Roman Fungi

rexs13 at rexs13 at
Thu Nov 21 13:41:46 EST 1996

Cathouse at wrote:

>I have been trying to find primary source information about the various
>species of fungi consumed by the ancient Romans.  


"It is easy to send a gift of silver or gold, a cloak or toga; but it
is difficult to send mushrooms," Martial (13,48). (Martial was a
Spanish poet that went to Rome seeking success and a wealthy patron.
He wrote several books that contain information about Roman food and

It is interesting that this post should come at this time as I am
looking for the same info to include in my webpages. I am not an
authority on this but I have just read "A Taste Of Ancient Rome" by
Ilaria Gozzini Giacosa published by the University of Chicago Press. I
have gotten the following information from this source:

On pages 64 and 65:

"(The Romans) ate mushrooms raw in salads, boiled and covered with
sauce, or cooked directly in a sauce or on a grill. There was even a
special serving dish called a 'boletarium' or 'boletar.'

Although it is not always possible to determine what varieties of
mushrooms they ate from the names they used, undoubtedly there were
boletus or cepes (which the Romans called 'suilli'), morels 
('morchellae'), different edible agarics (including meadow mushrooms
and the amanita Caesarea), and ash tree mushrooms ('fungi farnei'),
which seem tho be a variety of those mushrooms th Italaians 
today call  'polipori.'  The Greeks and perhaps the Romans even
attempted to cultivate mushrooms, but they were unsuccessful."

Truffles have been prized by those with discerning palates at least
since the Roman times. The Romans served black and white truffles as
appetizers and in salads seasoned with various herbs and 
garum (fermented fish sauce). Then, as now, a gift of a truffle gave
honor to the recipient and to the giver.

This information included with information that I already have leads
me to the following conclusions:

Truffles have been collected in the same areas for over 2000 years.
Truffle spots are handed down through the generations. They have been
marketed where ever they could be shipped. Due to the 
limited amount produced, truffles have long been considered the domain
of the rich.

The families and businesses that have been marketing truffles for the
past two millenia say that any truffles not found in Europe are
inferior. This is to be expected as they have been the exclusive 
marketers of truffles for so long and they no doubt feel as though
they must protect their markets.


More information about the Mycology mailing list