Whenever I spoke about mushroom picking with Europeans – the British, the Dutch – folks looked at me aghast, saying something between the lines like “No, thanks, I don’t want to die.”
At the same time, the Russians seem to totally neglect the risk of picking up an inedible shroom. As soon as the season starts at the end of August for some mushrooms and September-October for others, they get ready for what is called in Russian “quiet hunting” (тихая охота).
Why do they do that? For finding food as in the ancient era of gathering?
Totally wrong. Picking up mushrooms is a kind of sport, leisure time and the feeling of merging with nature. Many people see it as a form of escapism, when you are free of any frames, and cherish tranquility, enjoy the smell of forest and the chirruping of birds. Some people do not even eat mushrooms they find, and go quiet-hunting just for the fun of it.
Nevertheless, with mushrooms, you can make a hella tasty meal: soups, garnishes, pickles, sautéed starters. We will share some recipes later.
Of course, artificially grown mushrooms are not on par with those found in the wild: they lack the characteristic aroma and distinct flavor!
As for the danger, Russians are taught from early childhood by their parents and great-parents how to tell an edible mushroom from an inedible.
Encyclopedias on this subject are also widely available. The rule of thumbs goes like this: “If you have the slightest doubt about the shroom, leave it alone.”