Food does not only grow in discounters – how to get a free dinner from the woods.
Text by: Jahn Nitschke
Balancing on the edge of live and death, feeling the adrenalin rushing through your body, embracing nature in its archaic wilderness, adventure! Mushroom plucking has it all – especially if you can’t distinguish between edible and non-edible or even poisonous ones. Norway has a National Mushroom Day – soppens dag – on the 4th of September to make your daily struggle for dinner a little less dangerous. Last Sunday a squad of mushroom experts presented their favourite mushrooms in an exhibition at the Tromsø Museum and also took visitors on a tour, hunting delicacies.
“I hoped to find some chanterelles, they are great fried in butter,” said Wyn-Lyn Tan. She is from Singapore and came this semester to Tromsø to study art. Unfortunately no chanterelles found their way into her basket. “And they are so expensive in the supermarket,” she added. Her boyfriend Shawn Low, also from Singapore shared Wyn-Lyn’s interest in nature and liked to “see what’s out there”. In the end they were a bit disappointed from their small exploit, but happy about the informative stroll into the woods of the Folkeparken.
Not everybody that day wanted only to secure their dinner: The Tromsø Museum was involved in a project to ‘DNA-barcode’ as many organisms as possible, including mushrooms. “We want to have five individuals per species of the Norwegian flora and fauna,” said Marie Føreid Merkel, a researcher at the Tromsø Museum. The project, which is called NORBOL and also involves universities from Bergen, Oslo and Trondheim aims to generate an open database with all the DNA sequences. The section of mushrooms fell to the Tromsø Museum. Laborious identification of rare mushrooms would then be the past: “No more: looks a little like this or that species – just sequence it!” Marie told us excitedly. She explained further: “We are totally depending on everyday people to collect mushrooms for us.” – they just didn’t have enough funds to do it all on their own. Unfortunately, one had to give up the collected trophy for dinner and donate it to the Museum in whole.
Geir Mathiassen is also a researcher on mushrooms and started to get into the matter as early as in the 1980s. “Here collect fewer people than in the south,” explained Geir, “it’s important to get people into this.” The soppens dag was organized by the Tromsø Museum, the local food safety authority and the Tromsø Soppforening – the Tromsø association for mushrooms. The season in northern Norway is rather short compared to other regions, “August and September – short and hectic” described Geir. Luckily, the mushroom enthusiast explained, there are few food poisonings. Although the minor percentage of mushrooms out there are edible, there are also very few which are really dangerous. One of them is the Hvit Fluesopp – the European destroying angel. The specimen looks similar to a champignon but is fatal. “A piece of the size of a sugar cube is enough,” stated Geir. Also, there are hallucinogenic mushrooms out there. “Several people were interested in hallucinogenic mushrooms in the last years… but of course we don’t tell which ones they are.” If you are now a little frightened with the menace of the destroying angel looming in the local woods, but still motivated for some plucking, you can simply give the Tromsø Museum a visit: On the upcoming Sundays (11th and 18th of September, 16:00-18:00) mushroom experts will check your plucked specimen for kitchen-compatibility.
Number of the Giftinformasjonen: 22 59 13 00