As the weather changes and Fall is upon us, I made my first batch of wild mushroom risotto with porcini mushrooms as the star ingredient. When I say wild, I truly mean wild. These porcini were foraged in the woods by myself and my husband. While eating this incredible Fall meal, I thought I would share with you some about my love of mushroom hunting. Well, I will share verything that is shareable … LOL. Should you begin to engage in this pastime you will soon discover, mushroom hunters never disclose their favorite hunting locations. It is truly like the spy mantra, I could tell you where we find them but then I would have to kill you … just kidding of course! To give you an idea of just how secretive and competitive this sport is, my uncle would often not reveal to his own mother, my Oma, where his best stashes were.
Mushroom hunting is a pastime that can turn my 76 year old mother into a trash-talking, rabidly-competitive woman who will not stop hunting no matter what the weather. One time we were hunting with her and suddenly we were caught in a complete deluge of icy cold rain mixed with hail. I tried to get her to head back to the car but her response, while she stood there soaking wet in cotton clothing, was “just one more minute.”
I come by the love of mushroom hunting honestly. My mother’s family is of Eastern European and Russian origin and, in those parts of the world, mushroom hunting and wild foraging are truly a deep part of the culture. As kids, we visited our relatives in Heidelberg almost every summer, and foraging was part of what we all did together as a family on those summer weekends. (My mother’s family fled Riga, Latvia in 1945 and wound up emigrating to Heidelberg, Germany). I vividly remember spending entire weekends wandering in the Odenwald, the forest near Heidelberg, with baskets full of porcini and wild blueberries. In German, a porcini is known as a Steinpilz, a stone mushroom. When you see a Steinpilz in it’s natural surrounding the name becomes obvious. The color of the top looks just like a stone.
One funny, but not so funny note, is that my mountain rescue team has rescued numerous Russian, Romanian, Poles, and other Eastern European mushroom hunters in the past several years. The thing with mushroom hunting is that you are constantly looking down. You’re too busy looking under pine trees and rocks to notice you’ve gone woefully astray. You have to actively think about looking up and taking stock of your surroundings. Otherwise, as happened with our hunters who needed to be rescued, they wound up just heading full steam down hill and wound up very far away in a very large wilderness, no where near where they had started. Some of them spent several cold hours in the dark until we were able to locate them.
In the end, mushroom hunting is a great way to spend time in the wilderness, off trail, with rewarding treasures at the end. It truly is like a wilderness treasure hunt 🙂
One final note, please please please do not eat any wild foraged mushroom unless you have had some training and know exactly what you are eating. Guessing when eating wild foraged mushrooms can have a deadly outcome if you are not absolutely certain what you are doing.
Thanks for reading about one of The Life Bus’s favorite pastimes. XO