I was amused to see that the Czech Ministry of Agriculture has just announced that in 2008 Czechs collected 2.7 billion crowns worth of wild berries and mushrooms from their forests. And 2008 was a bad year! I have blogged before of the Czech obsession with mushrooming and how I too have caught the fungus collecting bug, but the Ministry's figures certainly bring home the scale of the obsession - this is equivalent to 20,000 tonnes of mushrooms, 9,000 tonnes of blueberries and however many of blackberries, strawberries, and raspberries.
Back home in the UK, where mushroom collecting is a hobby indulged in by a small minority who are regarded as eccentrics with a dangerous hobby by the majority population, some conservationists have expressed fears that a small rise in British mushroom hunters will result in endangering British mushrooms. The Czech experience completely gives the lie to this. Here the forests are crawling with people with a whicker basket in one hand and a mushroom knife in the other and yet I have observed that Czech mushrooms not only spring eternal but also do so in far greater numbers than in the UK. My not very scientific evidence is supported by experiments carried out by scientists which have shown that mushroom numbers actually rise in areas which are harvested. I am therefore determined to continue to do my bit, both in the UK and in the Czech Republic, to help sustain the mushroom population (purely for conservation reasons you understand). Now where did I put my basket?