For a very long time, tasty and fragrant mushrooms have been used to create deeply savoury dishes, enriching any menu. Everyone loves mushroom soup, pie and whatnot. But the best part of having mushrooms at your table is foraging them yourself!
"Nature is not a place to visit. It is home." - Gary Snyder
A glimpse into history
Mushrooms are one of the most ancient inhabitants of our planet and the most extraordinary organisms on Earth. Although the object of study is practically under your nose, not much is known about them. They have nothing to do with plants, but they cannot be called animals either. Among them, there are exquisite products and healers, as well as parasites, predators, and even killers. There are almost one and a half million species, and they are all united into one big mushroom kingdom.
The Aztecs called mushrooms the food of the gods, the Eskimos ate their ashes, the Apaches burned mushrooms to ward off the evil spirits, the ancient Arias and the Aboriginals of the Amazon prepared a drink from them. Some varieties of the fungi were considered as an official means of clairvoyance among Aztecs.
Unique living organisms
Mushrooms are a huge group of living organisms in nature. Mushrooms have different shapes, sizes and various functions that they perform in the environment. Mushrooms play the role of medical orderlies decomposing dead organic substances and also participate in the processing of many wastes of human activities and industries.
Mushrooms have been used in nutrition for a long time. However, you should always remember to do it cautiously. The effect of fungi on the human body is often individual.
Mushrooms are amazing living things. They do not have roots, leaves, do not bloom and do not give any fruit with seeds. They reproduce with spores, which are carried by those mushrooms that we tear from the mycelium, located under the ground. There are a large number of species of edible mushrooms. The most famous are: porcini, chanterelle, brown cap boletus, orange-cap boletus, common puffball, champignon mushroom, and many others. However, the group of poisonous mushrooms is no less numerous.
Safety, safety, safety!
In order to distinguish edible fungi from harmful and poisonous during foraging, it is necessary to understand the types of fungi well and to recognize them according to external signs. You should get acquainted with the pictures of the main types of mushrooms, and you should start the first searches under the guidance of experienced mushroom hunters.
It is better to forage mushrooms early in the morning, even before the sun heats them. In this case, they are stored for a longer time.
While foraging, it is necessary to cut the mushroom with a knife at its base; do not tear it from the root. The root retains the mycelium, responsible for reproduction. Hunting mushrooms, you should bring along a small knife, a stick with a forked end, so that you can easily push the grass, dry leaves, needles and even twigs.
Mushrooms quickly deteriorate, so they should be used no later than 4-5 hours after picking. Do not pick unfamiliar, or wormy mushrooms. Follow the rules: forage only well-known mushrooms, use the experience and advice of local residents who know the species of mushrooms well. Mushrooms growing along roads and in ecologically unfavorable places, accumulate poisonous substances, and cannot be eaten even if they have a very appetizing appearance.
Only young mushrooms with a rather dense pulp are suitable for food. An old, wormy, overripe mushroom should be thrown away, but not to the ground where it will uselessly rot. String its hat on a branch of a tree or a bush to dry in the sun. The wind will disperse the fungal seeds – spores, and next year you will have another plentiful place to hunt mushrooms.
Foraging mushrooms, we distance from our problems and completely concentrate on searching. Mushroom picking is quite an exciting activity: every unusual fungus is an occasion to take a picture and it is also one of the few opportunities for full-fledged communication of ever-busy parents and children. Not to mention,the forest itself has a beneficial effect on our body.
So, follow the rules, enjoy the nature, breath in fully, and…happy hunting!!!