Let us take you to fungi town! Sweden is in the grip of the autumn mushroom picking craze. If you’re wanting to join in on the fun(gi), but don’t know where to start, YLC’s Victoria Hussey is here to give you your veggie-tation.
If you’re new to Sweden, there’s one thing you may not know – the natives take their mushroom picking seriously. In fact, the tradition of mushroom picking is a skill passed down from generation to generation. Akin to a secret society; no self-respecting picker would ever give up their secret picking spots to anyone outside the family.
That said, it’s a case of seek and ye shall find and, luckily for city dwellers, Stockholm has plenty of nature reserves right outside its walls so you needn’t travel far to get started.
So without further ado, we present to you the YLC dummies’ guide to mushroom picking!
- Guide book
- Knife and brush 2-in-1 tool
- Traditional woven basket or a sturdy paper bag (plastic tends to sweat)
- Map, compass or at the very least someone who knows the forest
- Comfortable, practical clothing (less . Remember to keep arms and legs covered from niggly mosquitoes in the late summer months
Take it from a novice, if you’ve never been out mushroom picking, the excitement of finding a troop (yes, the collective noun for mushrooms is a “troop”. We Googled it) of squiggly yellow Chanterelles is like finding a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
And if that isn’t enough to entice you to wander into the depths of the forests, consider the health benefits of a two-hour trudge through the beautiful, pine-scented woods.
“I’ve been picking mushrooms for four to five years,” said Mr Johanssson, a greenkeeper from Stockholm told YLC. “It’s good to walk in the forest; it’s good for the soul.”
Once you’re kitted out with your forest gadgets and know-how, it’s time to head to a forest and get a-hunting.
We’ve picked the most common and easily identifiable mushrooms; these six are pretty much unmistakable. The first five you can keep safely after drying them out for week; they keep well in an air-tight storage jar and you can then use them for cooking. Just soak them in water to rehydrate them and then cook in butter. Simple, no?
1. Chanterelle (Kantarell in Swedish) or Forest Gold are there for the taking during the summer months until late autumn so they’re around for long time. Find them in damp spruce and pine woods, especially in the moss. They have a funnel-shaped cap 3-9cm wide with a wavy edge and are a yolky, yellow colour.
2. The Trattkantarell, otherwise known as the Autumn Chanterelle, has a deeply depressed funnel cap that is thin and wavy. It’s dark-yellow to brown in damp conditions and a dirty ochre colour in drought.
3. The Black trumpet (Svart trumpetsvamp) or “horn of plenty” can be found in large groups and clusters, especially around fallen wood on the forest beaches. They have caps that are 4-10cm wide and a hollow trumpet in brown-black or dark grey.
4. Orange trumpets (Rödgul trumpetsvamps) are available pretty much everywhere during August and September. They have a warm yellow foot and unclear, wrinkly edges with a thin, reddish-brown cap. It can be found in damp soil among moss in marsh edges.
5. The Hedgehog (Blek taggsvamp) is also commonly known as the “sweet tooth” or ‘wood hedgehog”. Perfectly edible with no poisonous lookalikes (or quills!). It’s whitish (sometimes reddish-yellow on top) with tags underneath the cap.
A firm favourite amongst nature-loving Swedes, the Karl Johan (named after Charles XIV Johan of Sweden)or porcini boletus, which is out during August and September has an arched light brown cap with a plump foot covered in white spider veins. Upon slicing it will be white inside. These mildly nutty shrooms are commonly found in coniferous and deciduous (evergreen and non-evergreen) forests throughout Scandinavia.
If you’re lucky enough to pick a few delicious Karl Johans, cook them quickly as they are prone to rot. They can be sliced and dried, but why wait?
YLC quizzed a few of Stockholm’s veteran mushroom-pickers for their top tips for novices:
- “Only pick what you know and buy a good guide book,” Mr Johansson told YLC.
- “Play it safe, stick to 2 or 3 types you know and stay away from really white mushrooms, as the most poisonous tend to be whiter in colour,” Stockholm born and bred, Ellie from Gärdet told YLC. “It’s always best to go with a seasoned mushroom-picker the first couple of times. They’ll know where to look, what’s what and it’s the best way to learn the ropes,” she explained.
- “You’ll be surprised where you find them,” British expat Nick told YLC. “You can be stepping in a fairy-glen with beautiful mosses and ferns and then unexpectedly come upon a bundle of yellow Chanterelles underneath a bundle of sticks,” he said.
- And most of all, enjoy it! “I’m happy to be out in the forest even if I don’t find anything,” Mr Johansson told YLC.
Mushroom picking is a great antidote to busy, city living. There’s nothing quite like losing yourself (not literally) in beautiful forest, surrounded by Swedish nature and (hopefully) picking fresh, delicious mushrooms straight from the forest floor.
- And finally, don’t bother hunting in small forests, there’s not mush room in them.
Once you’ve gathered your harvest of delicious mushrooms, you’re going to need a recipe. Soups, sauces, lasagne and pretty much any dish can be improved with the deep, earthy, nutty flavours of Sweden’s mushrooms. Here’s one hearty, autumnal soup to get you started:
This simple soup serves 2-4 people
200g wild mushrooms (Chanterelles are perfect)
2 dessert spoons of butter
3 dl water
2 dl cream
half a vegetable stock cube
soy sauce and/or Worcester sauce
1 tsp brown sugar
salt and pepper to taste
Cook the mushrooms and butter together for 10 minutes until nice and soft. Then add the water, cream, vegetable stock cube, soy or Worcester sauce, brown sugar and season to taste.
Simmer for 20 minutes and enjoy!
A self-confessed country-girl, Victoria studied English literature and fashion writing in the UK and Milan and then swapped English village life for city living in Stockholm in April 2013. She has spent the last five months swotting up on Swedish fashion and exploring her favourite part of Sweden; its national parks. Victoria enjoys travelling to far-off lands, alternative music and wishes someone would invent some kind of socially-acceptable breakfast ice-cream.