When I moved to Sweden a year ago, one of my best friends invited me to go mushroom picking. It was an incredible experience that I have decided to do every autumn from now on. It is not only a great opportunity to save some money on your grocery budget, but also a good chance to spend time outdoors with friends and a sustainable and organic way to eat.
The first and most important aspect to consider is the location. It is common that people do not want to share their “secret spot” where they pick large amounts of mushrooms every year. But Sweden is a large country where any place outside of the cities is a good place to find your mushrooms. In Sweden, there is something called “Allemansrätten” which translates to All-mans-right that basically allows you to wander around in the wilderness and not having many limitations to look for your mushrooms. Several factors are important to consider before going mushroom picking but the most important is that you do some research on the eatable species, since you do not want to end up poisoned. Bring a friend who has knowledge of which ones you can eat if you are going for the first time.
I am sure there are dozens of eatable mushroom types in the Swedish forest but the only two that I collect are the "kantarell" (chanterelle) and the "trattkantarell" (funnel chanterelle) since they are the most common and easy to recognize. Other mushrooms can be tricky to spot and dangerous for your health.
It is also important to dress appropriately and bring a raincoat and waterproof shoes since it can get wet, and lastly make sure to bring snacks and coffee since you will want to have a nice fika in the forest.
Mushrooms like to grow in moisty and rough terrain, normally around trees and rocks and close to each other. When you pick a mushroom, you need to grab it as close to the ground as possible to get it in one piece. You can clean the excess dirt with a brush (there are special mushroom picking knives) and store them in a paper bag. When you get home, remove the dirt that is left and avoid rinsing them in water since you do not want them to absorb it. After that, they are ready to be eaten.
There are many delicious dishes you can prepare with them, I like putting them on top of a pizza or making mushroom risotto. Cooking with your friends is a nice thing to do after mushroom picking, especially since the days are getting colder and darker and people spend more time inside. It is common as well not to use all mushrooms when cooking which leaves room for drying them.
Drying and pickling are two common food preserving methods that are rooted in the Scandinavian culture. If you want to dry your mushroom the easiest way - leave them in a well ventilated and dry room away from the sun. You probably want to spread them out and cover them with newspaper to absorb the humidity. After 4-6 days they will shrink considerably and darken their colour. Then you can store them in an airtight jar, and they will be ready for the next friends’ dinner.