Wild mushrooms in Italy are not just prized, they are a passion and Italy is a wonderful place to explore and find mushrooms. It is also a great place to taste wild mushrooms which have been cooked and transformed into the most magical of dishes. They really do feature as a delicacy on menus and the taste does not disappoint!
In Italy you really need to have a license to pick mushrooms, so really the best way to be able to pick them is to accompany someone who does have a license. Or you could try an organised foray or hunt. In Italian the license is known as a tesserino and there are various local conditions which apply to obtaining a license. Some regions enforce it much more stringently than others. The license will only allow you to collect mushrooms on certain days. It will also limit the amount of mushrooms which can be picked.
The license prevents this precious resource being over picked. It also ensures that mushrooms are responsibly picked. So for example, some mature mushrooms have to be left, so that they can disperse their spores and propagate.
Sadly the license is also aimed at reducing the amount of people who are poisoned each year by mushrooms, so many regions will have some kind of test to ascertain whether or not you know your mushrooms well enough, not to be poisoned by eating an inedible one. This test is usually taken at the end of a course which is run by the authorities. Around 40,000 people annually suffer some kind of mushroom poisoning in Italy. This despite the fact that mushroom picking is a national pastime. You can apply for a license even if you are not Italian, but you will have to attend the course and this will be conducted in Italian, so you are expected to have some level of fluency. A fee is also payable for the licence.
Generally there are restrictions placed even on which days of the week mushrooms can be picked.
However, if you have your license, or can accompany someone who has a license, then the pickings you can expect are indeed tasty.
The cep or porcini mushroom is quite prolific here. Other mushrooms include the galetti, so called because they resemble pancakes, or the morel mushroom can be found in relatively large quantities here.
Woodland, forests as well as some of the areas close to mountains are all very fertile picking grounds. But remember that it is an offence to pick mushrooms without a licence and that if you are seen picking mushrooms, you may well be asked to show your licence. Failure to produce one simply results in a bureaucratic headache, so it isn’t worth it. Stick to the rules and go on an organised trip, or simply as a ‘helper’ to a license owner. Moreover, license owners will know where the best spots for collecting are, saving you potentially hours of looking round for the ideal locations.
Wild mushrooms Russia
Wild mushrooms in Russia are generally regarded as something which is fun to do and is a great way of topping the larder for free. It is very much a cultural thing, with whole families descending on areas to scavenge the best mushrooms, which can later be dried and then used all throughout the winter. It is thought that up to 70% of the population may gather mushrooms, so it is almost strange if you don’t.
The mushroom season tends to start in the late summer, from mid August and runs up to October.
However, in some areas, it is quite common for mushroom hunters to get lost. The woodlands and forest areas near, for example, St Petersburg, make it ideal conditions in which to find mushrooms. Sadly, the lack of landmarks, the fact that there is nothing to use as a point to orientate yourself, means that it is very difficult to find your way back if you become confused or lost. Visitors should especially pay close attention to their surroundings and perhaps the best way to go mushroom picking is to accompany a family who are out gathering. Yet despite the fact that this is a national pastime and the Russians really do seem to know their mushrooms, there are up to 500 cases of mushroom poisonings annually in Russia, so don’t assume that everything is safe. Carefully identify any mushrooms and if you are in any doubt, don’t eat them.
Some concern has been expressed by environmentalists, that the sheer numbers of people picking mushrooms has threatened their viability, since if the mushrooms are picked too young, then they will not have had a chance to spread their spores. This will reduce future available crop sizes. So this is something you should also be mindful of when collecting mushrooms.
One of the best ways to collect mushrooms may be to go on an organised tour, of which more and more are starting to spring up (just like the mushrooms). These tend to take you to the spots where mushrooms are known to flourish and they can also be a lot safer than just going it alone, or chancing to good fortune.
Mushrooms available here are girolles, (chanterelles) ceps (porcini mushrooms, also known in England as penny buns) as well as the more common field or meadow mushrooms. Some of the mushrooms found, particularly the porcini can be quite big.
However, setting aside all the safety issues and the questions about whether it is safe to pick the mushrooms, or you are on someone else’s land, it has to be said that mushroom picking in Russia is a great cultural activity and an excellent way to get to know people and see how real, rural Russians live. All too often holidays or trips abroad take us to cities and sights, but we don’t meet the people and leave knowing very little about how they think and their attitudes and philosophy. Mushroom picking is a great way to reverse this and actually interact with locals in a very special way.