Find out why Poles absolutely love mushroom picking! Posted by Kasia on Sep 30, 2019 in cooking, Culture, friends, Nature
The summer came to an end and now it is time for a lot of Poles to start mushroom picking! September, October and even November are when millions of Poles head to the forests in search of all kids of different mushroom species!
Growing up in Poland, I remember mushroom picking with my parents. My mother was especially the one who loved it and had all the knowledge. Sundays in the forest were actually a lot of fun! I loved when we gathered together with our family and friends to do it. All of the cousins and young friends were together and all of the adults went their own way. Then we would meet after few hours and compare are mushroom baskets! And yes, kids knew what to do and were taught about the “safe wild mushrooms”!
A lot of my friends here, in USA, are asking me what is it that draws Poles to this potentially dangerous activity? Why can’t they just buy the popular white mushrooms at the grocery store?
Well, there are definitely few good reasons to it! I’m a wild mushroom lover and will try to explain it to you now:)
I will start with a statement, that so popular white mushroom (in Polish called pieczarka), is not so popular in Poland. Yes, people use it, but not as often as wild mushrooms. And yes, you can buy wild mushrooms at the farmers market, on the side of the road (freshly picked few minutes before you drive by it) and even at the small local grocery stores. Buying them from an old lady at the market does have its charm, but it’s finding them yourself that makes it so special and “the real deal”!
It is like a national hobby, practiced by old and young people! And the knowledge about the mushroom species is often passed from generation to generation.
Mushroom hunting was a group activity since a long, long time ago! Friends, or members of families went to forest for the many hours mushroom hunting. On their return dishes of the traditional Polish cuisine were made from gathered mushrooms. One could find the literary description of such collective mushroom huntings in “Pan Tadeusz” by Adam Mickiewicz. This poem is regarded in Poland as a national epic. Mushroom picking is called “Grzybobranie” .
Tradition of mushroom picking with people close to you was always awarded with not only baskets full of mushrooms ( which everyone was proud of), but also table filled of delicious dishes , made the same night! It was almost as a holiday! Fun time in the woods and at home! I remember that it also got all of us closer…Bonding time with my brother was precious…when he was having hard time finding mushrooms, I gladly guided him to the most secret places I found! And believe me, all Poles have those secret places! And they don’t share them with just anybody:)
Another reason why people in Poland are obsessed with searching for mushrooms in the woods is simply a need to be close to the nature. It’s all about nature, fresh air, and it’s all about walking and looking around. Nowadays, it’s not only people in the villages, but also people from the big cities that find time to explore this hobby and enjoy it!
Last, but not least, it’s the culinary benefits in the Polish cuisine! Of course very important!
A lot of meals are made immediately after mushrooms are picked…and the smell in the house is just amazing (for all the mushrooms lovers at least!). What is not used that night, or in the following couple of days, is dried or pickled. My mother used to dry mushrooms in the oven or they were strung on the thread and left to air dry over few days. She also made the most delicious pickled mushrooms. Both dried and pickled ones were amazing to use in the winter months!
The ways to use mushrooms in the Polish kitchen are endless! Amazing sauces for meats, soups, stews, side dishes, pierogi! You name it! Mushrooms are popular in many countries because of their excellent taste and aroma. They can grace every, even the simplest dish such as scrambled eggs! Mushrooms, in addition to the undeniable flavor, also have some (however not lots of) nutrients. They contain iron, potassium and magnesium. They are rich in niacin, vitamin B and proteins.
Check out this list of wild mushrooms with both Polish and English names! It also has parts of a mushroom named in both languages!
A lot of people asked me why people in Poland use wicker baskets for mushroom picking? The answer is: they will last the longest in the wicker basket. Plastic will make them spoil quicker. Plus they look so much better in a wicker basket!
Please share with us your tips and pictures from grzybobranie (mushroom picking) in comments below! Would love to see them!
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