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Caesar’s mushrooms have a smooth deep orange-red skin that is firm and somewhat elastic; it holds its shape when cut. The underbelly of the cap is lined with yellow gills. The stems are often encapsulated with the remnants of the universal veil called the volva, which is a white cup-shaped piece that protects the developing gills. When they are young, the volva hugs the small cap and the mushroom resembles an egg, thus earning it the nickname “ovoli”. The flavor and fragrance are similar to hazelnuts or chestnuts, which may have to do with their growing environment. These European mushrooms will continue to develop after harvested and they should be eaten soon after purchase.
Caesar’s mushrooms are available in the early summer through the fall.
True Amanita caesarea or Caesar’s mushrooms, are from Europe. There are two American cousins, Amanita hemibapha and Amanita jacksonii that are so similar they can only be identified under a microscope. The genus Amanita is better known for its poisonous members, of which include both hallucinogenic and toxic mushrooms.
Amanita caesarea has been proven to have both antimicrobial and antioxidant benefits. An American species of Caesar’s mushroom was found to contain 37 different fatty acids, including many of those essential for good health. The Caesar’s mushroom is also helpful with protecting DNA from free radical damage and building the immune system.
In Tuscany, Caesar’s or Ovoli mushrooms are eaten raw when freshly harvested. Another Italian traditional dish is with thinly sliced Caesar’s mushrooms spread out on a platter and dressed with some nice olive oil and white wine vinegar garnished with some chopped garlic and parsley. Let sit and marinate for half an hour. Salads are a popular vehicle for the rare Caesar’s mushrooms; however, they can be sautéed and added to many different dishes. Brush the cap with olive oil and grill for a few minutes on each side; serve with roasted garlic on toasted thick-cut bread drizzled with oil.
Among the Basques, Amanita caesarea is called kuleto and locals are willing to pay high prices for the much-loved mushroom in the markets of Barcelona and San Sebastian.
Caesar’s mushrooms are native to southern Europe. These orange-red capped mushrooms have been prized since ancient Roman times by the Caesars, which is what inspired the Latin name ‘caesarea’. It is said that the cruel Emperor Claudius’s wife replaced some of his favorite Amanita caesarea with the look-a-like ‘Death Cap’, causing his untimely death. The Romans called it “the king’s mushroom” and is commonly found in the oak and chestnut woods in Italy and the chestnut and pinewoods of northern Spain.
Recipes that include Caesar's Mushrooms. One is easiest, three is harder.
|Cook Almost Anything||Ovoli Mushroom Salad|
|Emiko Davies||Caesar's Mushroom Pappardelle|
|EZy Cooking & More||Ovoli Mushroom Salad|