Many of us love to pick our own food. Some of us even grow it. I moved to Finland recently and one of the country's rule made me very happy: One can pick whatever berry or edible mushroom from any forest they wish. They call this “Every man’s right” and it means that one can walk freely in the forest (no matter who owns it).
I love walking in the forest. I love the sound of the wind, the trees voices howling, the rays of sun passing through the trees, coloring everything in gold. Therefore every time I visit my parents-in-law I spend hours mushroom hunting with my husband.
1. The first and best rule you should follow is: always pick mushrooms you know very well. Like 100% well. If you are not sure about a mushroom, better leave it in the forest.
2. If you don't know the mushrooms too well, make your first picking trips in the forest while having an expert with you.
3. Only pick mushrooms from very clean places, far away from industrial plants, cities, heavy circulated roads and so on. The mushrooms are well-known to accumulate radioactive substances as well as heavy metals. For instance, after the Chernobyl accident, Finland advised people not to gather mushrooms from certain areas.
4. Learn the paths. Find the spots. Learn the tree species. Some species of mushrooms grow in large groups. These groups will appear each year in the same spot (if the weather conditions are good). Some are individuals so in order to find them, you should know the trees that are having a symbiosis with (pines, spruces, oaks, birches etc). E.g., the rare matsutake mushroom is growing in symbiosis with the pine trees.
5. Don't be greedy, pick only the medium or bigger mushrooms (while still young). Leave the small on spot. And the old ones, too. You can pick them next time. Or somebody else will, they have the same right as you do. Simply, just don't pick more than you can handle (eat, dry, sell). The mushrooms are delicate, they can spoil easily.
6. Take the proper equipment with you and travel light: rubber boots are a must, light cloths that can protect you against sun/rain/ mosquito bites. Sometimes a repellent can make wonders. Unless you are spotted by some deer flies, which are some ugly “aliens” with a nasty bite. A bucket or a basket are what you need to pick the mushrooms. No plastic bag. This might damage your crop. Some mushrooms are very sensitive, they require immediate cleaning and/or delicate handling. So keep with you a special tool that has a knife at an end and a brush at the other. Cut or clean the dirt from the base and brush the leaves, insects and dust from the body of the mushroom. On spot, if you can.
7. Learning the looks is just a part of knowing a mushroom type. You should also learn how to prepare it. Some mushrooms can be consumed raw, others require parboiling (honey fungus, some milk caps), other need repeated boiling and rinses (f.e. false morels). If they are frozen, after defrosting them, they must be cooked fast, as they might change the taste (f.e. honey fungus).
What mushrooms do we pick in our area (south and southwestern Finland):
a. Chanterelles (Cantharellus cibarius) - my husband's favorite
b. Boletes/ ceps/ porcini (Boletus edulis, Boletus pinophilus, Leccinum versipelle, Leccinum aurantiacum, Leccinum scabrum) - my favorites.
c. False morels (Gyromitra esculenta)
d. Wood hedgehog (Hydnum repandum)
e. Autumn chanterelle (Cantharellus tubaeformis)
f. Horn of plenty or Trompette de la Mort (Craterellus cornucopioides)
g. Forest Lamb (Albarellus ovinus)
h. Different types of Russula
8. Learn the poisonous mushrooms. Many of the good mushrooms have poisonous siblings or look alike friends.
For example there are poisonous boletes (none in Finland, though), there are also inedible boletes (bitter).
Same goes for russulas (some are way too bitter or way too hot).
Some are deadly, some can do damages to the liver or kidneys or brain. Such as:
a. Amanita mushrooms: Brown fly agaric (Amanita regalis), Deathcap (Amanita phalloides), Destroying angel (Amanita virosa), False deathcap (Amanita citrina), Fly agaric (Amanita muscaria)
b. Cortinarius and Inocybe, both from the same family: Deadly fibrecap (Inocybe erubescens), Deadly webcap (Cortinarius rubellus), Gentle cort, deadly cort (Cortinarius gentilis), Split fibrecap (Inocybe rimosa), Sunset webcap (Cortinarius limonius), White fibrecap (Inocybe geophylla)
c. Funeral bell (Galerina marginata)
d. Livid pinkgill (Entoloma sinuatum)
e. False morel (Gyromitra esculenta) Only if it’s consumed raw!
Hope I piqued your curiosity. Oh, and by the way, what mushrooms are growing in your area?