When the days get shorter and the weather cools many already long for next summer. This time of year, however, is the perfect time for something else: mushroom picking. The season lasts from mid-August to the end of October depending on the weather, and due to the long season everyone can pick these delicious friends for the darkening nights of autumn.
The first and most important rule to mushroom picking is recognizing the different fungi. There are many different species growing in the Finnish forests but only some are edible, others are outright poisonous. That is why it is best for a beginner to go with a seasoned mushroom picker on their first mushrooming excursion. The company of an experienced friend or guide is advisable as long as it takes to grow accustomed to and confident with the edible varieties. If you don’t know a suitable person you can always go on an organized course or excursion where you have an experienced guide with you. This time we headed towards Haltia nature centre in Nuuksio national park in Espoo, where Hannu from Sieniretki Y taught us the secrets of mushrooming.
Before going into the forest we got to see a few of the mushrooms we might find on this excursion. We heard that chanterelles, funnel chanterelles, hedgehog mushrooms and perhaps some surprising individuals might be around us today.
When going into the forest you have to pay attention to the weather and dress accordingly. It’s advisable to put on terrain shoes or rubber boots because the ground is usually uneven and sometimes wet. A small but annoying creature might be roaming around in the forests as well; the deer ked. They’re harmless but unpleasant little creatures but a hat or tighter clothes might keep them away a bit. A basket, another container or even a plastic bag is good for the picked mushrooms. A mushroom knife probably comes in handy, but it’s not necessary to have one. It’s also good to know the terrain you’re moving in or otherwise pay attention to where you have come from. A water bottle is also good to grab with.
We started walking towards our mushrooming area with our guide Hannu leading the way. We got to know more about the different species of fungi, where you usually can find them and what to be careful with when it comes to mushrooms. Bright red and grey mushrooms it’s better to leave alone because most of them are poisonous. If the spores are brown it’s also best to be careful since it might be a mushroom belonging to the cortinarius genus, and most of these are poisonous too. If you feel unsure of a mushroom it’s best to leave it be.
On a slope covered with damp moss and young pine trees we made our first find: funnel chanterelles! These usually grow in groups on a big area, so if you find a few it’s best to keep your eyes out for more.
On more even ground and surrounded by spruce we encountered a hedgehog mushroom while we found chanterelles hiding in a scarce birch forest. Mushrooms live in symbiosis with trees, so when walking in different types of terrain it’s best to keep an eye out for certain varieties. Young trees also give mushrooms more nutrients than old ones and this is also good to remember while out mushrooming.
After two hours in the forest we didn’t have much in our baskets but this is part of the process. Sometimes you find more than you can carry, other times you barely find anything. Someone might have moved around in the same area as you or then the weather might not have been optimal for the mushrooms. Just being in the forest, surrounded by silence and wondering about the beauty of everything surrounding you is alone worth the visit. If you’re lucky you can even encounter some new species; the hedgehog mushroom was a new acquaintance and so was our rare find, a Lactifluus volemus or more commonly the weeping milk cap.
If the mushroom picking isn’t going that well, you probably can find other edible things in the form of blueberries or lingonberries.
At the end of the excursion we moved on to campfire site close to a viewpoint overlooking the beauty of the national park. With joint forces we made mushroom soup of the mushrooms we picked during the day. For dessert we got coffee freshly made on the campfire and blueberries with whipped cream. Lunch tasted divine sitting outside surrounded by the fresh air and smell of the forest. A big part was undoubtedly also due to the fact that we’d picked the food ourselves. Our forests are full of hidden treasures – you just have to know where to find them.
Mushroom picking areas in Helsinki Region:
Central Park (Helsinki)
Luukki (Luukintie 33, Espoo)
Haltia nature centre surroundings (Nuuksiontie 84, Espoo)
Sipoonkorpi (spread out in Sipoo, Vantaa and Helsinki)
Guided mushroom excursions:
Sieniretki Y (http://sieniretki.fi/Mushrooms-hunting-course/)
Feel the nature (http://feelthenature.fi/en/berry-picking-and-mushroom-hunting-in-nuuksio-national-park/)