Mushroom Time

From this cooling, sweet mouldering earth, Finland is blessed with an abundance of edible mushrooms that give a good reason to welcome fall. The brightly colored chanterelle (kanterelli) is among the most well-known of wild mushrooms. Its bright orange and golden colors catch the eye, and it is not only good looking, but delicious. According to Wikipedia, chanterelles are also an excellent source of vitamin D, no laughing matter as we head into dark winter. It took me a while before I discovered that these golden trumpets, Cantharellus cibarius, are just one of several members of the Cantharellaceae family available in Finland.

I walked past Chanterelle’s more modest cousin, little suppilovahvero ( Craterellus tubaeformis ) many times before trying it. A more delicate mushroom, with an orange-yellow hollow stem and a brown-grey top, it isn’t as striking as it typical Chanterelle, but just as delicious. It is usually much less expensive, too, and so definitely worth a try. It is also possible to find it dried in Finland.

Craterellus tubaeformis: Suppilovahvero

Craterellus tubaeformis: Suppilovahvero

The first time I saw the intimidating ( Craterellus cornucopioides ) they were being sold in the old market square in Turku by two young Finnish people who looked like they had been living in a tree for at least the last summer. These grey and black mushrooms themselves looked like fallen, fermenting leaves. My Finnish was even worse then, but I got the idea that these black silky mushrooms were related to chanterelles, and that, unlike false morels, they don’t need special cooking in order to be edible.

Not only did I survive my first encounter, they were delicious. They are not always easy to find, however, but this year I have started to see them around again. I bought mine out of the back of a car in Hakkaniemi in Helsinki. How to use their beautiful color to the best advantage is still under experimentation. These were cooked into omelets after being sauteed in butter and also eaten in a simple pasta. (with Italian corn noodles and Buffalo mozzarela– the combination of fresh Buffalo mozzarel and wild mushrooms is something I learned from an outstanding dinner at Mami in Turku). The omelets in particular were sublime.

Maybe it is that I feel these other members of the family Craterellus are overlooked, but I find them, if anything, more tasty. Perhaps I just relate to them better than the golden, flamboyant and muscular Cantharellus cibarius.

Helsinkilainens are lucky this weekend; it is packed full of mushroom events that will include the opportunity to learn more from knolwedgeable people. The first, today, is a food-oriented Mushroom people’s day at Teurastamo . This is hosted by the Sieni Ihmiset (mushroom people) an organization that organizes events around the gathering and cooking of mushrooms. 20 September 2014 from 10am to 4pm. Tastings, wild mushrooms for sale, and a special pop-up restaurant at 7pm. Sunday and Monday there is a mushroom and lichen exhibit put on by the Finnish Mycological society. It is free, and you are welcome to bring your own mushrooms for identification. The event is listed here, but only in Finnish. It is at the Kasaniemi Botanical Gardens, in the botany room (kasvishuone), which they warn is on the second floor of that beautiful building, without stairs.

2014.09 Mushroom Calendar

Above is the September page of this amazing calendar from a dear friend gave to me, and that we have been treasuring all year:

luonnossa kypsyys
mehevälle tuoksuu maa
kuulas kuutamo

Not only is it a beautiful haiku, but it contains within in the name of September in Finnish: Syyskuu . I love it. It is from MuuMuru, and a delightful use of this ancient Japanese form– 5 7 5– of nature poetry. Here is my own bad translation:

In nature ripeness
fertile luscious fragrant earth
cooling clear moonlight

Please leave your better translations in the comments! Or a poem of your own for September… reading this I felt the translation missed the fun of the original so was compelled to write my own, inspired by the beautiful morning air and red berries filling the rowan trees in the park nearby. Although it falls short– or long rather– of being a haiku:

This cool morning
the sweet smell of fallen leaves
lingers along the park’s narrow transept
Rowan berries glow in trees
hot embers in the cooling air
catching the last light
of a distant slanting sun.

Hmmm… I guess I could force this into a haiku:

Along the park’s transept
Rowan berries glow in trees
Summer’s last embers.

The air is sweet now with this beautiful fall. All of nature composting, rose hips ripening and mushrooms blooming in these last few perfect sunny days.