Mushroom picking - a lifelong obsession
Updated: Feb 2, 2022
Autumn is here! With its vibrant tones of orange, red and yellow, it’s warm golden light and crisp air, what’s not to love about it? But knowing that I can go to the forest and pick mushrooms is what excites me the most!
I have always loved picking mushrooms. My interest in mushroom picking started when I was little and would, together with my grandmother, go to the park across the road from her house to pick normal everyday white button mushrooms. My enthusiasm was even more fuelled once I moved to Japan. They are completely obsessed with seasonal produce and with autumn came the ubiquitous matsutake mushroom and all the variations of dishes they offer to provide fans with their yearly fix of earthy deliciousness.
It was after I met my Swedish husband and moved to Sweden that my passion for mushrooms skyrocketed. From the summer months to late autumn, Swedish forests provide a plentiful bounty of different mushrooms. My husband and I would venture into the aromatic pine forest behind his childhood home, and an hour later, emerge with baskets full with proud yellow chantarelles, noble porcini, or small robust trumpet chantarelles. We would then make the simplest of dishes like wild mushroom soup or mushrooms on toast so as to not mask the pure flavour of the forest. Once the season was over, I would patiently wait until next summer and the beginning of the new mushroom season, hoping that it would be what the Swedes call a “mushroom year”.
But then we moved to Switzerland. Did you know that every year, notices appear in the local newspaper announcing the services of the town mushroom expert. I kid you not! You can take your newly harvested autumn treasures to be carefully examined by this designated fungus guru who duly advises you which mushrooms are suitable for eating, not edible or downright deadly. The Swiss are mad about joining clubs and of course, they have a mushroom picking club. I have not yet joined, as I somewhat selfishly don’t want to share my hard-won treasures with a group of other enthusiasts, let alone disclose my “secret” picking spots. I do, however, enjoy bumping into other mushroom gatherers when I’m out and about and talk about what types of mushrooms we have found in the area or exchange recipes.
Being out in the forest picking mushrooms gives you the best feeling. You’re in the fresh air, doing something active surrounded by the most beautiful nature AND you are rewarded for your efforts.
But if I haven’t yet inspired you to grab a basket and a little sharp knife – I have my own personal mushroom knife (!) – and head to the woods, you can at least go to your local supermarket in autumn and buy a box or two of wild mushrooms and try the following recipe. By tasting just how delicious they are may just convince you to reconsider.
Swedish mushroom toast (Varm svampmacka)
300g forest mushrooms (chantarelles, porcini, portobello or a even a mix) – brushed off and cut into bite-sized pieces
4 slices rustic sour dough bread – not too thickly sliced
half a brown onion – finely chopped
1/3 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons parsley – finely chopped
2 tablespoons butter
1 clove garlic – crushed (optional but recommended)
salt and pepper to season
Toast bread in a toaster or toast in a fry pan with butter
Over medium heat in a dry frypan, add mushrooms and fry until all the water has evaporated
Add the butter and onion (and crushed garlic if desired) and fry for a few of minutes
Turn heat down to low and add sour cream. Simmer for a few minutes more
Season with salt (you will need more than you think!) and pepper to your taste
Divide the mushroom mixture over the four slices of toasted sour dough bread
Garnish with the parsley and a few grinds of extra pepper