Poland really is a fantastic place to go searching for wild mushrooms. Like many places on the mainland of Europe, Poles regard wild mushrooms as being ‘Nature’s larder’ and something which is to be used and enjoyed and they are perhaps less scared of mushrooms, than people in the united Kingdom.
However, when mushroom gathering in Poland, just like anywhere else, it is important to eat only mushrooms that you have clearly identified. If you are in any doubt: don’t eat it.
It is quite a favoured pastime in Poland and knowledge about which mushrooms are safe to eat has been passed on from one generation to the next. This means that Poles tend to have a very good understanding of what can be picked and what should be left alone, but they are also very good at knowing exactly where to find mushrooms.
So one of the best ways to source wild mushrooms in Poland is to either go on an organised trip or foray or to befriend a Pole and ask if you can tag along with them to go mushroom picking. The organised tours and forays are now becoming much more popular due to an influx of people from all over Europe who descend on Poland just to go mushroom picking each autumn, when the mushrooms are at their most plentiful.
There are a great many edible types of mushroom to be found throughout the forests and countryside of Poland, but there are also some different types of mushroom, which are very tasty and vary in texture from the standard meadow mushroom.
One of these is the borowik mushroom which is often referred to as either the king of mushrooms or a noble mushroom. Its regal associations are actually two fold. It is considered to be the king because those who enjoy the taste say that it is the best mushroom to grow above the ground (presumably the truffle is the only other rival to this claim and that has to be dug up). It is also noble, because it belongs to a ‘family’ of mushrooms which have very few toxic members, therefore it is safe to eat. Yet it is also a familiar name in many other parts of Europe being known as the penny bun in English, the porcini in Italian and the cep in French !
It has a reddish brown cap or helmet and this looks like a baker’s bun which is the colour of a penny. It has a thick stalk which gets thicker towards the ground and it is relatively rare in England, but is plentiful in Poland.
Other more exotic mushrooms are prevalent here, but it is more a matter of being able to discern which are edible and which aren’t. Girolles are commonly referred to, but they will be more familiar under the English name of chanterelles.
So if you want to learn more about Poland, the Polish way of life and most of all more about wild mushrooms and what to do with them, once you have gathered them, then try taking a trip, with mushroom forays organised and see just how bountiful the forests of Poland can be.