Mushroom picking season begins in Poland.

Mushroom picking is a popular seasonal activity in Poland, especially come September, when the forests are abundant with various types of edible mushrooms. This tradition is deeply rooted in Polish culture and is often a family affair. Parents, grandparents, and children head to the forests equipped with baskets, ready to forage. It’s not just a way to enjoy nature; it’s also a means to gather ingredients for traditional Polish dishes.

Safety is a priority when it comes to mushroom picking. People are generally cautious and pick only the types they are familiar with. The most commonly picked mushrooms include the Bay Bolete, Parasol Mushroom, and the Birch Bolete. These are easily recognizable and are often found in deciduous and mixed forests. It’s crucial to avoid picking any mushroom unless you’re absolutely sure it’s edible, as some can be poisonous.

Once the mushrooms are picked, they are usually cleaned and sorted. Many families dry them to use later, as dried mushrooms have a strong flavor and can be stored for a long time. Others prefer to use them fresh in cooking. Either way, these foraged mushrooms are a staple in many traditional Polish recipes.

One of the most famous dishes that use mushrooms is „bigos”, also known as Hunter’s Stew. This hearty dish is made with sauerkraut, fresh cabbage, various types of meat, and, of course, mushrooms. The mushrooms add an earthy flavor that complements the tanginess of the sauerkraut. It’s a dish that’s especially popular in the colder months and is often served during Christmas and Easter.

Mushroom soup is another popular dish where these foraged treasures are the star ingredient. The soup usually starts with a base of chicken or vegetable broth, to which chopped mushrooms, onions, and sometimes cream are added. The result is a comforting, flavorful soup that’s perfect for the chilly weather. Some variations also include noodles or potatoes, making it a more filling meal.

Mushrooms are also used in pierogi fillings, another Polish staple. These dumplings can be filled with a mixture of mushrooms and sauerkraut, providing a delicious and satisfying meal. The mushroom and sauerkraut pierogi are often served during the holiday season but are enjoyed year-round as well.

In summary, mushroom picking is a cherished tradition in Poland, particularly in September when the forests are teeming with edible varieties. This activity is not just a way to enjoy the great outdoors; it’s also a means to gather essential ingredients for traditional Polish dishes. From the hearty Bigos to the comforting mushroom soup and the delicious pierogi, mushrooms add a unique and earthy flavor that is integral to Polish cuisine. So, the next time you find yourself in Poland during mushroom season, don’t miss the opportunity to engage in this age-old tradition. Just remember to be cautious and pick only the mushrooms you can positively identify as edible.