Wild mushrooms are an expensive delicacy chefs love to feature on their menus.
But getting hold of them can be tricky.
Not so for Vito’s Italian in Walkley. A plentiful supply of big, meaty porcini has found its way to their South Road door.
Amazingly the mushrooms have been found growing wild not in the forests of Tuscany, but here in Sheffield by members of Garden Partners, a local social enterprise launched two years ago by former special schools teacher and avid mushroom collector Peter Morton.
Based in Stocksbridge, Garden Partners works on gardens for homeowners and businesses around the area.
Its workers are adults with learning disabilities who love developing new skills and being outdoors.
Says Peter: “We do the gardening in exchange for use of some of people’s land for growing food, which we sell at farmers’ markets. So far we’ve grown courgettes, salad, garlic, onions and beans.”
Peter also takes his workers mushroom-foraging in local woods and found Vito’s willing to take all the fungi they could lay their hands on - including an edible British variety known as the hedgehog mushroom.
“They have small spikes rather than gills on their underside and have a lovely, delicate flavour,” says Peter, 49.
As a thank you for many months’ worth of mushrooms, on Monday owner and chef Vito Ciaraolo and four of his staff gave Garden Partners clients a lesson on how to cook healthy and simple meals, followed by lunch.
“The fungi they have been bringing to me are superb and the fact they are local means they are really fresh and tasty,” says Vito.
“I’ve been using the porcini in risottos and steak dishes and the hedgehog variety sauteed in garlic butter and lemon as a starter.
“Customers love the fact that they have been picked in Sheffield.”
To contact Garden Partners go to www.gardenpartners.org.uk or call 07861 455726.