Mushroom expert hints that correct timing is more important than knowing the right location
Biology teacher Jarkko Korhonen knows the capital area's mushroom woods
By Anna Kopteff
“Strongly aromatic with hints of curry, very tasty”, biologist, biology and geography teacher Jarkko Korhonen from Helsinki’s Kallio district describes one of the objects of his passion.
One might think that Korhonen is talking about a fine vintage wine at the very least, but in fact his passion happens to be mushrooms.
And the mushroom that the schoolteacher is emoting about is the candy cap or curry milk-cap (Lactarius camphoratus), which normally grows in coniferous or mixed forests.
In a forest in Espoo’s Luukki district, Korhonen’s small shingle basket fills quickly with brittlegills (Russulae), boletes (Boletaceae), gypsy mushrooms (Cortinarius caperatus), northern milk-caps, (Lactarius trivialis), and sheep polypores (Albatrellus ovinus).
On occasion Korhonen has returned from the forest with pickings of tens of kilograms of penny buns or ceps (Boletus edulis), the famous porcini of Italian cuisine.
”Well, if you find them, you just can’t leave them in the forest”, Korhonen reasons.
He's not wrong, either. Though Korhonen is collecting for his own use, these particular mushrooms are also a small and lucrative industry in Finland, supplying the restaurant trade in Italy (see article from 2003).
However, with the golden chanterelles (Cantharellus cibarius) that are barely larger than a pin’s head, Korhonen draws the line.
He leaves them there to grow up a bit.
There are around 5,000 different varieties of mushrooms in Finland, of which Korhonen - who belongs to the Finnish Mycological Society - knows around 200.
Jarkko Korhonen has done mushrooming all his life, and for the last ten years it has been an active hobby.
Usually he does not carry a mushroom guide with him. ”I have eaten tens of species, and I’m still alive”, he says.
The mushroom enthusiast’s rule of thumb ”only eat the mushrooms that you know” can be pretty lethal advice if taken literally, Korhonen laughs.
“Surely one needs to identify the poisonous ones as well”, he continues.
Picking mushrooms is without a doubt a risk sport, but an active mushroom enthusiast does not turn his nose up at the forest’s free yield just because of the inherent mortal danger.
Korhonen picks up a brittlegill from a tussock, sniffs it, bites a bit of its top, and spits it out.
“If a brittlegill tastes mild it is edible. If the taste is bitter, just toss it away”, Korhonen instructs.
This individual remains in the woods.
And where should one begin the search for mushrooms?
“In the Luukki district, of the basic edible mushrooms one can find at least brittlegills and boletes. Apart from Luukki, other good mushroom locations include Nuuksio, Sipoonkorpi, and Mustavuori in Eastern Helsinki. Even in the Central Park one might find something”, Korhonen drops a few hints.
From the parks in downtown Helsinki, as well as near the motorways, it does not pay to look for mushrooms.
“Mushrooms quite literally 'sponge up' heavy metals from their environment.”
In Korhonen’s view, rather more important than knowing the correct geographical location is to recognise the forest types and above all to get the timing right.
Rain after a dry spell causes woodlands to produce mushrooms with high certainty in a couple of days’ time.
“Boletes, in particular, can then be found in large dollops!”
Helsingin Sanomat / First published in print 22.8.2009
Previously in HS International Edition:
Hundreds of Estonians pick mushrooms and berries for Finnish market (12.8.2008)
Finnish wild mushrooms still exhibit elevated levels of caesium from Chernobyl nuclear accident (11.8.2008)
Mamma mia, what a year for the boletus mushrooms! (9.9.2003)
Porcini! Porcini! Porcini! (22.8.2000)
Boletus edulis (Wikipedia)
Gyromitra esculenta or "false morel", korvasieni in Finnish (Wikipedia)
Nordic Recipe Archive - Finnish Mushrooms
ANNA KOPTEFF / Helsingin Sanomat