Famous since ancient times, the Cardoncello (Pleurotus eryngii) can be found throughout the Murgian territory and is considered one of its most exquisite mushrooms. It is dark, fleshy, firm and of unmistakable taste. During Medieval times it was particularly valued and was considered a powerful aphrodisiac. So much so that it was banned by the Roman Inquisition for allegedly leading Christians away from the idea of penance.
The Murge - in particular its highlands - are where this mushroom grows the most (be it planted by men or not) because this poor grassy territory is its ideal habitat, growing on top of its natural host, the Eryngium campestre and maritimum (another kind of mushroom). It is considered a "honest" mushroom for it can't be mistaken for any poisonous species; "discreet", because its fragrance isn't piercing but soft and elegant; and "democratic", because with its balanced scent it doesn't overpower but complement different flavours. For its qualities it has gained the interest of the best chefs in the world.
The Cardoncello, in addition to being a delicacy, is important from a dietetic stand. In fact, the mushroom when fresh consists between 85 and 90% of water, 4-5% of sugar, 3,8-4% of protein, 0,4-0,7% of fat, amino acids and vitamins. It is also used in hypocaloric diets for its low content of fat and energy (28 calories every 100 grams). Furthermore, scientific research has recently shown that the mushroom might have benefits such as lowering the cholesterol and increasing body immunity.