Brace yourselves! It’s Mushroom Hunting Season in Russia!
Mushroom Hunting Season in Russia
If you have ever happened to enjoy the traditional Russian cuisine, you would have noticed that mushrooms are a crucial ingredient for many Russian dishes. This probably doesn’t come as a surprise, given the fact, that most of the Russian landscape is covered in woods, which are covered with mushrooms. But what may seem surprising, is that for most Russians the gustatory experience doesn’t matter that much, but it is the quest that is the main delight. I myself wasn’t aware of the fact that Russians are really obsessed with picking mushrooms, but ever since I found out every Russian I have talked to, told me about how much they loved picking mushrooms. So, if you ever find yourself wanting to start an interesting conversation with a Russian, asking them about picking mushrooms is a good way to go. You might not believe it, but there are whole communities on social networks where people brag about their finds and post numerous photos. For example, if you look for the hashtag грибы (mushrooms), you will find tons of posts from Russians proudly presenting their harvest, usually arranged in a very big basket.
Тихая охота – Что это такое?
Picking mushrooms seems to be one of the Russians favourite activities to do in summer. You might find passionate mushrooms hunters from late spring on, when the first mushrooms can be found, but the height of ‘mushrooms hunting season’ runs from September to the middle of October.
Russians call this activity “тихая охота”, which basically means “the silent hunt”. Hunting mushrooms seems to be a real ritual to most Russians, and to some it is even like a sport. To some, gathering mushroom is almost like a meditation it is a way to a calm down, for example to get away from the big cities, and immerse oneself in nature. It gives a purpose for a walk in the forest and you can easily spend several hours walking and enjoying nature. Oftentimes gathering mushrooms is a common family activity and most Russians grow up picking mushrooms and therefore learn to distinguish different kinds of mushrooms early on.
How to prepare mushrooms the Russian way
After picking a quantity of mushrooms there are several ways of preparing or preserving them. Russians enjoy the opportunity to cook different kinds of mushrooms in a wide variety of ways. They can be dried, roasted, boiled or pickled.
If you are now craving for a Russian dish with mushroom, here is a popular, very simple way to prepare Porcini (white mushrooms, as the Russians call them).
For this recipe, all you need is 500 grams of “white mushrooms”, an onion, a tablespoon of butter for cooking and 2 to 3 tablespoons of smetana (sour cream).
Start off with heating some butter in a pan and add the mushrooms after you have washed and sliced them. Fry the mushrooms on medium heat and keep them covered. Chop the onions, add them and fry them until they caramelize. After that, you can add the sour cream, turn down the heat, and allow them to rest for a few minutes. To achieve the consistency of a gravy, add some water or a tablespoon of flour in order to thicken the sauce. Add some salt, and, in order to make it taste really Russian, garnish it with some dill.
The way in which mushrooms are to be prepared depends on the type of mushroom, and the prey depends on the season. In the following you will find a list of basic vocabulary for mushroom hunting and a few of the most common types growing in Russia.
Лес – Forest
Собирать грибы – to pick mushrooms
Корзинка – Basket
Тихая охота – Silent hunt
Грибной сезон – Mushroom season
Грибник – someone who loves picking mushrooms and knows a lot about them
Белые грибы – Porcini
Poricini are called “white” mushroom in Russian and they are the most sought after. But you should be careful when picking them, because they can be easily confused with the poisonous “false” porcini.
Подберезовики – Birch bolete
Birch boletes can be identified by the grey-white colour of their stalks. They are a common ingredient for any kind of dish.
Маслята – Slippery Jack
The slippery Jack is one of the tastiest and most common mushrooms in the European west of Russia and throughout the northern hemisphere. Various dishes can be prepared from them: they can be stewed, boiled, fried, marinated, salted or dried.
Лисички – Chanterelle
The chanterelle is a very popular bright yellow mushroom which grows throughout Russia from early summer on through late autumn. Chanterelles are especially valued because they are never wormy.
Рыжики – Saffron milk cap
The saffron milk cap is considered as one of the best mushrooms in the Russula family due to its taste and appetizing appearance. Unfortunately, one needs to be quick to pick them and preserve them because they quickly go bad. Its name derives from its bright colour and that of the milky juice inherent to them.
Опята – Honey mushroom
Honey mushrooms have round hats and appear in groups in green meadows. They have a delicate taste and are suitable for a variety of dishes. A small amount of them will spice up a tomato soup or pasta sauce for instance and make it taste rich and original.
Сыроежки – Russula
Russula is the most common edible mushroom and it is really easy to spot. They have bright caps that can be of different colour (red, yellow or gray) and white stalks. Although the Russian name translates as “eat-them-raw”, but I suggest you don’t do that.