This autumn we went to Poland for two weeks and we did make the most of that season. Beware: autumn is a time for mushroom picking! It was amazing to introduce kids to it and encourage them to learn about fungi growing in Poland and continental Europe. But mostly, we joined in the favourite Polish autumn endeavours and we had an awful good time.
My sister and I always loved the trips to forest with our Dad. Since our childhood, he patiently taught us about forest, fungi, helped to spy on hares, deer: how to find where they sleep and where they look for a shelter during a day. We had many funny encounters with wildlife. Those are precious memories of having a great time with my Dad. In the meantime, I learned which mushrooms are good for eating and how to differ them from poisonous ones, where to look for them, how to spot fungi in their camouflage. My Dad is an avid mushroom picker and a very good one, always harvesting the biggest bounty, to some disbelief he manages to unearth mushrooms where you spot none.
This red one is as beautiful as poisonous and its name is Amanita muscaria, (Muchomor Czerwony in Polish) and I couldn’t help myself and made a picture of it.
This year, we took our kids with us to the forest. While Big Son was many times taken for mushroom picking and he already is able to find and recognise some edible ones, his sister was enjoying herself spotting mushrooms and reporting it back to me or granddad. For children the thrill of a visit to the forest, where they can run, play and explore freely was immense.
Our girl loved going to the big forest as she called it, small woods wouldn’t do. She was picking up autumn leaves and acorns, practicing writing in the sand and discovering abundance of fungi growing in the Polish forests.
Mushroom picking is a very popular seasonal activity in Poland. As private and state owned forests and woods are open to the visitors collecting mushrooms or berries, provided that they would not destroy or cut down trees or plants, or take away the wood. It is favourite pastime for families for generations now, alike in Italy, Germany or other European countries. You collect fungi to cook them straight away or dry them and use in your cuisine during winter. Think of dried porcinis you could find in the supermarket shelves.
Some of the fungi collected in Poland are known here in the UK like porcinis or Boletus edulis in Latin or Borowik szlachetny in Polish. Here’ a link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boletus_edulis
Other known here are chanterelles – kurki in Polish: http://goo.gl/sEoli3 But some of the fungus we collected this autumn, are not known here, still very tasty and worth the time spent searching in the woods.
Big Son, very proud and chuffed, managed to find and recognise some of them like: boletus badius or podgrzybek in Polish, great dried and added to soups, meats or stuffing. He also learned they often grow in a group. On the picture on the left you could see a specimen of these fungi that he found. He knows chanterelles as well and he collected a few this year.
Another popular specimen is Suillus luteus (maslak in Polish) and we were lucky to get them too. Here’s a link to an entry on Wikipedia with a photo: http://goo.gl/Slf3Ky
Moreover, there’s some other fungi quite popular among mushroom pickers in autumn, called Opienki in Polish, named Armillaria ostoyae in Latin. They grow in a quite abundance if you are lucky to come across a right spot. And its name in Polish indicates the way it vegetates: around or by a tree trunk. Later in the holiday, we went to look for some other delicacy of the forest: Tricholoma equestre and Tricholoma (known as Gaski in Poland).
They appear only later on, starting in October until first frost arrives sometimes even till early December. Those yellow or grey beauties are so delicious roasted on hot cast iron sprinkled with a bit of salt. I still can remember my fingers burning when savouring a small, crunchy gaski straight from the pan. On the contrary, my Mum loves a borsch cooked with a stock of these mushrooms.
As you could see on our pictures, we did quite well for our bounty, and children were raving about those trips for a good while. Hopefully, until next year then but for now we can relish in some dried fungus for a soup or pierogis. I can’t wait to make some…