Good mushroom forests are to be found not far from Helsinki
Many good picking places in and around the capital can be reached without a car
By Heli Saavalainen
Helsinki resident Timo Santala is pedalling towards the Kalasatama Metro station, with a blue mushroom basket hanging from the handlebars of his bike.
It has started to drizzle. Santala lifts his bicycle into a Metro train carriage, continuing his trip to the Mellunmäki station, from where it takes only 15 minutes to cycle on to good picking grounds.
On Saturday, Santala picked mushrooms in the border district between Helsinki and Sipoo near Porvoonväylä, the Highway 7.
In that area, there are large forests and good mushroom grounds, and they are within easy reach without a car of one’s own, by bike or by public transport.
”Few people realise that in Helsinki good mushroom locations are so close at hand. And a bike is the best way to travel here”, Santala contemplates, while wishing that Metro and commuter trains would have more space for bikes.
The current mushroom season is good, as the recent rains have increased the early autumn’s wild mushroom yield.
”There are plenty of boletus mushrooms in the forests. A week ago I picked 12 kilos of them on one trip”, Santala notes.
Santala, who lives in Helsinki’s suburb of Kumpula, has picked mushrooms ever since he was a child.
First with his family at their cottage in Ristiina in South Savo, and later as an adult on his own and in earnest.
”Mushroom dishes are so good and tasty”, Santala continues.
Santala’s favourite recipe is black trumpet soup. ”And boletus pasta, mushroom risotto, mushroom pie... and so on. You can use mushrooms almost for anything”, the mushroom enthusiast enthuses.
Above all, mushroom picking is linked with cooking.
”One wants to make better and cleaner food on one’s own”, Santala notes.
But it is also a pleasure just to find mushrooms.
”Mushrooms are capricious critters. One can never predict where they can be found”, Santala adds.
There are plenty of mushrooms to be had in a forest in Eastern Helsinki. Already while he is cycling to his destination, Santala stops and picks one boletus - and finds another by the roadside. Even the rain has conveniently abated.
In the forest, Santala walks quickly and his trained eye detects one mushroom after another.
The dull roar of traffic on the Porvoonväylä highway and Ring III can be heard in the distance.
”This is life in urban forests. There are many similar old forests in Helsinki and nearby, which have not been intensively cut”, Santala continues.
Many other people have also found the mushroom forests.
There are cars parked on the roadsides, and one does not feel lonely in the forest that is so near the city.
And yet the basket is full of mushrooms, for all the competition there is around: ceps (Boletus edulis), orange birch boletes (Leccinum versipelle), sheep polypores (Albatrellus ovinus), rufous milkcaps (Lactarius rufus), woolly milkcaps (Lactarius torminosus), terracotta hedgehogs (Hydnum rufescens).
A few funnel chanterelles are found by the path, but they are still too small to be picked.
Not to worry; the mushroom season will continue for many weeks yet.
Helsingin Sanomat / First published in print 19.9.2010
Previously in HS International Edition:
Early autumn rains bring out poisonous mushrooms (3.9.2010)
Finnish matsutake mushrooms highly sought after in Japan (31.8.2010)
Dry spell shrinks summer´s mushroom and berry yield (4.8.2010)
Poor immigrants are at risk from mushroom poisoning (28.8.2009)
Mushroom expert hints that correct timing is more important than knowing the right location (25.8.2009)
Nordic Recipe Archive: Finnish Mushrooms
Penny bun, porcino or cep (Boletus edulis) (Wikipedia)
Funnel Chanterelle (Craterellus tubaeformis) (Wikipedia)
Black Trumpet (Craterellus cornucopioides) (Wikipedia)
HELI SAAVALAINEN / Helsingin Sanomat