Mushroom picking, or grzybobranie in Polish, is a popular family activity throughout many Slavic cultures. On a much larger and industrial scale, Poland is also the largest exporter of mushrooms in the world. Needless to say, mushrooms are an important part of Polish cuisine and culture.
During the mushroom season, which is late spring to early autumn in Poland, many families often venture into their nearest forest and pick baskets of mushrooms. I went soon after prime picking season in September with some of my family and was able to enjoy some time in beautiful Polish forests and pick up several mushrooms! I was a little bit nervous about picking up a poisonous or psychedelic mushroom and throwing it into a large pot of soup! Luckily, the ability to properly identify edible mushrooms has been passed down from generation to generation to other family members. Added bonus—one of my cousins or neighbor’s fifth nephew twice removed who we just call a cousin is a forest ranger! We were in good hands. Off the the forest we went!
View from the car
It turned out to be a beautiful day!
Once we got to the forest, we had to get the ground rules straight from the relatives:
- Don’t uproot, dig up, or trample over any plants.
- Only pick mushrooms with pores in the under cap. Apparently the mushrooms with gills in these particular forests will send you to the hospital. A life without risks is a life not lived, right?
- Look near, but not in areas that were dug up my wild boars/pigs. They know what they are looking for and they can guide you in the right direction!
Then we went on our merry way and had some peculiar finds! I didn’t snap pictures of all of them, but one of the most interesting was a round mushroom that resembled a small baked potato. If you squeezed it, it would pop open and release some gray/blackish power, but if you cut it in half, it would be black and dense inside. Apparently these are some sort of earthballs and are common. It was novel to me!
After 3 hours and 2 forests, we were done…
…except not even close! Once we made our way back to the house, we had to clean the dirt off the mushrooms and slice them up for use. We came across one that turned bright blue as soon as it was cut! Apparently, this won’t kill you, but might make you a little sick :p It didn’t make it to the pile. An hour or so later, our mushrooms were clean and sliced and it was time to distribute our finds to the rest of the family for future meals!
These wild mushrooms have delicious earthy flavor. If they won’t be used immediately, you can dry them for later use like you would with dried porcini mushrooms that you can find in most grocery stores. Drying tends to intensify the flavor of mushrooms, which is a great thing in my book!
Side note: Wild mushrooms are abundant in Poland, Ukraine, Belarus, Russia, etc. and mushroom picking is done in many forests, but it is an unspoken rule that you won’t take more than you need, and you won’t go digging where you shouldn’t!