Yesterday went to the nearby forest in search of boletus mushrooms. Although I didn’t have luck with those, I didn’t have to come home with empty hands. Luckily there were many russula mushrooms to harvest.
This red beauty in the picture is Russula paludosa (‘isohapero’). In Finnish the name means big, and indeed this mushroom is of good size. The cap is the size of palm so it’s easy to differentiate from the bitter tasting red russulas. This one is of exquisite taste and perfect for a soup.
You can recognize this mushroom by it’s beautiful red color that shifts a bit towards yellow and it’s stem which has a dash of red colour. It’s gills are dense and the color starts to shift from white towards yellow when the mushroom gets older.
Another good russula for a soup is Russula vesca (‘palterohapero’). It resembles Russula paludosa, but the stem is much harder and thicker.
Russula aeruginea (‘koivuhapero’) tastes good too. The color of the cap varies from olive greem to grayish green.
The mild and delicious tasting russulas make a heavenly mushroom soup. Here’s how I made mine today:
Mushroom soup: Clean and chop about 5dl of mushrooms. Heat the mushrooms in a kettle with some butter and onions. When the mushrooms start to soften, add 5dl of boiling water or vegetable broth and let boil for a couple of minutes. Thicken the soup with some melted cheese (50-250g depending how thick you want it to be), the Valio koskenlaskija savuporo cheese is my favorite for mushroom soups. You can also leave out the cheese and add some cream and flour instead. If you want a smooth soup, you can mix the soup in a blender before serving. Garnish with pepper and herbs. The red colored russulas give the soup elegant rose color (just like in rose champagne). Enjoy!
When living in a country with four distinctive seasons, every year has some events that are like milestones for the season changes.. And no, I’m not talking about the ice hockey championships! While rest of Finland has been glued to the TV to watch will Finland bring home the gold medal this year like in 1995 and 2011, I’ve been gardening. My milestone from spring to beginning of summer is the first harvest of rhubarb.
This year summer seems to have started really yearly. It’s not even June and the lilacs are blooming.. Usually that is just before mid-Summer!
As my rhubarbs had survived the winter and started giving harvest, I decided to bake a pie. Rubarb is also great for kisel and compote.
Turned out I was a little bit overly positive regarding the amount of my rhubarb harvest (as I wanted to make a full baking tray) , but I added on some strawberries. Those unfortunately weren’t yet from my own garden, but hopefully by July I’ll have strawberries growing too. And if not, the markets will offer the sweet Finnish strawberries for sure.
Here’s the recipe if you want to try:
1 litre of soured milk (‘piimä’)
5,5 dl of organic sugar
11 dl of flour (I used gluten free)
3 tea spoons of baking soda
2 – 3 dl of melted butter
3- 6 dl of rhubarb
Mix all ingredients in the above order, pour on a baking tray and add the rhubarb on top. And if you want, season with cinnamon and sugar. Bake in the oven in 175 degrees celsius for 40 – 60 minutes. The same recipe works with berries and apples etc.
Milk caps, as the name describes, are mushrooms with milk in their caps. Easy name, easy to identify! These are one of the safest mushrooms to begin with, as the milk-like fluid (‘maitiaisneste’) makes them easy to differentiate from other mushrooms. Finland offers plenty of different milk caps, learn a few and you’ll get your basket full in no time. Some of the best milk caps are Lactarius trivialis (‘haaparousku’), Lactarius torminosus (‘karvarousku’) and Lactarius rufus (‘kangasrousku’).
Lactarius trivialis has beautiful round cap, and its gray color shifts to purple or lilac. Its stem is always hollow, like a telescope. It also has very peculiar scent, it’s a mushroom that smells like..well, mushroom! Find it in the forest and smell, and you’ll know what I mean by that. It has very earthly and fresh scent. I’ts one of the most popular commercially sold mushroom in Finland.
Lactarius utilis is a relative to Lactarius trivialis, but it’s color is more pale and it’s often more slimy, making it less attractive to pick as the needles and leaves stick to the cap as if they were glued to it. If you don’t mind a bit of extra work, this is still a good mushroom to pick as well.
There are plenty of different gray color milk caps, but they all have their own unique identifiers, such as color to which the milk slowly turns when mushroom is cut (green, gray, lilac) or the scent the mushroom has (fresh, coconat, chicory) and of couse the size and the shape of the cap. It can take you some time to learn them, but Lactarius trivialis is easy mushroom to start with as the hollow stem is easy identifier that most of the gray colored milk caps don’t have. Lactarius trivialis milk turns slowly towards grayish green. Especially when you boil the mushroom, you will see the green color appear. If the color turns to lilac, you have picked Lactarius uvidus (‘korpirousku’) instead, probably you have forgotten to check that the stem is hollow when you picked the mushroom. No harm done as that one is also edible, just different tasting milk cap. Just make sure that you always check that the mushroom you pick as a milk cap really does contains the white milk-like fluid. Lactarius helvus (‘lakritsirousku’) is the only poisonous look-a-like for the edible milk caps. Including this into the milk cap ‘lactarius’ family is a bit misleading, as this one doesn’t lactate at all. Instead the fluid is clear like water and the scent recembels liquorice (what’s what the Finnish name lakritsi actually means).
Lactarius torminosus (‘karvarousku’) is a pretty pink and hairy milk-cap. Especially the young mushrooms are very cute. It’s also called woolly milk-cap or bearded milk-cap. The Finnish name ‘karva’ actually literally means ‘hair’. Don’t bother to peel of the woolly cover from the cap, it’s exactly the same edible substance as the rest of the mushroom. These mushrooms you’ll find nearby birch trees, as they live in symbiosis with birch. This is one of the early milk-caps to appear, season starts from July and continues to late September-October. I think it’s one of the prettiest mushrooms we have in Finland! And it certainly wants to be found, as the pink color is not exactly a great disguise in Finnish nature…
Lactarius rufus (‘kangasrousku’) has a stronger, more bitter taste than the above two. You can recognize it from the pointy tip in the middle of the cap, and the gingerbread color. It’s quite modest when it comes to living habitat, so it’s easier to find even in dry places. The cap turns beautifully dark brown when boiled, so it’s also visually pleasant mushroom to use in cooking.
All of these milk-caps need to be boiled in plenty of water for 5 -10 minutes to remove the bitterness (for best result boil for 5 min and then change the water and boil for another 5 min). In Finnish this type of boiling is called ‘ryöppäys’. Boiling is not only for the taste, but to remove the ingredients that may cause stomach ache or nausea. After boiling these are excellent mushrooms to use. Lift the mushrooms out of the water with a spoon (‘reikäkauha‘) into a collander (‘siivilä‘). This way the dirt and needles that may have been hiding in the gills will stay on the bottom of the kettle and you get clean mushrooms for cooking. Rinse the mushrooms with cold water until they are cool and the squize the water off with your hands. You can use the water from the kettle as organic fertilizer in your garden.
My favorite way to conserve milk-caps is to use the traditional Finnish way of salting the mushrooms. Some prefer to ferment (‘hapattaa’) them to preserve more of the taste and the nutrients. Another popular traditional way is to conserve them in vinegar. Mushroom salad made out of milk caps is something we always had at the Christmas dinner in my childhood. The salad is made out of the salted milk caps.
Try out this easy mushroom salad recipe:
2 dl of milk caps chopped into small pieces (boiled, rinced and squized as described above – if you are using salt conserved milk caps remember to soak them in plenty of water to get the salt to tolerable level)
1 onion or leek chopped into small pieces
(1 green apple chopped into small pieces)
2dl of sour cream (‘kermaviili’) or 2dl of cream whipped into thick foam
1 tea spoon of vinegar (try apple vinegar or white wine vinegar)
0,5 tea spoon of salt
white pepper or black pepper
Mix the ingredients together and season with salt and pepper. Serve cold. The taste of the salad gets only better if you let it rest over night in the fridge. The salad goes great with the Christmas ham or turkey and on top of a slice of rye bread.
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 🙂
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!
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!
Today in Espoo central park, the yellow beauties had arrived!
Yellow swamp russula (Keltahapero), the beautiful sun-like spark on the ground, is a delicious edible mushroom. Its cap is the color of buttercup (leinikki) and stem is greyish white. The Finnish name of russula, ‘hapero’, means fragile. It’s very descriptive name for this mushroom, whose stem easily snaps when bent. This is the easiest way to identify any russula. Also the cap and its gills are fragile.
Another yellow beauty is of course chanterelle. When it emerges from the ground, it looks like someone has sprinkled golden coins into the forest. Chanterelle has a very pleasant and distinctive scent, making it an easy mushroom for beginners to identify and pick. No wonder it is one of favorite mushrooms throughout Finland.
Yellow swamp russula is a tricky treat. Although this summer it grows widely in the forest, it’s a challenge to find it before the maggots do. Even as a small young mushroom which looks perfect from the outside, it may be fully eaten from inside by maggots. You can feel this if you gently push the mushroom. If the stem feels light, you can leave the mushroom on the ground. Even though it can be difficult to find clean yellow swamp russula, I promise, it is worth trying! This mushroom as a strong hemp-like scent when fried, and the taste is very exquisite. It’s best enjoyed on its own, without mixing with other mushrooms, so that the great taste does itself justice. It goes well in an omelet and as a side dish to white fish or a salad.
When you find a chanterelle, it’s worthwhile to look carefully around. Where there’s one, there’s usually more. Both the yellow swamp russula and chanterelle enjoy the company of birch trees. So if you desire to find these, head towards the birches and look around within approximately 30 meters distance from the tree. Chanterelle is very versatile mushroom, you can use it for sauce, stew, pies and it tastes great on a pizza.
July is the blueberry season in Finland. This year, the harvest is perfect: you can find plenty of blueberries, and the berries are big and juicy. Blueberries are excellent super-food, they contain very little of calories but plenty of vitamins A, B, C and micro-nutrients such as magnesium and calcium.
Picking blueberries is a great way to spend a vacation day or unwind after a working day – hear the breeze in the trees, feel the fresh air and see the beautiful blue and green shades of the blueberry bushes. The sound of blueberries falling to your basket can be very rewarding.
You can pick blueberries by hand, or use a rake (poimuri). When picking by hands you probably get cleaner berries and don’t need to clean the berries from leaves, but your hands will dye blue. Picking with a rake allows you to pick berries faster, and you can use a colander to clean the berries. You can gently lift the blueberry bush with your other hand, to get more of blueberries and less leaves to your rake, and to avoid tearing the bush from the ground. You can find both aids from any supermarket, cost is usually less than 10 euros per piece.
Best time to pick berries is on a dry weather, because the berries are easiest to clean when they are dry as you can just shake the leaves off in a colander. Although my favorite time to go into a forest is just after it has rained, as the scents of the forest are best after rain and the air feels fresh and full of oxygen.
Just look at these blueberries, don’t they look like a basket full of black pearls? Based on their super-food quality, they might as well be pearls! And the best part of it is that these pearls are free, you just need to go to the forest and pick them.
You can enjoy the blueberries fresh with for example milk or yoghurt, or mix them to your morning porridge or cereals. You can preserve blueberries by freezing them (add a bit of organic sugar) or making blueberry jam. Blueberries make also a tasty juice, fools and are excellent for baking and desserts. My favorite – and a very traditional Finnish food – is a blueberry pie. I will share you here my favorite recipe:
2 dl oat flakes – I like especially the gluten free jumbo oats
2 dl of wheat flour or any gluten free flour
1 dl of organic sugar
Pinch of vanilla powder
100g organic butter
1-2 organic eggs
4-6dl of blueberries (or raspberry, rhubarb, etc.)
2dl of organic sour cream (in Finland you can buy especially ‘kermaviili’)
1 organic egg
0.5-1 dl organic sugar
Pinch of vanilla powder
Heat the oven to 175C and prepare the dough:
You can either whip the egg and sugar as a foam and then add melted butter and dry ingredients, or in case you don’t have a whipper you can just mix the dry ingredients and pick the butter with your hands and last mix the egg to the dough. Latter option will give you a bit rougher cookie type of texture for the dough – this is what I prefer. Depending on how dry the dough feels, you can use 1 or 2 eggs. The dough should fee quite thick. Butter a pie tin and press the dough into the tin.
If you want to make sure the dough cooks fully, you can bake the dough in the oven for 5 min before adding the filling. Or if you are lazy as I am, just add the filling on top of the dough and hope for the best 🙂 (I have not had any disappointments that way either.)
Mix the filling ingredients and pour evenly on top of the dough. Bake in the middle level of the oven for 30-40min in 175C depending on your oven. When the edges of the pie turn golden brown and the filling looks firm, the pie is ready. If you are using a glass tin, you can check that the base of the pie has also cooked to golden brown.
Enjoy as is or with vanilla ice cream or custard. Store the pie in fridge (if there is anything left).
Mushrooms are fascinating creatures. Did you know, that the mushrooms we see in the forest are actually just a tiny part of the mushroom itself? Mushrooms live in the ground as a thread called mycelia, some in symbiosis with trees. The mushrooms that appear on the ground are mushroom’s means to spread spores in order to disperse into the surrounding nature. The biggest known mushroom is Armillaria solipides, and it covers 8,8 square kilometers which equals to 1665 football fields! It’s estimated to be 2400 years old, so it has had plenty of time to grow below ground in Oregon, US.
The mushrooms that appear above the ground have fairly short life cycle. Especially with Boletus species (Tatti) the harvest time is only few days. Let’s use Amanita fulva (Ruostekärpässieni) as an example to illustrate the growth of a mushroom. Amanita fulva belongs to the Amanita species. Finland has 24 known Amanitas, some are deadly poisonous and some are eatable. Probably the most known Amanita is the poisonous Amanita muscaria (Punakärpässieni), with its bright red cap with white warts (remainings of the univesal veil). Amanita fulva is one of the eatable Amanitas. I do not recommend you to pick and eat any of the Amanitas unless you have been trained to identify them, as the risk of mistaking it with any of the poisonous Amanitas may be a deadly mistake. Even the eatable Amanitas need to be properly prepared to remove the poisonous effect. I’m using Amanita as an example of the growth only because of its beautiful and quickly evolving shape.
Growth of Amanita fulva
Amanitas have a shield – also called as universal veil- that makes them look like tiny eggs when they appear from the ground. The shield breaks as the mushroom grows, and part of it stays as a cup (or a volva) in the base of the stem. Here you can see only the cap and cup. For a beginner the rule of thumb is that if a mushroom as a cup (volva), leave it to the forest!
When mushroom grows, it changes its shape again. The cap starts to change its shape and also the stem appears from the cup. Cap is a cylindrical or bell-shaped when mushroom is young.
When mushroom grows more, the cap starts to change its shape. For this particular Amanita, the cap is first closed bell-shaped and then it opens up convex. When it is fully grown, the distinctive character appears: the comb shaped striate edge of the cap is easy to recognize. The Finnish name Ruostekärpässieni refers to the rust color of the cap.
Finally, Amanita starts to decay. Even with the decomposed mushroom the comb shaped edge of cap is recognizable.
As you can see from the pictures, it’s important to learn the anatomy of the mushroom and be able to recognize how it looks like during its different life cycle phases. Young mushroom may have different lookalikes than the older ones.