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One of my fondest childhood memories involves going mushroom picking in the Bavarian Forest. My Oma (grandma) used to lead the way, teaching my brother, sister and I which mushrooms were safe to eat, and which ones to avoid like the plague. Once we’d collected as many mushrooms as we could, we would take them back to her house and she’d make delicious mushroom soup with Knödel (German dumplings) out of them.
I was reminded of this recently when reading a German article about how some Flüchtlinge (refugees) in Germany are falling ill by eating the wrong kinds of mushrooms; they mistake them for safe ones that they know from back home.
I am no expert on mushrooms, but I remember my Oma telling me all those years ago to only pick the ones that looked like this:
She said they have to turn blue underneath, like a bruise, when you press your finger into them. These are the only ones we ever took with us.
However, I would be too nervous to do that now, without the expert help of my Oma or my Tante (aunty)! There are approx. 1,900 different types of mushrooms in the Bavarian Forest alone! Amongst the poisonous ones are Der Knollenblätterpilz, known as Amantia Phalloides or ‘Death Cap’ in English.
Others include der Spitzgebuckelter Raukopf, der Gifthäubling, der Rotling, and der Fliegenpilz. Some, like der Risspilz, are separated into hundreds of different types, of which some are edible and some aren’t.
*Linguistic fact! The German word Gift is what is known as a false friend to English; in English, the word gift is another word for a present (so something nice, in other words). But if someone gives you a ‘gift’ in German, they’re not giving you something nice at all – the word Gift in German means poison!*
With all the different types out there, mushroom picking with the intent of eating them can be a risky business if you’re not some sort of mushroom expert, but that’s no reason not to explore the Bavarian Forest and see how many different types of mushrooms you can find! Mushroom hunting and picking is a great part of rural German culture (also popular in neighbouring countries, including Poland), and is a wonderful way to get away from technology and other distractions, and reconnect with nature.
*Important tip! If you do go exploring in the forest, be sure to cover your skin by wearing a hat, long-sleeved top, trousers, socks and closed shoes. Why? Because the Bavarian Forest is home to some blood-thirsty Zecken – ticks!*
Here are a few photos of mushrooms I found in the Bavarian Forest several years ago.
If you want to try some mushrooms, but you’re too nervous to pick and cook them yourself, there is a solution! If you’re staying in or near the Bavarian Forest, visit a local restaurant; they will most certainly have one or two dishes on their menu that use freshly picked, local mushrooms in their recipes.
Does searching for mushrooms in the Bavarian Forest appeal to you? Did you do it as a child? If not, would you do it now?
If you’d like to read more about the Nationalpark Bayerischer Wald (Bavarian Forest national park) and what there is to see and do there, click here for the official website (in both English and German).
Vocabulary: Mushrooms & Nature
Mushroom (Standard German) – der Pilz
Mushroom (Bavarian) – der Schwammerl (or ‘Schwammal’)
Bavarian Forest – der Bayerischer Wald
Mushroom soup (Standard German)– die Pilzsuppe
Mushroom soup (Bavarian) – die Schwammerlsuppe (or ‘die Schwammalsuppe’)
Tick – die Zecke
to collect – sammeln
Vocabulary: Symptoms of Mushroom Poisoning
Headache – die Kopfschmerzen
Joint pain – die Gelenkschmerzen
Thirst – der Durst
Diarrhoea – der Durchfall
Sweating – der Schweißusbruch
Confusion – die Vewirrung
Stomach ache – die Bauchschmerzen
Anxiety – das Angstgefühl
Extreme euphoria – die extreme Euphorie
Speech disturbance – die Sprachstörung