Thursday, July 15, 2010

Mushroom picking in Finland

Yesterday I went mushroom picking in the outskirts of Helsinki and it was a lot of fun. It hasn't being raining a lot and the temperatures in Helsinki this year are extremely hot for Scandinavian standards (>30C). In spite of that, I was able to find plenty of chanterelles (Cantharellus cibarius), a nice Russula (Russula sp) and some hedgehog mushrooms (Hydnum hepandum). My friends weren't too excited with the hedgehogs and said that they didn't enjoy them very much. The Russula, as usual, is too difficult to identify to be considered edible. On the other hand, Finish people love chanterelles, and the fact that one can already fill a basked with them, even on a short walk, seemed to make my friends hearts beat a bit faster...

One thing I liked about mushroom picking in Finland is that the typical vegetation is composed mostly of coniferous forests, for that, the hunting is very easy and the mushrooms pop out of the green moss which contrasts well with their color. The funny thing is that the chanterelle season hasn't officially started here (it starts in August) and every Finn I talked to told me that it was too early to go after them.  On the other hand, because my host knows of a nice chanterelle spot behind her garage, she has been watering it everyday and there were hundreds of chanterelles growing there (no need to go into the forest ;-). Also, the very hot and humid weather (despite the little rain) may be helping the mushrooms to fruit as well.

If one is really into eating chanterelles (why one wouldn't be???) but is not into the mood of picking them (or does not have the time to go into the woods), all that is necessary is to go to one of the many open markets around here and buy a couple liters of fresh wild mushrooms (yup, chanterelles are sold in buckets here). The price doesn't vary a lot from stand to stand but it decreases somewhat linearly with increasing quantities (1 liter = 5 Euros, 2 liters = 8 Euros, 3 liters = 10 Euros). Right now the chanterelles sold on the markets come from Estonia, which is just a few miles south of Finland and which is a little bit warmer (I highly recommend taking the boat and spending at least one day in Tallin). To be sincere I went kindda crazy with this abundancy of chanterelles and for the first few days of my trip I lived on an almost chanterelle-exclusive diet ;-). Other mushrooms which are commonly sold in markets here (albeit dry or canned at this time of the year) are Gyromitras, black chanterelles (Craterelus cornucopiodes) and porcini (Boletus edulis). Although all my mushroom picking guides don't recommend eating Gyromytras, my friends here eat them frequently and don't seem to be too scared by them or the skull label (required by law), which is always visible in the packaging whenever you buy them (they cook them for a long time and change the water at least three times).

On a last note, apparently mushroom picking is an extremely common hobby in Finland (and other neighboring countries) and pretty much every Finn knows how to pick at least a couple of mushroom species (chanterelles being definitely the most common). This hobby is somewhat inserted into the Finish culture of camping and going into the wild and it is passed from generation to generation. My friends tell me that in August, the woods around Helsinki get full of people with their baskets, and that it is almost impossible to find mushrooms near the most beaten paths. Because of that, Finns are very secretive about their chanterelle spots and are not that willing to share their location.

1 comment:

  1. If you pick the mushies you might end up on a magic ride full of purple swirls :-)

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