How To Pick Mushrooms


How To Pick Mushrooms

When we grew up in Riga, Latvia, every autumn we would go to a local forest to pick mushrooms. So when I saw an article on October 1, 2020 in “The Wall Street Journal” titled, “Russia’s Love Affair With Fungi Has Mushroomed in Pandemic”, it brought back pleasant memories. I sometimes use the analogy of how to pick mushrooms with how to find clients. First of all, you need to know which mushrooms are edible and which can be poisonous (think about clients). Then you need to know where to find mushrooms. You can spend the whole day walking in the forest and only find the wrong ones.

Some species grow under specific trees. In the Russian language, the mushrooms’ names can be related to the name of the tree. To be successful, one needs to get to the forest very early. And the most important part is, most of the time, only poisonous mushrooms are visible. The good ones are hiding under the moss and leaves. You have to use a stick to remove obstacles, and then when you find the right one, bend down and cut the stem of the mushroom, leaving the bottom part of the root in the ground. Then you need to cut the mushroom to check for worms. Worms can be one of the indications that this is an edible type. We would carry a basket or a bucket in the anticipation of a plentiful find. If you are lucky, as you walk, the basket gets heavier and heavier. Then there is another important part – how to find your way back; after all, there might not be even trails. Therefore, using a local person or a guide can help you in your foraging experience.

It is a good idea to bring a backpack to keep an extra shirt, since the temperature can change, or if it rains, mosquito repellent is a must, and you also need an extra knife, water, snacks or sandwich and a compass. Nowadays, a mobile phone can serve many functions, if there is cell phone service. But finding mushrooms and bringing them home is only the beginning of the process of appreciation. They need to be cleaned (very dirty work), preserved and then cooked, dried or marinated. This last type is good with drinking Vodka, which is a Russian tradition. While describing how to pick the mushrooms, I realized that the method of processing mushrooms is similar to the processing of mortgage loans. Finding a client and filling out the loan application is only the beginning, and there are many, many steps to get the final results.

In spite of the obstacles, foraging for mushrooms can be fun. If you’ve never done it, check online, join a group and be prepared to have a lot of fun.

P.S. I often photograph mushrooms in our neighborhood. Unlike those in the forest, they are mostly poisonous. However, they look good with my personal touch. 

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