Sunday, April 7, 2013

Shroom!

Baravaika Mushroom (Image from poga.lv)

Acouple of weeks ago, I started to research side activities for our trip. I didn't really know what to expect but one thing I did not expect would be a popular activity, especially in Latvia, is mushroom picking!   I guess I shouldn't be surprised given that so much of Latvia is forested.  I LOVE mushrooms and have always wanted to go mushroom picking so we can't turn down this opportunity.  I know my brother will enjoy this as well.


Latvian Mushrooms (Image from Spoki.tvnet.lv)
According to baltic-course.com, the number of fungi species in Latvia extends to 4,100, which gives the total production of 60,000 tons. 1,100 of the species are so-called cap mushrooms, out of which 300 are edible and 30 – poisonous. Mushroom-pickers usually recognize and pick around 20 to 30 of mushroom species.  I don't think I get to eat more than 5 or so different species at home.....so sad how limited my mushroom menu is.

The modest mushroom accounts for 0.2% – 0.3% of Latvia’s GDP, contributing 35.9 million lats to the country's coffers 2011. At today's exchange rate, that comes to $66.5 million!!

The mushroom picking season, in Latvia, is very short - from the end of August till the middle of October and there is only a season if there has been sufficient rainfall.  Mushrooms thrive in damp, forest conditions.  My trip to Latvia is just over 4 months away and I'm already keeping my fingers crossed that Mother Nature will do her magic though with global climate change these days, getting the *right* weather is more of a crap shoot than ever before.

During mushroom picking season, the Latvian forests are full of people hunting and gathering fungi with a knife and basket.

Image from dayout.lv
I read that when picking mushrooms, you should cut them off by leaving the bottom section of the stem in the ground: this will ensure the growth of more mushrooms. While doing so, you should look whether the mushroom has any worms in it; if that is the case, just leave it in the forest. Yeah...I'm not eaten any worm infested mushroom or any old, overgrown or decaying mushrooms.

Of course, we have to dress properly for our venture into the woods. The time we'll be there, it can be cool and rainy so a rain jacket is definitely in order and rubber boots are also a requisite to keep our feet dry - we'll either have to bring pairs along or else buy them over there.  One site also recommending protection from ticks which means DEET insect repellant but we'll all have to do check afterwards to make sure we don't have any ticks on us.

In Latvia the skills of identifying and preparing mushrooms are handed down from generation to generation and it's recommended that tourists go with guides because the last thing you want to do is pick a poisonous one!!  I'm working with our tour agent for a trip out of Riga.  We'll be staying in an apartment in Riga so if we are lucky, we can even bring mushrooms back to cook.  Whether or not we get to pick any, I am definitely going to get my fill of mushrooms before I return home!

Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RU
Image from bnn-news.com