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!
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.
A good way to start mushroom picking safely is to attend a mushroom picker course. Mushroom picker courses usually last 2-3 hours and you will learn 2-4 mushrooms and their possible look-a-likes. Some courses are aimed for just learning the mushrooms, some are aimed for obtaining ‘kauppasienipoimija’ card, a certificate which proofs that person has been trained to pick and prepare certain mushrooms classified as ‘commercially sold’. Certificates can be given only by trained mushroom advisors (‘kauppasienineuvoja’ or ‘keruutuoteneuvoja’) or trained inspectors (‘keruutuotetarkastaja’), who verify the quality of nature products such as berries, mushrooms and wild herbs. You must be minimum 15 years old in order to get the card.
Finland has an Act for mushroom selling, which relies on the Finnish Food Safety Authority Evira’s list of recommended mushrooms. Evira also gives guidance on how some of the mushrooms need to be prepared. If you intend to sell mushrooms e.g. to restaurants or grocery shops, you will very likely be asked to provide mushroom picker card as a proof of sufficient knowledge on the mushrooms. This is part of the shops’ and restaurants’ internal safety controls. After all, there are thousands of different mushrooms growing in Finland, of which some are deadly toxic. Therefore it’s very important, that only the edible and easily recognizable mushrooms are offered for sale or used in preparing food.
The structure and content of the mushroom picking courses can vary depending on the organizer, aim of the course and the attendees (mainly the level of their experience). Commercial mushroom picker course usually starts with short theory part, that briefly explains the basic things about mushrooms such as
structure of a mushroom
where to safely pick mushrooms
how to pick the mushrooms and how to clean them
basic preparation guides for cooking
basic rules about selling mushrooms and related tax exempts
emergency first aid in case of reactions to mushrooms.
Usually during the same day or previous day the trainer goes to the forest to seek for the mushrooms in order to make sure, that attendees have enough mushrooms available for training purposes (this is usually the most time consuming part of the course preparations). Trainer then selects the most suitable available mushrooms and presents real examples to the training participants.
Once the theory part is covered and attendees know what kind of mushrooms to search for, the group breaks to search for the mushrooms for 10-15 minutes. All mushrooms are brought together and inspected by the trainer. In case there are any wrong mushrooms among the harvest, those are pointed out and removed. Also the quality of the mushrooms is checked and quality deficiencies are explained. After that, a second round of picking is done. On the second round there cannot be any wrong mushrooms and the quality should be on required level. If these criteria is met, attendees will receive their cards with the relevant mushrooms marked. The trainer will keep a record of the people trained, their picker ID number (given by the trainer) and the mushrooms trained. Once you have the card, you can get further marks on the card by evidencing your knowledge to any mushroom advisor or inspector (so you can learn independently too if you like, as you already have the basic knowledge).
2 – 4 mushrooms may not sound like a lot, but the aim always is that when you attend the course, you will be then able to independently safely pick those mushrooms. If you are a beginner, learning more than that in couple of hours may get confusing. It’s better to learn 1 – 2 really well, than 10 poorly. You can steadily build your mushroom knowledge over time and depending on your taste preferences. Who knows, maybe you’ll find your calling and one day become advisor or inspector yourself?
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!
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.
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.