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‘Grzybobranie’ – mushroom hunting in Poland

2013/11/01

It’s early November, and honey mushrooms are still to be found in the forests – the last mushrooms of the season – and Poles just love mushrooms.

'opieńki' - honey mushrooms

‘opieńki’ – honey mushrooms

Country dwellers have their own favourite spots, to which, during the season, they go at the crack of dawn, to return with a bucket full of the earthy smells of the forest floor, and edible mushrooms. Mushroom collectors set out as early as they can, often accompanied by the whole family. They return inlate afternoon, foot-sore and weary, covered in cobwebs leaves and sticks. Custom dictates that they should clean and prepare the mushrooms as soon as they get home, as mushrooms are difficult to preserve and go off easily. So until nightfall, everyone is cleaning, frying, boiling and cooking. Meanwhile, tales are told of ‘serious’ mushroom hunting expeditions, and more casual inebriated ones, although both are bonding exercises in which alcohol may be consumed.

It’s easy for us Poles to understand why mushrooms are so important. We are happy to wear ourselves out in search of edible fungi on our free weekends because mushrooms are such a vital ingredient in Polish cuisine. Those of us who love our own traditional food could never imagine a Christmas Eve dinner without dried mushrooms, which are an essential ingredient of Christmas soups, and fillings for ‘uszka‘, (little ears, small pierogis used in soups), pierogis and croquettes, all of which are essential for a traditional Polish Christmas spread. That’s why preserving mushrooms forwinter is essential. Not only can mushrooms be dried, they can also be frozen after being boiled – it is important to boil them first as they contract when heated – then they will take up far less space on the table or in a container. But by far the best method of storing/preserving mushrooms is to soak them in vinegar. Not only do such pickled mushrooms taste delicious, but they also make a great accompaniment to any meal, or an addition to tartare or vegetable salads.

Translated by Warren Whitmore.

On Monday we will publish an artlicle on how to pickle mushrooms.

Editing the Polish version of the page.

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