02 Oct How (not) to pick mushrooms
I would like to share with you a few mushroom picking tips. They come from an interesting and helpful article published in the magazine of Mlada Fronta DNES (Czech daily newspaper) on 21st of June 2017. It sums up some basic rules of mushroom picking. You can download the original article in pdf by clicking here.
I have translated the key points from the article for the benefit of those of you who don’t read Czech.
1. Put mushrooms in a basket, in a basket and only in a basket
Putting mushrooms into a plastic bag is not a good idea. You will bring home a mushroom mash, and edible mushrooms can turn into food poisoning agents causing unpleasant stomach and intestinal problems.
2. Morning, afternoon or evening
It’s not necessary to wake up at 4 am to go mushroom picking. However, if the forest gets very dry during the day, there will be no mushrooms.
Extra tip: When searching for mushrooms walk with your back to the sun. You’ll see them better.
3. If you don’t know it, leave it
The basic rule of surviving mushroom pickers is “I pick only what I know”.
If you want to educate yourself, take a picture of the mushrooms in its natural environment and as a sample take two whole mushrooms (the cap and stem) – one younger and one mature. Then take them to a more experienced colleague or to the mushroom advice center. Good practice is to take two baskets – one for the mushrooms you know and one for samples for further identification.
You’ll find a few tips for where to get advice at the end of this article.
4. Pluck, twist or cut?
There are many arguments about the best of way of getting the mushrooms from the ground to the basket.
A slight twist has the most supporters but what is extremely important is to make maximum effort to minimize the damage to the underground part of the mushroom. This can happen not only by rough plucking but also by intensely searching and stomping around.
5. Full basket, empty plate?
People often want to boast a rich find and pick mushrooms that are already too old or rotten. Don’t hesitate to cut open the mushroom before you take it home to check whether it’s not infested with worms, mouldy or soggy.
6. Mushrooms for dinner? And with beer?
Chopped mushrooms have to be processed fast. Keep them in the fridge and eat them the next day at the latest. Are mushrooms good for dinner? Well, they’re not heavy per se, but we usually prepare them on fat, with eggs etc. so not really a light dinner. But if you have dinner at 6 pm and go to bed at midnight, it’s fine.
To have beer or a glass of wine with mushrooms shouldn’t cause any problems. Unless your dish contained Coprinopsis atramentaria (inky cap) which in combination with alcohol causes strong vomiting.
7. Better safe than sorry
Daniela Pelcova from the Toxicological Information Center recommends to take photos of mushrooms you are going to eat. Just to stay on the safe side. And, if you’re not an experienced mushroom picker, leave from each mushroom dish at least a spoonful as a sample. It will help to find the causative agent in the case of indigestion. If you feel unwell after eating a mushroom, go to your doctor! Better a false alarm than underestimating a case of poisoning!
Edible or not? Where to get advice
If you’re not sure about your finds, contact the Czech Mycological Society. They run a mushroom advice centre at their Prague headquarters at Karmelitska 14. More info here: https://www.myko.cz/english/
You can also post photos of your finds in the facebook group Mykologická poradna. The group’s administrators will help you. However, bear in mind that identifying mushrooms from photos is less reliable!
In case of indigestion contact the Toxicological Information Center – the line for mushroom poisoning is +420 224 919 293 or +420 224 915 402
Extra tip from me: There is a cool Czech app for Android. It has a function for optical recognition of mushrooms using a neural network. Get it on on Google Play
Happy mushroom hunting!
P.S. Watch a video from a mushroom hunt