Picking or 'hunting' forest mushrooms
I haven't written a blog post in quite a few weeks. Life seems to have taken over somewhat, which means having time to sit down and write has been difficult. We had a few things going on at home and I started a new job which meant working lots of hours. However, my blog was featured on the Feedspot 'Top 20 Polish blogs' which is really cool. There are loads of great Polish blogs featured on there so go and check it out via the link here https://blog.feedspot.com/poland_blogs/. In addition to this, I seem to have had an influx of subscribers to the blog over the past couple of weeks - strange as I haven't written anything, so I can only put it down to being featured on feedspot.com; so thanks to Anuj and the team at Feedspot.
So, on to the subject of today's post. Something I think is close to the heart of so many Polish people. I'm of course talking about mushrooms and specifically 'foraging', 'hunting' or 'picking' mushrooms. I've written about this before but thought I'd write an updated post as we have had a couple of successful trips out collecting mushrooms here in England over the past month or so. In fact, as I write this, Kinga is in the forest with Oliver, her sister and her sister's children - unfortunately I was working this morning so couldn't go along with them.
Foraging is a big part of many Polish people's lives, of course not every Pole knows their way around the forest but compared to the UK, most Polish people know when and where to pick mushrooms. Most importantly, they know which mushrooms to pick. It goes without saying that if you pick and consume the wrong mushroom, you could be severely unwell and it could even be fatal. Kinga grew up spending weekends in the forest with her sister and parents and they taught her everything they knew, so me and the kids always make sure we show her every mushroom we pick before we put it in the basket - just to be safe.
Before we moved to Poland in 2017, we used to always travel to Hampshire in the south of England, where we would spend the day in the 'New Forest national park'. We would take a picnic and pick mushrooms all day whilst enjoying being outside. Unfortunately, we found out when we returned to England in 2019, that the New Forest no longer allowed foraging. People were taking far too many mushrooms and selling them for profit - so now, thanks to those greedy people, we can no longer visit. Luckily, we found a small forest close to where we live that also has mushrooms (no, I'm not giving away this secret).
You can find a variety of mushrooms in the forest but most recently we found an abundance of 'Saffron milk caps' which Kinga used to make a lovely mushroom sauce which we ate with pasta and parmesan cheese. We often find lots of different mushroom types and Kinga will prepare them in different ways. Some, such as chanterelles, we will fry and often eat with scrambled eggs which is delicious. Others, we will dry out and use them as an ingredient at a later date and others can be used to make sauce or soup. I love the smell of mushrooms drying out in the oven and the feeling of achievement when you come home with a basket full of mushrooms is wonderful.
We normally go mushroom hunting in October but some varieties such as chanterelles can be found as early as July. If the ground is too dry, there won't be many mushrooms to be found so we normally make sure we go when there's been a bit of rain. Sometimes we come home with lots and other times we return empty handed, but we always enjoy our time walking through the forest and it's good to get the kids out of the house too! Picking mushrooms and walking is a wonderful way to spend time with the family and it's free. If you have no experience with mushroom foraging though, don't go and try it on your own - make sure you take someone who has the knowledge required to pick the correct ones or you could end up in hospital or worse.
The photo on the left shows the sauce Kinga made from some of the saffron milk caps we collected at the start of October. We ate this with tagliatelle and it was such a simple dinner but absolutely delicious. As much as the kids enjoy picking the mushrooms, they hate to eat them. I can't really complain as they are good kids who eat all their vegetables normally, plus it means more for me and Kinga!
Now that we have found a forest twenty minutes from home, it means we can visit the woodland and hunt mushrooms even more often. Often, we have weekends, especially during this COVID-19 pandemic, when we just don't know what to do with the children, so heading off to the forest means we all get fresh air for a few hours and if we come home with mushrooms, then that is a bonus! Oliver just loves spending time in the forest and Kinga is at her happiest when she's picking mushrooms. I think it gives her this nostalgic feeling of being a kid and spending time with her mum and Dad.
Whether we are in England or in Poland, we always try to make time to head to the forest. Depending on the time of year, we often pick blueberries and blackberries too and we eat them as we walk. I'm glad Kinga introduced this to me and I'm even happier when I'm eating the mushrooms we collect together. If you get the opportunity to pick mushrooms, give it a good go, but as I said, Make sure you only do so if you are with someone who can tell you which ones to pick. Enjoy.