Saturday, September 16, 2006
Click on the photo to enlarge.
Estonia seems to trigger the hunter-gatherer in me. In July I took pleasure in looking for wild strawberries and cloudberries. This time around I was fighting prickly fallen branches and annoying deer-flies, while trying to tell an edible mushroom from a non-edible or even poisonous one. This was harder than I thought. Although forageing for wild mushrooms was something I did often as a child, I've led a rather urban life for the last decade or so. So no wonder I greedily managed to gather a whole lot of non-edible brown roll-rim mushrooms (Paxillus involutus) in my basket, before I was told to discard them then and there. Ouch. Embarrassing. But then these fungi were probably too plentiful and suspiciously pretty and, well, simply too good to be true.
The summer in Estonia was very hot and very dry, seriously affecting the wild mushroom harvest this year. Althought the last few weeks have seen some rain, we weren't too optimistic when we drove to K.'s secret forest last Sunday. However, after just a few hours in the forest, I had nevertheless amassed a rather respectable pile of mushrooms. As you can see on the top picture, I collected some grogers (Lactarius deterrimus), woolly milk caps (Lactarius torminosus), ugly milk-caps (Lactarius turpis), tiny puffballs (Lycoperdon perlatum), orange-capped boletes (Leccinum aurantiacum), gypsy mushrooms (Rozites caperata), russula mushrooms, and many more. I, for certain, was pleased with my beautiful and colourful bounty.
Here's a picture of me picking up another rufuous milkcap (Lactarius rufus) - a delicious mushroom that is poisonous when eaten raw, edible when par-boiled couple of times and turned into a sauce, and very delicious when pickled. If you click on the picture to enlarge, you can try to see how many other mushrooms can you spot.
The gypsy mushrooms were simply fried in butter, seasoned with basil and eaten for lunch with mashed potatoes straight after getting home - such a fragrant mushroom, with a beautiful flavour and slightly meaty texture. The various boletes and puffballs were pan-fried, mixed with some cream cheese and garlic and used as a topping for a earthy and rustic mushroom quiche on the following day (I used the same rye flour crust that I use for salmon and cream cheese canapés). And the milkcaps and russulas were par-boiled and pickled, to be consumed as condiment and garnish during winter (like in this salad cocktail).
I'll be back in that very forest for some more mushrooms and cranberries next month. Cannot wait!
Disclaimer: All photos here were taken by my personal photographer, K. His pictures will be featuring regularly on my blog from now onwards, and copyright is all mine;)