Foraging and Meandering For Chanterelles In the Swedish Countryside

by Courtney on October 4, 2010

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There is something spectacular about the rural countryside of Sweden. Autumn foliage is in a riot of color that makes the long drive on a narrow winding road all the more interesting. Certain Someone and I took it all in as we made our way to the house. At night you can stand outside and see the dazzling stars and galaxies light up the night sky. If you listen, it’s deadly silent, peaceful, still, and calm. Something this city girl is not at all used too. Nature in rural Sweden remains in its untouched state. Virginal, something that’s I had never really seen before. There is country and there is country. This was pretty rural. Certain Someone , another couple and I had decided to go mushroom hunting on my last day in Sweden. With all the talk of Chanterelles I was obsessed. Everyone said we should have some good ones around the house. But there was a fear of picking the wrong ones. If you were to walk around the forests near the house you would see endless varieties. I was spell bound in capturing them in photos. Fungi can be so beautiful, with the deadliest Toadstools leading the pack in nature’s beauty pageant.

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The group and I set out by car to drive more into towns direction. Parked cars by the side of the road indicated there were other foraging for  mushrooms in the forests. Some  dirt road paths lead to dead roundabout ends. So we continued. We finally found  a spot. A typical Swedish family with tow headed blond children, all in their Wellies , were seated and picking through the days harvest. Beautiful large baskets full of Chanterelles  were being  dusted  of by the ladies and sliced in half to check for snails, etc. They also had baskets of ruby red ligonberries. Like the Swedish Martha Stewart she was, she pointed off to the forests and the path and said we should find a lot. She made it seem so effortless. These were pros in mushroom picking game. It was like a scene from  the defunct Gourmet to see this family and their bounty from foraging in the Swedish countryside.Mushroom hunting is a favorite Swedish pastime and thankfully the  Swedish goverment has a Right to Public Access, so natures bounty is open to all.

We, armed with one paper Lidl shopping bag, and our men carrying big sticks, set forth. We saw lots of mushrooms along the way. Mostly inedible. It’s easy to see why some people could mistake some other varieties for the Chanterelle. Thankfully our friends had given us a field guide of mushrooms that had photos and warned which are the safest, the somewhat safe, and just plain deadly. Did you know some toxins don’t begin to take effect until several days later and then complete organ failure? It’s Russian Roulette in those woods!  The men played with their big sticks on the path like they were fencing, while the blush of red caught Britt- Helen’s and mine eyes. We may not have found the elusive Chanterelle, but there were ligonberries! Glorious ligonberries . Some so ripe they burst when you touched them. Since we only had one bag, I tried to pull branches of berries to keep them intact until I could sort at home. I figured I could throw the branches on the grounds and maybe Ligonberries would bloom around our rocks next year. I envied how prepared the Swedish family we saw earlier was with their baskets , Wellies and all. My feet were soaked through traipsing in the damp forests, with hidden streams. Finally at the point of about to give up ,walking back towards the car, we found a spot. Voila! Jackpot. In the dark damp woods the Funnel Chanterelles bloomed up from the ground. An untrained eye could mistake the tops for dead fallen autumn leaves. But their golden stems revealed they where what we came for! Chanterelles in abundance. Swedish Martha Stewart was right. We filled up out bags and went back to the house. On the way we stopped by the neighbor farmer to get some of his fresh eggs and Swedish honey. He told us  has four cocks and 500 hens and sells around 400-500 eggs a week. A chicken harem.

I wish I had photos of the dinner I made. Scan, a Swedish meat company had invited Anne, who invited me , to a Julboard event earlier  that week,and gave us a bag of meats which I brought to the house. Julboard is the big Christmas Swedish meal of hams traditionally. I will blog all about that later. I served  Roast Beef  and gravy from Scan, with Tagliatelle, cream, leeks, Funnel Chanterelles  and some Black trumpets , the others had brought from their in laws house, on our menu. In addition I made a pork roast with a ligonberry  rum glaze made from the scant half cup of berries I foraged. Not feeling 100 percent confident in a foreign simple kitchen, my guests and Certain Someone said it was fine. In the back of my mind I was praying we didn’t pick anything wrong, because these stories are rampant at this time of year. It’s weird for a glamorous city girl to really comprehend what’s its like to really pick the components for her own supper. It was and experience I will never forget. The next morning I left the house at dawn to drive  to the airport and have a last look at Swedish countryside through the  foggy mist. It was most beautiful sights you will ever see.

Here is a slide-show of what we saw. I really see beauty in mushrooms. Also here is a great online guide to identifying mushrooms in Scandinavia.