Why is this pastime so popular in Poland?
Mushroom picking, mushroom foraging & mushroom hunting are just a few of the terms we use in the UK for seeking out these wild treats. However, hardly any of us (Brits) know what to look for and have never experienced foraging at all.
Picking wild mushrooms is not something any novice should try, pick the wrong type and you could be severely ill; or even die.
Poles on the other hand are pretty much experts when it comes to identifying the edible varieties of mushroom.
Right: Sophie looking proud with her first find
Pretty much every Pole I meet has grown up spending days in the forest with their parents, picking blueberries, blackberries and mushrooms. This skill is passed on the the next generation and even now, come September and October, my Facebook feed is filled with friends in Poland sharing their hauls.
We always visit the forest when in Wroclaw and even in the UK, we have been lucky enough to find places where mushrooms are in abundance. Unfortunately, many of the hot-spots in the UK have had to enforce a limit on what you can take home and some areas have even banned mushroom foraging all together. This is thanks to people who take far too much and often sell the mushrooms on for profit.
Luckily for me, Sophie and Oliver, Kinga is somewhat of an expert. Her Dad (Leszek), worked in the Polish forests as a ranger and hunter. He really knows all there is to know about how and what to forage. For us, that means that as soon as mushroom season arrives, we all don our wellington boots and grab our baskets and backpacks for a day of foraging.
Left: Kinga with the first of many 'King of the mushrooms'
Right: Sophie & Oliver stopping for a snack before searching for more.
The kids absolutely love it! we take a picnic and spend eight or nine hours walking through the trees. It gives us such a buzz to bring our baskets home and depending on the types we find, Kinga will dry some out for later recipes, she will make sauce and soup. I just love the smell of fresh Forest mushrooms!
So, back to the question; why do Poles enjoy this so much? Well, I think it's partly nostalgia and all the memories of childhood it brings back. Quite simply though as Kinga puts it; "It's Tradition".