Even though this was the seventh annual festival for celebrating the morel mushroom

and, and as in previous years there was a programme for the entire three days,

the great thing about such an event is that there is always a possibility of something

unexpected happening…

This year the streets were overflowing, which wasn’t surprising.

Mycophagists descend on Yeşilüzümlü

It seemed like the whole of Fethiye had descended on Yeşilüzümlü,

to enjoy the spring weather and of course, search for the best deal on

a kilo of delicious morels.

Mycophagists descend on Yeşilüzümlü

Marvellous mushrooms

Morels are a speciality in this part of the world and usually readily

available at this time of year, if the weather is right.

Morel mushroom festival üzümlü

Local mushroom hunters offer them for sale, at prices guaranteed to make

mycophagists in other countries turn green with envy.

Mycophagists descend on Yeşilüzümlü

There were musicians playing and also many stalls selling all sorts of

hand made bric-a-brac, dastar (local woven cloth), homemade food

and other goodies.

Mycophagists descend on Yeşilüzümlü

Mycophagists descend on Yeşilüzümlü

Whole streets taken over by tables and chairs, many filled with

people eating morel-based delights, cooked and served up by the local families.

Yes, it was a perfect time for mycophagists to descend on Yeşilüzümlü

and they were there in abundance.

It seemed like a good opportunity to sit down for tea and a chat with Dubliner, Bill O’Dea.

Bill is, by his own admission, a ‘dedicated mycophagist’.

Ok, if you haven’t guessed, a mycophagist  is someone who likes to

gather and eat mushrooms.

Mycophagists descend on Yeşilüzümlü
Bill and Daniel helping to make morel soup

The mysterious world of fungi

This is the third year he and Daniel Butler, who describes himself more simply, as a

‘fungi expert’ from Wales, have come to Yeşilüzümlü for the festival.

On the first day of the festival Bill gave a talk called:

Exploring the third kingdom – the fascinating world of fungi.

Bill O'Dea gives a talk about fungi
Bill O’Dea gives a talk about fungi

Morel soup by the gallon

They also participated in large scale morel soup production,

but as the only men in a traditionally female activity,

they weren’t actively encouraged to join in.

As Bill said, much of his time in Üzümlü is about watching and learning.

More work?

Their assignment for early Saturday evening was to join a panel of

gastronomes from Fethiye’s Chef Mavi, the professional chefs’ association.

The panel of judges
The panel of judges

Their task was to sample their way through different dishes prepared by

local women (Why were there no men you may ask?).

The rest of the experts were there, (all men) decked out in their chefs’ finery,

decorated with more medals that a war veteran.

Mycophagists descend on Yeşilüzümlü

Meanwhile, culinary delights were being prepared.

Last minute cosmetic touches; a sprig of parsley here, a slice of lemon there,

panics over plating up and presentation… an Anatolian Masterchef,

taking place just centimetres behind the judges table.

Mycophagists descend on Yeşilüzümlü

Only a pane of glass separated them and the tension was clear and palpable

to the spectators.

On the other hand, Bill and Daniel were nervous too, concerned that

they wouldn’t know what the competitors’ dishes were supposed to taste like,

but were reassured by another judge that “It will either taste good or it wont”.

Mycophagists descend on Yeşilüzümlü
Morels with cheese – very tasty

 Let the tasting begin…

One by one the plates of food were placed in front of the first judge,

who having carefully examined the food on the plate,

stood up with the plate in his hand to describe the creation to the

expectant crowd before passing along to his colleague,

who did likewise. And so on…

Mycophagists descend on Yeşilüzümlü
Cornbread mixture with morels inside…

 

As the competition progressed the crowd of onlookers became more

and more hungry.

Mycophagists descend on Yeşilüzümlü

Slowly, imperceptibly they edged towards the judges table, eyes focused on the tasty

dishes as they were given to the judges, one by one, and were described and appraised

in detail.

Nostrils flared as the scent of freshly cooked morels wafted towards them… as the descriptions

made their mouths water.

Mycophagists descend on Yeşilüzümlü
a pilau wrapped in vine leaves

 

By the end of the competition, any semblance of exclusivity and seriousness

evaporated, as photographers, press reporters and friends, together with the more brazen

members of the audience began to tuck into the food.

Mycophagists descend on Yeşilüzümlü
A variety of gözleme and homemade ayran

 

The surprise

For a few moments the whole event became free for all; hands stretching out to take

a bit of this or a spoonful of that… or another piece of the other.

Why aren’t there any photos of this happening? Because we were busy tucking in too

and can therefore sure your that the standard was very high indeed.

And the winner is…

Günnur Işıklıgün won with her plate of stuffed morels... and readers, it was delicious
Günnur Işıklıgün won with her plate of stuffed morels… and readers, it was delicious

Fortunately a list of the scores for each dish had been meticulously kept and finally,

after much anticipation, the winner was announced.

Most of the food had been eaten by this time.

Mycophagists descend on Yeşilüzümlü
Chef Mavi Fethiye’s chairman, Onur Arslan (wearing black), together with another chef, shakes hands with Bill and Daniel at the end of the competition

Sound and lights

Later that evening, as on the other two nights,  the market place was

transformed with rostra, lighting and hundreds of plastic chairs into

a temporary  arena.

IMG_9364

Bill and Daniel went home that night with a greater knowledge of

morel mushroom dishes, Turkish cuisine and village life

than they could have dreamed of…

Dreaming of morels...
Dreaming of morels…

For more about Bill O’Dea visit: www.mushroomstuff.com

For more about Daniel Butler visit: www.fungiforays.co.uk

They were guests of Ayşe and Cengiz Genç at Dikencik.

 

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