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Mushroom and Berry Picking in Iceland

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Mushroom and Berry Picking in Iceland

Watch this audio slideshow on mushroom and berry picking in Iceland. There are many forested areas in and around Reykjavík where edible mushrooms, such as Larch Bolete and Birch Bolete, can be found, including the outdoor recreational area Heidmörk. These pictures were taken by Reynisvatn lake in the outskirts of the Reykjavík suburb Grafarholt.

Photos and narration by Eygló Svala Arnarsdóttir [email protected].

Click here to download the audio slideshow.

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There are a number of edible mushroom species in Iceland, which are largely left untouched because Icelanders are not keen mushroom pickers.

However, this mushroom season, more people have decided to give wild mushrooms a try than in previous years; during times of financial crisis and a tight budget it makes perfect sense to make the most of what nature has to offer.

There are many forested areas in and around Reykjavík where edible mushrooms can be found, including the outdoor recreational area Heidmörk. These pictures were taken by Reynisvatn lake in the outskirts of the Reykjavík suburb Grafarholt.

Mushrooms should be picked in dry weather shortly after rainfall. Some of the most common mushroom species grow near certain types of trees, after which they are named, such as the Larch Bolete (Lat. Suillus grevillei), easily recognizable due to its yellowish color.

It’s best to pick the Larch Bolete while it is small, firm and button-like. Then the pores don’t have to be removed. The Birch Bolete (Lat. Leccinum scabrum) grows near birch trees, as the name indicates. It has a light-brown hat and a white stem.

Another common mushroom species that grows in Iceland is the Slippery Jack (Lat. Suillus luteus), which can be found near pine trees and looks very similar to the Birch Bolete. It is slimier, though, as the name indicates. It is recommended that the slime coating is removed before eating.

There are also some toxic mushroom species in Iceland, for example Psilocybin Mushrooms, or Magic Mushrooms, and the more easily recognizable Fly Amanita (Lat. Amanita muscaria), which the Vikings called berserkur and ate for its hallucinogenic effects.

So, if you’re uncertain about a mushroom you’ve picked, it’s best to leave it alone. If you’re new to mushroom picking, it’s a good idea to rent a book on Icelandic mushrooms in the library and carry it with you.

While picking mushrooms, grab the lower end of the stem and twist it lightly so that the stem doesn’t break off. Cut the mushroom in two to see whether snails, worms or insects have gotten to it before you did.

If the meat looks clean, brush the dirt off and place the mushroom in a basket. Plastic containers are not suitable for mushroom picking as the mushrooms require air to dry.

However, you should carry a plastic container with you to combine a mushroom picking tour with a berry picking tour should the opportunity arise. Blueberries and crowberries grow all around the capital region. Not in too large or dense forests, though.

Back at home, the mushrooms should be cleaned and prepared the same day that they’re picked. The pores are generally removed from the Birch Bolete and the Slippery Jack, and if the pores are large and moist, also from the Larch Bolete.

If the cover of the cap is very slimy, it should be removed too. Only brush or scrape the dirt off the cap and stem—mushrooms should not be washed in water.

There are different ways to store mushrooms, they can be dried, frozen or fried and then frozen. If you pick the last option, cut the mushrooms into bite-sized pieces and fry them lightly in a pan.

You don’t have to use any cooking oil, since all the fluid in the mushrooms will come out. Season the mushrooms with some salt and pepper, let them cool and then freeze them in suitable portions.

When fried, the meat of the Birch Bolete turns black and the meat of the Larch Bolete becomes rather slimy, but the mushrooms still taste good. The Larch Bolete has a stronger flavor.

Both types of mushrooms can be used in casseroles, sauces and soups and in any dishes in which you would otherwise use mushrooms.

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