Mushroom Picking in Prague – No such thing as a free lunch?
Well we are in the last two weeks of September and it’s usually the time when you get the most mushrooms as you’ve got good temperatures and damp ground. It’s probably the only time during the year when nobody is worried when they see somebody walking close by with a knife in their hand.
So what knowledge do you need to go foraging for mushrooms?
Firstly, you must know where your target mushrooms are most likely to grow. Secondly that you can tell the difference between the ones that taste good and the ones that don’t. Thirdly that you know how to prepare them. There are about 35 edible kinds of mushroom in the Czech Republic. We restrict ourselves to only 4 types which we know are safe and tasty.
So what does an average forage look like?
The tools required are 1) basket, 2) knife and 3) a stick. As you arrive at a known “patch” you immediately start to grid an area walking up and down until you find a good mushroom. I can scan 10 square metres in about 5 seconds. You then take a closer look at the immediate area of that mushroom as generally the conditions will be good for others. Once you’ve established that you are not going to stand on any others you simply use the knife to sever the leg of the mushroom being careful to leave the spore in the ground. Pop it in the basket and move on. Use the stick to move vegetation as very often a mushroom will be growing under it.
What do you do with them?
Just so you are not too shocked, don’t expect wild mushrooms to look like they do in the shops. Others live in the forest and like mushrooms too so yours might have already been lunch for something. So the first thing you do is clean up the mushrooms and remove any eaten bits. Now depending on the type of mushrooms you have you can start to separate. Personally, we take out the “clozsky” which get stickier the longer they are out of the ground, we clean them and they’ll go straight into a soup. Secondly we take out all the really small ones as they are great with eggs but not good for drying. Lastly we take out any of the larger ones that we want to mix with eggs and then cut the rest into small slithers 2-3mm for drying. When dry they go into a jar for use in soups and meals during the year.
What tips do you have?
- Go mushrooming on a cloudy day as the sun throws too many shadows.
- You are more likely to find edible mushrooms in Czech under coniferous forest than deciduous.
- Don’t keep the mushrooms in a plastic bag as it causes them to sweat.
- Take a stick to rake loose leaves and move the branches of low growing plants.
- Walk up hill, it’s easier to see the shape of mushroom heads.
- Not sure about a mushroom then leave it but, if it’s only a little doubt then cut the mushroom and put the cut end on the tip of your tongue. If it tastes bitter then it won’t cook very well.
- Take a knife which goes in a sheath or a folding pen knife. Don’t take an unprotected open blade.
- Under the head of the mushroom is either holes or fins. Those with fins contain the poisonous varieties.
- If you see a small wild pig foraging then walk back the way you came because you don’t want to mess with mummy wild pig.