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Too Tasty For Its Own Good

Sought after for centuries, described as “the most delicious mushroom” of Sicily, the White Ferula or Funcia di Basiliscu grows only in mountain pastures among Cachrys ferulacea, a plant of the celery family known as Basiliscu. The Sicilian taste for this fungus has rendered it critically endangered: It survives only in small, fragmented patches at an altitude of around 4,000 to 6,500 feet. Fetching an enormous price—50 to 70 Euros per kilo (around $70 and up)—the mushroom has also attracted the attention of conservationists. Although technically not a plant, the White Ferula appears in The Top 50 Mediterranean Island Plants, a book-length profile of endangered plant species of the region. Dr. Giuseppe Venturella at the University of Palermo is coordinating conservation efforts: better antipoaching efforts to keep wild specimens from being picked in Madonie National Park, inoculation of the host plant in the wild to increase the population, and commercial cultivation to ensure that Sicilians may continue to enjoy its flavor at local restaurants.
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