Last weekend we decided to head for the lake house, also known as summer cottage (kesämökki), as the Finns call it. Of course the idea was not only to relax by the lake, but to also explore the nearby forests for mushrooms.
I packed my basket and grabbed a kitchen bowl from the cottage, just in case I would find berries along the way. It turned out, that I never quite made it to the forest.. As the sides of the cottage road were filled with raspberry bushes, with the branches bent from the amount of berries.
I was freaking out a bit to push myself through the raspberry bushes and accross the ditch between the road and the forest, as I forgot to pack rubber boots along. It’s better to wear rubber boots as there may be vipers enjoying the warmth of sun, on the rocks and tree stupms. While in nature, it’s good to be humble and keep in mind that you are entering the food chain, and not always the top of it. However, I soon forgot my worries, as I got mesmerized by the sea of ripe raspberries all around me, like being surrounded by precious rubies. (And no, there were no snakes in sight anywhere).
I also found some wild red currants, growing among the raspberries. Most likely blackbids or other common “berry thiefs” have been enjoying the currants from someone’s back yard, and then spread the seeds into the neighbouring forest. For me this was of course lucky discovery, as the red currants have plenty of vitamin c and they are excellent for a Finnish dessert called ‘vispipuuro’, a whipped porridge which is made out of semolina and berries such as currants, lingonberries or crandberries.
In the end, I never made it to search for mushrooms but I got more than I expected. My bowl run out of space before running out of berries.. I put some of the berries into freezer to enjoy them during winter, and some we enjoyed fresh, while relaxing by the lake 🙂
Chanterelles (kantarelli) are probably one of the most popular mushrooms to pick in Finland. Sometimes when you think you’ve found a chanterelle, you may notice that there are spikes – or in other words, teeth – under the mushroom cap. If this happens, don’t make the mistake what many beginners do and throw the mushroom away. What you’ve found is not chanterelle (as chanterelles have ridges), but a Hydnum repandum (Vaaleaorakas) or Hydnum rufescens coll. (Rusko-orakas). Both are just as good mushrooms as chanterelle.
Especially Hydnum rufescens (rusko-orakas) resembles chanterelle, with its orange-brown color. In the picture on the left, the cantarelle’s cap is extraordinarily pale due to the dry weather. From below the cap the color is the usual beautiful orange, which is easy to spot from the ground.
Hydnum repandum has a good firm structure, and some say that the taste resembles that of chicken meat. So you may want to try this mushroom as a replacement of meat 🙂 It goes well in omelets and you can also cut it in pieces and roll in raw egg and flour to make mushroom nuggets by frying them on a frying pan. Hydnum rufescens has more fragile structure, so it doesn’t work as well for nuggest, but otherwise you can use it for pies, omelettes, sauces etc. Both hudnum repandum and rufescens give harvest from July to late Autumn, and you can cook them for example with with canterelles or russulas.
One easy way to enjoy mushrooms is to bake a mushroom pie. If you have not tried this before, I guarantee you’ll be surprised just how good a mushroom pie tastes!
You can use several type of mushrooms for the pie, for example chantarelles, russulas and trumpet shaped chanterelles go really well.
First prepare the cleaned mushrooms by frying them on a frying pan. Cook the mushrooms on the frying pan without oil or butter, until fluids from the mushroom have evaporated. If you have a lot of mushrooms to cook, don’t cheat by pouring off some fluids from the frying pan, but let it all evaporate. This way you do not lose any of the great mushroom flavors. If you have plenty of mushrooms fried, you can split the fried mushrooms for different dishes.
When preparing a pie, you can cook onions and zucchini together with the mushrooms, and season with black or white pepper.
I usually favor organic ingredients when cooking, but for mushroom pies I often use the ready raw dough that you can find in the supermarket freezer. This is for simplicity and practicality: After wondering around in the forest I’m usually tired and hungry and want to enjoy food quickly. If you want to bake the pie dough yourself, it will of course be the best choice and you can use any recipe for a salty pie dough. You could do the pie dough before going to the forest and leave it to fridge to wait for your return.
If you use the ready-made pie dough, let it melt while you prepare the mushrooms. Once you have fried the mushrooms, let them cool down for a moment, so that when you add eggs they don’t start to cook immediately (unless you want a pie filled with mushroom scrambled eggs 🙂 ).
For the filling, I usually use 1 dl organic cream, 50 g of Finnish cold smoked reindeer meat, 2 organic eggs and 150 g of grated cheese (e.g. Finnish Polar cheese tastes good). I mix these with the mushrooms & zucchini & onions, and spread evenly on the pie dough. Bake about half an hour in the middle level of oven, in 200 degrees Celsius.
Yes you got it right, this is no diet pie recipe, this is for indulging and enjoying the harvest from the forest!
Mushroom picking is a good hobby in a sense, that it doesn’t require much gear or expensive investments. In Finland we have a thing called ‘jokamiehenoikeus’ – everyman’s right – which allows you to pick mushroom and berries from public forests for free.
List of useful things to have:
– mushroom knife
– walking shoes
– water /snack
What you need with you, is first of all a mushroom knife. You can buy a good mushroom knife from any well equiped supermarket, price starting from 2-3€ . There are different styles of mushroom knives; some bend and some have a shead. I personally prefer the very basic one. Important is that the blade is sharp and thin, and that it has a brush on the other side. If you don’t own yet a mushroom knife, take a small and sharp kitchen knife and for example baking brush (even the silicon brushes will do).
Another thing what you need, is something where to store and carry the mushrooms in. Woodchip basket is good, because it’s very light to carry and suitable for the mushrooms. Some fancy baskets have compartements for the mushrooms, but you can also put bowls inside the basket for different mushrooms (as you don’t want the slimy mushrooms to blend with the dry ones – or big ones to crush the fragile ones).
In case you don’t have wooden basket, you can as well use an old shopping basket, or build a basket from a carbon box with some wire, or take a paper bag. Try to avoid plastic bags, as the mushrooms rotten very fast in those.
Besides mushroom knife and a basket, another important thing is good walking shoes. Preferably water resistant. You don’t normally have to step much off the trail, as the mushrooms often grow besides the paths. So you can even go with sneakers, if you don’t mind your shoes and socks getting wet in case the ground is moist (which it often is). If you intend to stay for a while and enjoy yourself while walking, then I definitely recommend rubber boots or hiking shoes.
You’ll also want to take a bottle of water with you, because hiking in the forest will guaranteed to make you thirsty. And some small snack is also a good idea, to give you energy when you start to get tired from hiking. Usually it’s the dehydration that makes you tired more, so make sure to drink water.
Nowadays with all the great technology available, I recommend that you make sure your mobile phone battery is fully charged and download some terrain map application to it (e.g. ‘Maastokartat‘ By Mika Suonpää). It will be very helpful, in case you lose your sense of orientation and what to make sure you are heading to the right direction.
And last but not least, a guidebook to help you to identify the mushrooms that you are picking. There are plenty of Finnish mushroom guidebooks available. Even mushroom guidebook applications for your phone. Two important things:
1) When picking mushrooms in Finland, make sure your guidebook is for Finland too! There are different mushrooms in different countries, and you need to make sure you positively identify the mushrooms specific to the country where you are in. There are differences in the mushrooms even between the neighbouring countries.
2) Make sure you use an up to date guidebook! Don’t use an old one, because the information available regarding mushrooms develops over time. Some mushrooms that our grandparents or parents may have picked, may nowadays be considered as poisonous or otherwise not recommended. For example Hygrophoropsis aurantiaca (Valevahvero) is shown as edible mushroom in older guidebooks, but poisonous in new ones. Also Lactarius turpis (Mustarousku) is not recommended anymore because of the necatorin it contains.
The first question about mushrooms that I often get, is “Where to go to find the mushrooms?” My answer is always the same: Go to a forest. And I mean, any forest. I have not yet found a Finnish forest without mushrooms!
But if you are looking for a certain specific mushroom, then it’s good to know in which type of forest that mushroom likes to grow, and how do they get their nutrition. Mushrooms get their nutrition mainly in 3 different ways:
Some live in symbiosis with a tree.
Some are parasites that live from a live tree, eventually killing it.
Some are wood rotting mushrooms.
For example, the delicious Boletus edulis (herkkutatti) lives in symbiosis with a tree, but its lookalike, the bad tasting Tylopilus felleus (sappitatti) is wood rotting. So if you see from a distance boletus mushroom on top of on warren, don’t bother to run to it.. It’ll be the bitter tasting Tylopilus felleus (sappitatti), rotting the fir needles in the warren.
A great mnemonic for Tylopilus felleus (sappitatti) is a ”blushing lady in black fishnet stocking”. The delicious Boletus edulis (herkkutatti) has a white net pattern on its stem, where as Tylopilus felleus (sappitatti) has a dark net pattern. Boletus edulis (herkkutatti) pores are first white and then they change to yellow or yellow-green, whereas Tylopilus felleus (sappitatti) pores change to pink. Therefore the blushing lady image will help you to remember which boletus to leave untouched.
The Finnish name for Boletus edulis, ’herkkutatti’, means delicious, and the Finnish name for Tylopilus felleus, ’sappitatti’, means bile, which is very descriptive of the bad taste of the mushroom.
If you learn the Finnish names for the mushrooms, many of them will also help you to identify which type of trees to look for. For example ’männynherkkutatti’, the word ’mänty’ means ’pine’. So it’s a clear hint that this mushroom can be found nearby pine trees. There are some trick names though, one of them being ’leppärousku’. The word ’leppä’ refers to ’alder’. But for that mushroom it’s not referring to the habitat of the mushroom, but the color of the flesh of the stem and cap, which resembles the orange color of the fresh cut alder wood. Therefore ’leppärousku’ has actually 2 longer names: ‘männynleppärousku’ which literally means pine alder, and ‘kuusenleppärousku’ which means spruce alder. Also another trick name is ’haaparousku’, where ‘haapa’ refers to ’aspen’. Here too, the name refers to the grayish color of the mushroom’s cap which resembles color of aspen’s trunk, rather than the habitat, because ’haaparousku’ actually lives in spruce forests.
Here are some examples of mushrooms based on their habitat:
Boletus pinophilus (Männynherkkutatti)
Suillus variegatus (Kangastatti)
Suillus luteus (Voitatti)
Suillus bovinus (Nummitatti)
Leccinum vulpinum (Männynpunikkitatti)
Russula decolorans (Kangashapero)
Russula paludosa (Isohapero)
Lactarius rufus (Kangasrousku)
Lactarius deliciosus (Männynleppärousku)
Cortinarius caperatus (Kehnäsieni)
Boletus edulis (Herkkutatti)
Xerocomus badius (Ruskotatti)
Russula vinosa (Viinihapero)
Russula vesca (Palterohapero)
Lactarius trivialis (Haaparousku)
Lactarius deterrimus (Kuusenleppärousku)
Gomphidius glutinosus (Limanuljaska)
Cantharellus tubaeformis (Suppilovahvero)
Albatrellus ovinus (Lampaankääpä)
Birch and alder forests
Leccinum versipelle (Koivunpunikkitatti)
Leccinum scabrum coll. (Lehmäntatti)
Leccinum variicolor (Nokitatti)
Russula claroflava (Keltahapero)
Lactarius torminosus (Karvarousku)
Cantharellus cibarius (Keltavahvero, kantarelli)
The good thing about learning mushrooms is, that the more different mushrooms you learn to identify, the more mushrooms you will also find!