Sunday, 26 October 2008

Mushroom picking

Or, in Polish, grzybobranie. Like all good Polish families, at this time of year we'd head off into the woods just outside London in search of mushrooms. Our favoured spot was Oxshott Common (51°20'29.37"N, 0°22'1.37"W). Mixed coniferous and deciduous forest, with pine and oak predominating. We'd park (usually early on Sunday mornings following a rainy autumn Saturday) on Sandy Lane, and start combing the undergrowth for mushrooms. The forest floor, covered in pine needles, fallen leaves and moss, would have a particular smell that meant mushrooms would be around.

The ones we looked for were prawdziwki - porcini, a mushroom that is readily identifiable, safe (there's a lot of poisonous ones out there!) and tasty - but quite rare. We'd be lucky to return home with more than 20. Our mother would marinade (in jars) or dry them (on a string).

The interesting thing about mushroom picking is that British people don't do it. When combing the forest for them, we'd occasionally come across other people doing the same - they'd invariably be other Poles, or French or Italian restaurateurs, seeking the best wild mushrooms with which to flavour their recipies. For Brits, mushroom = champignon, the white, farmed mushroom, which wild mushrooms beat for taste by a country mile.

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