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Monday, October 15, 2018

Mushroom Hunting in Bavaria

Amelie styles my pocket square - clever girl:

Beginning of our afternoon, it's been cool mornings, and warm afternoons here in Bavaria mostly these past weeks and I'm a bit overdressed.

A couple of weeks ago, my family had a very fun outing hunting wild mushrooms near where we live in Bavaria.  Lead by my Mother-in-law Annemarie, who has been collecting wild mushrooms for many decades, so this is knowledge my wife and I think (being mushroom lovers) is worth learning.  Mushroom hunting (OK, some people say collecting) is a very traditional fall time activity here in Bavaria, typically in late September or early October, the mushrooms are gathered from the mossy floors in local forests.  Many families have favorite spots, which are often closely held secrets, where they find their favorite varieties.  The Bavarian forests (especially on hilltops, which are cooler) are often moist and moss-covered and the perfect environment for wild mushrooms, which grow in nearly infinite varieties.  These run the full spectrum: deliciously edible, bitter but edible, inedible, poisonous and yes, even deadly poisonous, so it pays to go with someone who really knows what to look for AND who you trust with your life. 

Annemarie proved to be a wonderful teacher and very patient rejecting as many of our finds as accepting them:

They grow them big in this forest:

The varieties we were hunting often grow hidden in the moist forest undergrowth

Amelies is very pleased to find this beauty!

One of the ones we were after had a large chustnut brown top and an orange underside:

  Two hours hunting and we've collected quite a few mostly of 3 to 4 varieties:

Some of the little ones are tasty too: 

Most of the ones we collected had a very distinctive honeycomb matrix underside (this variety was also orange on the underside, which is unmistakable) as opposed to gilled or finned undersides which we didn't pick.  I can not stress enough how dangerous an adventure wild mushroom hunting can be.  There are most certainly varieties in our local forest which will kill you and to no have a guide with decades of experience is foolhardy!  For additional information on common mushroom varieties:  https://inhabitat.com/3-edible-mushrooms-that-are-easy-to-find-and-how-to-avoid-the-poisonous-ones/

This one and another species which was bright red also are poison!!  Some species are so dangerous that you wouldn't want to touch them:

These look lovely, but please don't eat:

Three Generations of Zondler ladies:-)

 After our trip, Annamarie showed my wife Andrea how to clean and prepare them.  Cooking them in a simple cream sauce, one doesn't even need meat, the mushrooms are meaty enough.  These guys look grotesque, quite honestly, but will prove to be very yummy:

 Simply cooked in a cream sauce and served over noodles is about perfect.  Annemarie is a classically trained cook, having attended finishing school in France, as was typical of girls of her generation, and which sadly is almost never done these days.  Her skills have proven a delight to three generations of the family.

  The mushrooms varieties  are cooked separately in order to enjoy the subtly different flavors and textures:

 Allas Amelie at 10 years old, has not yet discovered her love of mushrooms (she would rather hunt them than eat them).  No matter - all the more for us!! 

If you love mushroom like I do, good God, what a treat - all the more joy in the knowledge that they had been gathers from our local forests just hours before!

Annemarie has a book for many years, which describes in detail with photos of several hundreds of varieties of wild mushrooms which grow in Germany (this book may even be specific to Bavaria).  The thing that impressed me is how very similar the photos of the various mushrooms can sometimes look between varieties which are edible to the ones which are poisonous.  Annemarie only picks ones that are very, very distinctive looking and NOT the varieties that closely resemble poisonous ones.  I think based upon our one-day outing, I feel pretty confident to pick two or three varieties.  Although, I hope to go again next year in order to solidify my knowledge.

All together this was a very fun family outing, which came to a very tasty conclusion.  I so thank Annemarie for her enthusiasm and for being such a love for sharing her knowledge and cooking skills.  And I'm thankful for my wonderful family for this fun adventure in the Bavarian countryside.

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