Switzerland’s Scrumptious Surprises

Savor the complexity of authentic Swiss herb and mushroom combinations.

| October/November 2003

  • Although edible, this mushroom is rarely used in cuisine. One of the best-known ink caps, Coprinus disseminatus prefers soil mixed with fragments of wood.
    By Thomas Walsh
  • Rare in nature, the Pleurotus eryngii is quickly gaining popularity as a cultivated fungus used in cooking. These mushrooms were grown for the Tag des Pilzes celebration.
  • Caution: One of many poisonous mushrooms, these Amanita muscaria were cultivated for the Tag des Pilzes. The fungus, commonly called “fly agaric,” is also hallucinogenic.
  • Swiss ethnobotanist, Francois Couplan, relaxes in his home garden outside Fribourg. Couplan teaches seminars on wild plants and has written a number of books including L’Herbier Gourmand.
  • Homes in Riederalp reveal the village’s resort ambiance. In this remote town, near the terminus of the Aletsch glacier, Restaurant Derby specializes in meals flavored with great diversity of mushrooms.
  • This amaranth, reputed to have a range of medicinal applications, grows in the University of Fribourg Botanical Garden. The garden contains a number of herbs, including plants that were used for food and medicine centuries ago but are now largely forgotten.
  • Cultivated for the Tag des Pilzes, these Stropharia rugosoannulata ‘Farlow ex Murr’ are edible and highly prized in cooking.
  • Although edible, this mushroom is rarely used in cuisine. One of the best-known ink caps, Coprinus disseminatus prefers soil mixed with fragments of wood.
  • Although edible, this mushroom is rarely used in cuisine. One of the best-known ink caps, Coprinus disseminatus prefers soil mixed with fragments of wood.
  • Although edible, this mushroom is rarely used in cuisine. One of the best-known ink caps, Coprinus disseminatus prefers soil mixed with fragments of wood.

Recipes:

Sidebar:

Switzerland, with its 40 to 60 inches of annual rainfall, not only provides lush grass for the cows that produce milk for its famous cheese and chocolate, but it also has ideal conditions for growing another beloved product — mushrooms. In fact, Switzerland is the mushroom capital of the world, with 34 types of edible mushrooms, including rare and expensive truffles. In a recent tour of Switzerland, I sampled all these culinary delights, prepared the Swiss way and flavored with the herbs that grow in this region.

Shortly after arriving in Fribourg, photographer Thomas Walsh and I dine on one of Switzerland’s specialties: fondue. This is no ordinary fondue, but a sumptuous herb fondue. Our host, Sabine Moser, from the Swiss Tourism Board, explains that a Fribourg fondue, called moitié-moitié (or half-and-half), consists of half Gruyère and half a local cheese, Vacherin Fribourgeois. I spear a piece of fresh baguette with a long fondue fork, dip it into the bubbling cheeses and bite into an amazing mélange of flavors. Herbs bring out and complement the sweet, strong flavor of the cheese without overwhelming it.



The Gruyère cheese-producing district surrounds the castle of the former Counts of Gruyères, feudal lords of Savoy from the 11th to the mid-16th century. Moser describes the Vacherin as softer and more yellow than Gruyère.

Marc Berchtold, son of the owners of the family-run Walliser Spycher hotel in Riederalp, says of the area’s cheese producers: “They export the best cheese and keep the second-quality cheese here. If you want to eat a really high-quality Gruyère, you’ll find the best in the United States and other foreign countries.”






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