Where to find mushrooms in the north

Dhat’s it then with the Finnish summer of the century. On this day in mid-August, the sky is gray, as is the water of the Saimaa Lake District, four hours northeast of Helsinki. Even the green of the many islands that the excursion boat passes by looks gloomy. But that doesn’t matter to the forty Finns below deck. On the contrary: If it hadn’t finally rained after this heat, there would be no mushrooms or hardly any. They wait for the first shore leave with empty baskets and small knives, in rubber or hiking boots, rain jackets and outdoor trousers. Until then, they are by no means bored, they are hanging on the lips of a woman with bright red, curly hair and two other guides who will go into the mushrooms with them. Or on a mushroom cruise, as they call it, because they cruise between the islands by ship.

Finns like to go into the woods and pick berries or mushrooms. Finnish everyone’s right says that you can help yourself practically anywhere, even on private property. Nature belongs to everyone. And since forest grows on three quarters of the floor area, the quilt area is gigantic. Hunting for mushrooms has been a part of Finland for a long time. But at a time when everyone wants to go out into nature, people hug trees and do everything they can, mushroom picking is currently becoming a trend.

The music is playing in the forest

“We follow the rock stars into the woods,” says Nina Pennanen, 38, from Helsinki, grinning because it sounds a bit groupie-like. She has made an appointment here with a friend who is also enthusiastic about mushrooms in order to spend a few days together halfway. Girls weekend with Funghi. Minna Engqvist, 42, is sitting next to her, on top of the deck. Apparently they are the only ones who are interested in the landscape, not just what is waiting in the woods. Red Mökki (little houses) on small rock islands under spruce trees pass by, mostly with a sauna and boat. There is enough space for it with the more than 13,000 islands in the largest lake district in Europe. The friends are also on the lookout for the endangered Saimaa ringed seal, of which there are said to be 400 left. They are so popular that you could watch them on a live WWF webcam on their favorite rock. Unfortunately only until this May. Because there the curious found the camera and disturbed the animals.


There are thousands of islands and stones protruding from the water in the Saimaa Lake District in Finland.
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Photo: Anja Martin

“My father always said you had to be very quiet in the forest, otherwise the mushrooms would hide,” Minna explains. Nina raises her eyebrows in surprise because that is of course not true, i.e. biologically wrong, but makes sense in a different way: It’s about appreciating the forest, this other world, perceiving it and becoming calm. “You concentrate, don’t think about work or family stories,” says Nina. “And if you do, you won’t find any mushrooms.” Besides, it’s like a treasure hunt, you always learn something new and spend time with people who are probably just as crazy as you are. What they hope for today, and after all, it is the time for it: on the common giant umbrella (ukonsieni), one of the largest mushrooms in Finland with hats up to 40 centimeters wide, from which you can fry a schnitzel.

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