People who know me know that I adore mushrooms. I could eat different varieties of mushrooms every day and never get bored of them and so do many Poles. One might ask, what’s so special about mushrooms and why are Poles so obsessed with it? At first sight, mushrooms are just simple veggies that grow in the forest.
Wild mushrooms actually cause a lot of controversies. Americans mostly eat cultivated button mushrooms and portobellos found safely wrapped in supermarket aisles. In some states wild mushrooms are even illegal to sell!
In Poland, where I grew up, mushrooms are basic ingredients for many traditional dishes due to the popularity of mushrooming. Everyone goes mushroom picking at least once a year to collect, dry, and pickle those lovely fungi.
Here’s your guide to mushroom picking in Poland.
Foreigners are often scared of mushroom picking because they believe it’s easy to pick a poisonous one. Well, let me tell you how easily you can recognize if your mushroom can be eaten or not. Every Pole learns that fairly quickly as a child by looking at books with photos of mushrooms.
There are 47 species on the government’s list of mushrooms approved for food circulation. The most popular types include chanterelles, boletes, bay boletes, saffron milk caps, larch boletes, birch boletes and parasol mushrooms.
Every mushroom has a part under the cup called the hymenophore that’s either a lamella (striped) or tubes (flat).
Mushrooms with tubes are edible and those with lamella can be… except that it would be your last time 😉 However, if your mushroom is red with white dots, there is no reason to check because it’s a fly agaric – the most poisonous of all mushrooms.
Mushroom Picking as a Family Activity
In the 7.6 million hectares supervised by State Forests, no certifications are required for recreational picking (with the exception of national parks and areas with special protections). You don’t need permission to go picking nor do you have to pay for it or need a guide.
If you’re new to it or foreign, I recommend starting foraging with someone experienced. You must get up early and drive to the forest, usually a day or two after it rained. Later in the day all the mushrooms will be gone.
Every autumn families in Poland go mushroom picking together as a family. As a child, I remember standing next to the car and waiting for my parents to bring big wicker baskets full of mushrooms to clean out of the dirty.
If you don’t find enough to satisfy you and prepare you for Christmas time, there are always people selling mushrooms along with wild blueberries on the road.
What to Do With the Wild Mushrooms Afterwards?
After a successful outing, mushrooms had to be either used over a few days, dried or pickled, which made the whole house smell nice.
The whole point, however, is to save enough for Christmas time in Poland. Mushroom soup is a traditional Christmas Eve soup and there are also pierogi and other goodies that require wild mushrooms.
Most Popular Polish Mushroom Dishes
1. Placki ziemniaczane & kluski with mushroom sauce – Chanterelle / Porcini
Placki are potato pancakes that can be served with either goulash or mushroom sauce. The best sauce is a chanterelle (kurki) sauce that takes over every dish in Poland during the summer.
2. Pierogi – traditionally with Porcini
Pierogi are well-known all over the world. Those amazing dumplings can be filled with pretty much anything, but the best combination is cabbage with onion and porcini.
3. Pickled Bay Bolete mushrooms
Pickled mushrooms are extremely popular for Christmas, therefore they have to be prepared some time in advance.