in the forest, looking for and identifying the mushrooms that will fill your basket. Remember that each area, a different habitat essentially, has its own species of mushrooms. You can follow the easy and passable route to the peripheral pine forest Alsos Theodoridis, east of the city of Grevena, where you will find many species of mushrooms, especially in autumn and spring. If you still have an appetite for … high peaks, follow the path that starts from the village of Ziakas (20 km southwest of Grevena) and reaches the top of Mount Orliakas (altitude 1,464 m), crossing rich forests of fir, pine, oak, beech, willow, poplar and maple trees.

There are also Alternative Tourism Offices in town, which organise mushroom tours to Valia Kalda or Mount Orliakas, accompanied by experts who provide information to participants. Sometimes the activities are accompanied by a rich mushroom degustation in the magnificent nature of the area.

Get informed and get started

In the hotels and guesthouses of the area you will find information leaflets, while in bookstores and businesses that sell standard mushroom products, you will find the books – guides of George Konstantinidis, which will help you distinguish the species, filling your basket with those that will offer you unique culinary delights.

The only rule that generally applies to mushroom picking is the one that says: only pick for food those species whose specific characteristics we know with absolute certainty. The slightest doubt is grounds for rejecting them. Knowledge of the particular characteristics, experience and careful observation are the only guarantees for the safe identification of a species”, says Konstantinidis in his book “Mushrooms –a pocket guide”. Information about the species can also be found on the website of the Friends of Mushrooms of Greece (www.mycohellas.gr)

It is very easy to distinguish between the types of mushrooms that are edible and those that are dangerous to health. Educate yourself and focus exclusively on these species. Then become familiar with the TOP 5 of the top edible mushrooms of the region, as well as the beautiful but toxic Zourlomantaro or Lolomanitis, as people call it, which you just … photograph and finally the most dangerous, the phallic Amanitis or Thanatitis, which you should be able to recognize and avoid.

TOP 5 edible species

  • Amanita caesarea (Scop.) Pers.

It is found from May to November, mainly in broadleaf forests (oak, chestnut, beech).

Edibility: Top edible species

  • Agaricus crocodilinus Murrill

Agaricus albertii Bon, Agaricus urinascens (Jul. Schäff. & F.H. Møller) Singer etc.

It is found from April to November, in circles or rows, among grass, in meadows, glades or woods.

Edibility: Edible and particularly flavourful.

  • Macrolepiota procera (Scοp.) Singer

Macrolepiota procera var. pseudo-olivascens Bellù & Lanzoni

It is found from April to December in clusters, in woods, glades, pastures and shrub lands, in sunny places.

Edibility: Edible, tasty.

  • Cantharellus subpruinosus Eyssart. & Buyck

=Cantharellus pallens Pilát etc.

It is found from May to November in broadleaf forests.

Edibility: Top edible species.

  • Boletus aereus Bull

It is found from May to December in clusters, in woods (oak, chestnut, arborvitae and rarely beech), in shrub lands with arbutus or among olive trees.

Edibility: Top edible species.

The beautiful but …toxic

  • Amanita muscaria (L.) Lam

It is found in summer and autumn, usually in clusters, in broadleaf coniferous forests.

Edibility: Toxic.

And the deadly (keep away)

  • Amanita phalloides (Vaill. Ex Fr.) Link

It can be found from May to December, mainly in broadleaf forests (oak, beech, hazel and chestnut).

Edibility: Deadly· the most dangerous species in Greece and the world.

Pan-Hellenic Mushroom Festival & Mushroom Park

Every year, in the second half of August, the Pan-Hellenic Mushroom Festival takes place at the “Mushroom Park”, the leading event of mushroom fascination and knowledge in Greece and the largest mushroom festival in the world, as it attracts thousands of visitors from all parts of Greece and abroad. Again this year, the realization of the event will be determined by the course of the Covid-19 pandemic in our country.

The event takes place in the elegant “Mushroom Park” created by the municipality of Grevena at the north-eastern end of the city, at the entrance from Kozani. The wood-carved gate, the work of local woodcarver and member of the Friends of Mushrooms of Greece Yiannis Papatzikas, is impressive.

Lavdas Mushroom Museum

If you have time, visit the “Mushroom Museum” in the village of Lavda, 32 km SE of Grevena. It’s a small mountain village on the slopes of the northern Pindos, where a traditional stone building houses wild mushrooms, dried and sculpted specimens, which have been incorporated into display cases, making them miniatures of nature. Information on all types of mushrooms is provided with a rich bibliography and audio-visual material.

Local cuisine and gourmet dishes

The local cuisine has made full use of mushrooms, which have an important place in the diet and daily life of the inhabitants of the area, in the restaurant menus and on the shelves of businesses selling local products based mainly on mushrooms.

Almost all dishes served in local restaurants are based on mushrooms, which are known for their high nutritional value. Mushrooms are rich in protein and antioxidants, low in calories (100 grams yield only 22 calories) and cholesterol-free.

Some of the local recipes, gourmet dishes and even desserts you should try in Grevena: mushroom magiritsa (Greek Easter soup), mushroom pie, mushroom soup, mushroom pilaf, mushroom trahanas, Pontian mushroom bulgur, pickled mushrooms, dried mushrooms, mushroom liqueur, mushroom pasta, mushroom pasteli (Greek honey and sesame bars), and even spoon sweet (a global originality, the invention of G. Konstantinidis) and mushroom jam.

Remember that wild mushrooms bring out their full flavour when eaten fresh: grilled, fried, sautéed in butter, in pasta or rice, or combined with eggs. They work well with cream and generally do not combine well with tomatoes, which mask their flavour.

Dozens of mushroom products

In Grevena and the surrounding area there are many mushroom cultivation and product standardization companies. On their shelves and in their refrigerators you will find pickled mushrooms or in oil, dried or frozen, pasta and cheese with mushrooms and truffles, mushroom liqueur, pasteli, loukoumi (the Greek Turkish delight), chocolates with mushrooms and truffles, etc.

Grevena is a typical example of how a small community has managed to make the most of the “gift” that nature has generously given it, managing to acquire a special tourist and gastronomic identity, boosting the local economy both from the large number of visitors and from the standardization of mushrooms and related products, which are in great demand.

The mushroom managed to become a top brand for the town of Grevena, with a lot of effort, love and passion, because the authorities and the local community shared the vision of the passionate educator, amateur mycologist and author of seven relevant books, George Konstantinidis, who contributed decisively to the development of mushroom know-how in Greece.

The mushrooms of Grevena are the most recognizable feature that promotes our region and mobilizes human potential in a multidimensional way. Surely we can achieve more, by “marrying” the dream with reality, using mushrooms as a spearhead to highlight all the virtues of our land. Natural beauties, paleontological findings, geological phenomena, the Vasilitsa ski centre, monuments of folk architecture, local products, local flavours, local tradition and culture”, says Mr Konstantinidis.

Remember

  • Mushrooms are present in all seasons and, since they are fungal fruits, they bear fruit when they find the right conditions, especially humidity and temperature.
  • The best seasons, however, are autumn and spring.
  • Root the mushroom by gently twisting it and using your knife to remove the soil before carefully placing it in the basket.
  • Learn how to identify edible species. Don’t touch or cut species you don’t know.
  • Truffles are mushrooms that fruit underground.
  • In Grevena is the headquarters of the association “Mushroom Friends of Greece” which, among other things, in cooperation with the Chamber of Grevena and the Agricultural University of Athens, trains and certifies mushroom pickers from all over the country.

Grevena on the map

Grevena is 420 km from Athens (5 hours), 156 km from Thessaloniki (1 hour and 50 minutes) and 48 km (40 minutes) from Kozani and the State Airport “Philippos”. In the town there are hotels and guesthouses, as well as restaurants and taverns.

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