It’s Autumn! I have been waiting for this season since Peeping Tummy was first launched. Because it’s slightly more chilly now, a bit rainy, in farmers markets pumpkins and fresh walnuts appearing, in forests blueberry season is is slowly ending and instead mushrooms are everywhere!
I was born and raised in metropolitan jungle in massive asphalt mess. So i could have never imagine this would ever happen to me, but I’m a serious mushroom hunter for last 7-8 years now. When it rains in summer, or in autumn I long to get to the closest forest around. The fascinating smell of after rain mixes with the spectacular wild forest smells. And then I usually find myself dancing around a gorgeous self-hunted mushroom.
I learned the tips and tricks from people who studied what mushroom to collect and what to not to touch from childhood as a family tradition for generations. I am not a pro, but I think I know my way already and I’d love to share some know-how for the beginners.
The journey to forest: What you need to have with you is a sharp pocket knife, a basket and someone who knows what is what if you are a beginner. A pocket book of mushroom species would be a great help too. Mushroom knives has their own brushes, which is very handy. You can quickly brush the mushroom on site, that leaves less work for home.
Mushrooms are the third species in world along with animals and plants. There are millions of variations of them and I think they are precious. Please don’t harm the poisonous or inedible mushrooms when you stumble upon them. All you need is the knowledge that they are not made for you, don’t pick them up, let them be, see how beautiful they are.
Believe it or not, there is a behaviour code in the forest for mushroom hunters: Do not pull the mushroom out together with the root, but cut it with a sharp knife in the bottom, where it’s closest to the root. In this way you don’t distract the underground root system and you let another mushroom grow in the same area that season. You can scrape and brush the mud and warmy parts of the mushroom immediately in the place. Then hide the cut-out parts and the root with leaves and soil. So you don’t give away your spot where you get a mushroom to other hunters and you’re leaving the forest untouched and tidy. One of the most important treasures of a hunter is their own secret mushroom spots. If you respect them and the source is not destroyed, there will always be mushrooms in the same spot in the high season. That’s your secret location now.
And important notice; just pick mushrooms in deep clean forest. Not close to highway, industrial zones or wherever feels obviously polluted. Mushrooms are like sponges, they observe everything from around including the dirt and radiation. You don’t want to eat that.
So which mushrooms should be collected? According to a Czech saying “Všechny houby jsou jedlé, ale některé jenom jednou.”; “Every mushroom is edible, but some of them only once”. Most inedible ones are either too bitter or makes you throw up. But some can cause permanent organ damage. And a few are deadly. Please do not pick up any mushroom if you are not a hundred percent sure.
Ah, but the taste of freshly collected wild mushroom is not compatible with anything else. They smell addictively good, they’re crispy, they’re fresh and they’re available out there. Every land has their own types naturally, here in Central Europe we have wonderful tasty Porcini, yellow shiny crisps Chanterelle, blossoming like a flower Parasol, pinky color and fleshy taste Blusher and another of my favorites; Saffron Milk Cap with fleshy texture and the spicy taste.
So what to do with basket full of mushrooms? Carefully clean whem with a knife and a brush. Do not wash them, especially the ones with spongy parts as you would just soak them up and ruin them. Cut all warmy parts asap as they continue eating it up from inside and you end up losing the whole thing quickly.
I think the best is to cook them immediately. But in good season with good luck you will end up with too many mushrooms. Then you can dry them up to use them in sauces all winter, make pickles or freeze them.
And how you can cook with mushrooms? Possibilities are endless. Slice bigger porcinis, cover them in flour and eggs and fry them as porcini schnitzel. With little wild mushrooms and dill you can make my favorite sweet and soup cream soup Kulajda. Roast crispy little shrooms on butter and break some eggs on them. And the best Gulas I ever had was meatless, prepared only with freshly collected Saffron Milk Caps. Then again, the simplest way is the winner; roast them on butter with salt or grill them directly.