…or a story about how I found a lawn of mushroom gold (porcini!) 20 mins drive from Oxford
My grandad used to say that mushroom foraging is in our blood. I remember waking up at dusk and going deep into the forest, to some known places, where we’re hoping to get the best and the most mushrooms. We would have special baskets, and a pen-knife, and we taught since childhood which ones are safe to eat and which ones aren’t. The big prize would always be to find a good looking porcini or a large plain filled with chanterelles.
Mushroom foraging isn’t big in England, not like it is in Eastern Europe and Russia. I guess it dates back to centuries of poverty and inequality… Even in my lifetime: in the early 90’s, when there was a huge shortage of food, my whole family would forage for days, and then prep, freeze, dry or pickle mushrooms to serve us all winter.
I’ve not foraged for years, but going back to Estonia in the end of August meant that there will be some mushrooms in the woods, and I was delighted when I found some. I thought: now is the season, if I don’t look for them in England, I’ll be kicking myself, I’ll be kicking myself all year.
My husband took well to the idea and the day after I landed on this island, we headed to the closest big forest we could find: Bernwood Forest.
We took our pen-knives, and a tuppaware box, just in case we come across some mushrooms that I’d recognise, and a packed lunch – ready to get those steps in! But after walking for only around 15 minutes, we found and entire lawn of porcini. I’ve never seen so many in one place before!
I even checked with my family, and mum explained that because the English forest is so much more bio-diverse comparing to Estonian pine woods, you can indeed often find treasures like that.
Mushroom greed nearly took over, but we simply couldn’t take more than a box! But there were so so so many more, we’ve barely made a dent – and to think – the season will be over soon! Besides, we didn’t walk many steps (walking slowly) and covered maybe only about 5% of the forest. I see now why the Vikings invaded!
So with this amazing crop, I’ve made two dishes:
Porcini Mushroom & Parmesan soup
Porcini Mushroom & Chicken tagliatelli
You can also dry them, good instructions are here, but I didn’t need to, as my mum has already dried loads and I have a huge bag. I love adding them to my pates, sauces and meatballs.
Please be very careful when foraging mushrooms and DO YOUR RESEARCH.
There is a Shroomify App (Play Store & App Store) that helps you to identify the ones you come across, but follow my main rule:
Only take it if you’re SURE.
Lots of love,
Great article thank you Polina. I was foraging for the first time this week and on returning home I decided to check the identity of many of the mushrooms I found…only to be very surprised that many of them are deadly / poisonous! Be careful all newbies!