Wednesday, 15 August 2007

The thrill of mushrooms

My husband was still asleep when I awoke early yesterday. The sun was already beginning to pour round the curtain into our room and it was obvious that it was going to be hot. The last few days we have had rain as the tail-end of the weather system that brought floods to England crossed over Central Europe. The parched earth here was desperate for rain and drank it in. The Czechs were getting worried. No snow melt this year, due to virtually no snow, and now no spring or summer rain - there would be no mushrooms and the Czechs are lost without mushrooms. Czech coins feature a heraldic lion with two tails – it would be more appropriate if it was a fungus rampant.

I too have caught the mushroom bug – so leaving husband and son sleeping I snuck out of the house and climbed the path to the woods above the village. Even before I got there I was picking small puffballs in the grass and then on entering the woods I discovered that the rain had indeed worked its magic. My basket was soon half full.

There is a certain joy in mushrooming that I find hard to explain – firstly there is always a pleasure in getting something for free and of course wild mushrooms are delicious – but it is more than that. I have always loved finding wild food – my mum used to take me collecting blackberries as a child, although in those days more went in my mouth than the bowl. But mushrooming is special. One of the joys is that mushrooms can almost appear overnight and so unlike blackberries you do not observe them ripening – a place that was barren a couple of days ago can be full of mushrooms now. This gives a wonderful element of surprise to the whole business. Of course one learns the best spots to look, but they cannot always be relied upon. So there is an element of the hunt in mushrooming that there isn't in other wild food gathering.

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