Mushroom Hunting in Russia

I didn't realize that I would be visiting during prime mushroom hunting season. 

The Chatter on the train, I overheard talk about which mushrooms are fruiting now, on the side of the highway I saw cars pulled over, people walking down the road with full bags, some selling them right on the big road. I followed my Aunt and Uncle to our usual spot, to the tree line across the field out back. I know this place well. I grew up here.

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 The Russian Forest

The Russian Forest

The forest smelled so fresh and you could hear birds calling across the canopy. Its a mixed forest with patches of pines and birch bogs. 

 

I could not wait to get into the forest again.

 

 
 
 The White Birch, which Armillaria loves to infect.

The White Birch, which Armillaria loves to infect.

The Honey Mushroom (Armillaria) was at peak fruiting.

 

Once you find a log or tree that has been permeated by the mycelium, it fruits like crazy at any open nodes like breaks in the bark and branch knobs. This mushroom is delicious with a nutty, earthy flavor and a perfect medium texture. Not too chewy, not too soft. The mushroom is slightly toxic and cannot be eaten raw, thats why this species needs to be boiled for thirty minutes before cooking. It is great in soups, sautéed, or stuffed into pierogies.

 Honey Mushrooms on a decaying birch.

Honey Mushrooms on a decaying birch.

On the first hunt with my uncle, we came bags with full plastic bags each. For the next 5 days, I ate the mushrooms in every imaginable form. They were so good that I went into the forest a few days later with my grandpa and found a boggy area with so many mushrooms, I could not pick them all.  

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Morning Streets Back in Russia 2017 A roll (13 of 104).jpg
Out mushroom hunting—
dangerously close to caught in
late autumn showers
— Matsua Basho (1644-1694), from Haiku
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Morning Streets Back in Russia 2017 A roll (14 of 104).jpg

 

I love being in the forest. These woods were the front line when the partisans fought in the war. You can still find tracks and bomb craters among the pines and birches.

 
 These woods have seen a lot.

These woods have seen a lot.

Once when I was a kid and we went into the forest for mushrooms, I fell asleep beneath a big tree and my grandma found me after looking for me for an hour. I don't know how I was not eaten alive by mosquitoes. These woods are home to wild boar, squirrels, all kinds of birds, lots of mosquitos and ticks. Thats why I'm always prepared with some netting and special forest clothing, and armed with a camera, a knife and a bag. Going out to the forest to get pounds of fresh mushrooms is just my favorite thing besides hanging out and snacking all day. I hope I return soon. 

 Following grandpa into the treeline.

Following grandpa into the treeline.