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In search of wild mushrooms

28 August 2011 / 19:08:09  GRReporter
9312 reads

In the wooded mountains of northern Greece, in rain and fog, the threat of wolves and bears, armed with knives, baskets and ... a guide for mushrooms, hundreds of people are looking for rare treasures. Wild mushrooms, found in the Greek territory, have become the object of desire of those passionate fans of mushrooms, for reasons that are not limited to the gastronomic pleasures. Finding, collecting and identifying each main type of mushroom requires a separate purpose and dedication, which usually can be found among orchid hunters or passionate collectors. Transmitted by word of mouth traditional knowledge of mycology, with practical guides, and more recently via the Internet, mushroom hunters multiply. Over the last decade created were specialized associations in the country, organized were seminars, group outings and international mushroom festivals! 

The revival of this strange "sport" began nearly two decades ago, thanks to George Konstantinidis, passionate mushroom hunter who by translating foreign books entered the world of mycology and decided to publish an accessible reference for Greeks who wanted to find all types of ushrooms in the country . 

"Although ancient Greeks were delved deeply into this subject and all mycology terms are Greek (the very root of the word "Mikis"- sponge - comes from ancient Mycenae), this knowledge has been lost for centuries. In 1993 I tried to revive it with timid steps, first I published some brochures, guides ", told the Vima newspaper Giorgos Konstantinidis. 

Mushroom collecting spreads 

Other booklets, as well as 6 books about mushrooms follow, which are gradually becoming popular and attract hundreds of people from northern Greece to the "sport" of mushroom-picking. "What I did is actually a systematic classification, i.e. the identification of fungi and their distribution by species, genera, and families. This is a simplified mycology with detailed descriptions, written in language accessible to all. This knowledge gave the amateur mushroom-pickers security against the terrible fear of poisonous mushrooms. And after decades, they decided to leave their living rooms and go into the woods to look for mushrooms," said Konstantinidis. 

In 1999 the first Mushroom-pickers Association was founded in Western Macedonia, and over time other 8 were created in Greece and Cyprus. Mushroom-pickers organize festivals, which bring together 20,000 people from around the world, and they in turn regularly travel to Europe, where they participate in conferences and researches. 

Detecting hidden species 

For ordinary people in northern Greece brochures are something like "window" that allows them to explore from the beginning all varieties that are found there. "Since I grew up in Grevena, I knew only two types of mushrooms, the tinder mushroom and parasol mushroom. All other types we used to call "zourlomartara” and all peasants were actually afraid of them, precisely because they did not know them. We did not touch anything, because all mushrooms could be poisonous! Of course, we all knew that even if the poisonous mushroom slightly touched the knife the harmful substances will be transferred to everything that comes into contact with that knife. When you go out in the woods, however, you have only one knife. If you cut even one "wrong" mushroom, you will poison all mushrooms that will be cut after that", said retired police officer George Batsilas. 

As he says, with the practical guide in hand, he began to identify edible and poisonous mushrooms, and was able to enjoy many new and different mushrooms without fear. However, one cannot be absolutely sure, especially when he makes his first steps. This is why experienced mushroom-pickers offer free online mushroom identification to those who worry about their latest acquisition and can send a photo to www.manitari.gr.

Rain, forest, wolves and bears 

The danger of poisoning is not the only risk in this "sport". "We usually go out in the woods, in bad weather conditions in rain and fog. We go deep into the woods to find rare species. We are afraid because of wolves and bears, lightnings and falling trees. Nevertheless, we continue. At the same time we must be careful how to cut the mushrooms and preserve them in the basket, so they can "breathe", but not get wet. After that we clean them with a brush," says Sofia Batsila, who describes the “ritual ", into which she was dedicated by her father when she was a child. “And this is the least. There are people looking for rare truffles with specially trained dogs or others who throw bombs to scare the bears and penetrate the hard to reach areas of the forest. Mushroom collecting can become a real obsession", emphasizes Sofia. 

Hundreds of recipes 

Tags: Mushrooms Greece wood forest mushroom picking
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