Mushroom soup fiesta

Isohapero 1Yesterday 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.

Punahapero

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.

Palterohapero

Another good russula for a soup is Russula vesca (‘palterohapero’). It resembles Russula paludosa, but the stem is much harder and thicker.

Palterohapero 3

Koivuhapero

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!

Sienikeitto

 

Yikes, spikes!

Vaalea orakas - Hydnum repandum
Vaalea orakas – Hydnum repandum

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.

From left to right: Chanterelle (kantarelli), hydnum rufescens (rusko-orakas) and hydnum repandum (vaaleaorakas)
From left to right:
Chanterelle (kantarelli), hydnum rufescens (rusko-orakas) and hydnum repandum (vaaleaorakas)

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.

Same mushrooms from the other side. Notice the difference between ridges and teeth below the cap.
Same mushrooms from the other side. Notice the difference between ridges and teeth below the cap.

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.

Pie time!

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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.

Uncooked mushrooms with some spring onion and zucchini.
Uncooked mushrooms with some spring onion and zucchini.

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.

Same ingredients cooked.
Same ingredients cooked.

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.

Pie before cooking in the oven.
Pie before cooking in the oven.

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 bliss of enjoying a cup of tea and a slice of mushroom pie after hiking in the forest!
The bliss of enjoying a cup of tea and a slice of mushroom pie after hiking in the forest!

What do I need for mushroom picking?

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

– basket

– walking shoes

– guidebook

– water /snack

WP_20150724_008 (2)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).

Woodchip basket
Woodchip basket

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). WP_20150803_001 (2)

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.

WP_20150803_007 (3) (1)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.

Happy mushroom picking!

sienikori

Mushrooms, mushrooms, where are you?

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:

  1. Some live in symbiosis with a tree.

    1. Russula claroflava (Keltahapero) lives in symbiosis with birch tree.
    1. Russula claroflava (Keltahapero) lives in symbiosis with birch tree.
  2. Some are parasites that live from a live tree, eventually killing it.

    2. Armillaria borealis(Pohjanmesisieni) is parasite mushroom.
    2. Armillaria borealis(Pohjanmesisieni) is a parasite mushroom.
  3. Some are wood rotting mushrooms.

    3. Tylopilus felleus (Sappitatti) is wood rottening mushroom.
    3. Tylopilus felleus (Sappitatti) is a wood rottening mushroom.
Boletus edulis (Herkkutatti) has a white net om the top of the stem.
Boletus edulis (Herkkutatti) has a white net on the top of the stem.

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.

Tylopilus felleus (Sappitatti) has dark net on the stem and pink shade in the pores.
Tylopilus felleus (Sappitatti) has dark net on the stem and pink shade in the pores.

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.

Lactarius trivialis (Haaparousku)
Lactarius trivialis (Haaparousku)

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:

Pine Forest

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)

Lactarius rufus (Kangasrousku)
Lactarius rufus (Kangasrousku)

Spruce forest

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)

Boletus edulis (Herkkutatti)
Boletus edulis (Herkkutatti)

Birch and alder forests

Leccinum versipelle (Koivunpunikkitatti)

Leccinum scabrum coll. (Lehmäntatti)

Leccinum variicolor (Nokitatti)

Russula claroflava (Keltahapero)

Lactarius torminosus (Karvarousku)

Cantharellus cibarius (Keltavahvero, kantarelli)

Leccinum variicolor (Nokitatti)
Leccinum variicolor (Nokitatti)

The good thing about learning mushrooms is, that the more different mushrooms you learn to identify, the more mushrooms you will also find!

Hello, Yellow!

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Chanterelle

Today in Espoo central park, the yellow beauties had arrived!

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Russula claroflava – Keltahapero

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.

Cantharellus cibarius – Keltavahvero

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.

WP_20150724_015 (2)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.

WP_20150724_031 (2)WP_20150724_021 (2)Keltahapero

Growth of a mushroom

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.

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Amanita fulva

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!

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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.

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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.

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Finally, Amanita starts to decay. Even with the decomposed mushroom the comb shaped edge of cap is recognizable.

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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.