Wednesday, 2 July 2008

In praise of ...wild mushrooms

I've already mentioned the Czech obsession with mushroom hunting, or foraging. But after my eulogy on wild strawberries below, I think really the Czech obsession is with anything that their forests offer. They just love them: after all they are a nation of fairy-tale tellers and no wonder. The forests here really are magically lovely, and the freedom to walk anywhere combined with the relatively well-kept state of the forest floor means you can immerse yourself there for a whole day and not meet a soul.

The beauty of mushroom hunting is that it forces you to walk extremely slowly, noticing every detail as your eyes scan for the tell-tale little mushroom head half-hidden in the moss or grass. This kind of focus gets one into an almost meditative state, because you don't actively look, just meander, and all the senses seem sharpened - in the stillness, the sounds of insects and birds, a dropped pine-cone, a nearby brook; the different scents of mosses, grass and pine-needles, the cathedral-like play of light and shade.
It's been extremely dry in the last few weeks, and very hot, so much of the forest floor is parched - but there are always areas where dew collects, or where springs start, and that's where one can find one's mushroom treasures even now.
Problem comes -as with the strawberries, raspberries and all those other treasures of the forest- when getting home, down to earth: what to do with all this bounty now??
And then come the hours of cleaning and cooking, but because one tends to always pick more than one would need for one day, also jam-making, bottling, pickling.... madness, these obsessions. That's why I often end up doing my real work at 2 in the morning.
But wouldn't miss it for the world :-) (a large anthill I met on the way...)

1 comment:

Thud said...

The little for free...goes out with me on my trips around's fun trying to be healthy!