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DISCOVER NORWAY

How to pick mushrooms in Norway like you’ve been doing it all your life

Summer may be drawing to a close, but in Norway there's a consolation: It's mushroom-picking time!

Pictured is a basket of mushrooms.
This is what you need to know about foraging for mushrooms in Norway. Pictured is a basket of mushrooms. Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash
This is the season when many (perhaps even most) Norwegians bunk off from work early to roam their local forests, bringing back giant hauls of hedgehog mushrooms (pigsopp), tasty chanterelles (kantareller), trumpet chanterelles (traktkantareller) and ceps (Steinsopp).
 
If you’re in the right part of Norway, and find a good spot, you can bring back kilos and kilos, which if dried or frozen can keep you going right through to next season. 
 
But for many foreigners (at least those who don’t come from similarly fungally-fixated nations), it can all seem overwhelming, meaning they miss out on one of the great joys of living in Norway. 
 
To know when to go out, study the weather. If there’s been a heavy autumn downpour, that will get the mushrooms growing, with ceps showing up 3-10 days after a heavy downpour and chanterelles taking two to three weeks.
 
Here’s some advice: 
 
1. Only pick (and eat!) what you know
 
Many beginners tend to uproot the first mushroom they come across and then seek to identify it and see if it’s poisonous or not. Don’t do this. It’s a much better approach to study just one or two of the most common edible mushrooms beforehand and then go out looking only for them.
 
It’s best not to eat anything you can’t safely identify. But this is no reason to be intimidated as while only about 100 of the perhaps 10,000 possible mushrooms you might see are good edibles, only a couple of handful are potentially lethal.
 
Hedgehog mushrooms, chanterelles, trumpet chanterelles and ceps make a good start. 
 
 
To start off with, stay away from the sort of white mushrooms you might find in supermarkets, as they can quite easily be confused with fungi that are very poisonous indeed. Particularly stay away from white mushrooms with white gills.
 
Hedgehog mushrooms are quite common in Norway and are popular with beginners as they are impossible to confuse with anything else, with the shaggy teeth which cover the bottom of the cap. 
 
Pictured is a hedgehog mushroom. Photo: D J Kelly/Wikimedia Commons
 
Chanterelles are most often found in pine woods, and hide under fallen leaves, making them hard to spot until you get the knack for it. You’re most likely to find nothing for an hour and then stumble on a patch hiding dozens and dozens, so be patient.
 
They are yellow and, instead of gills, have ridges which run down the stem a bit with no defined ring dividing them.

Pictured is a harvest of chanterelle mushrooms

Pictured is a harvest of chanterelle mushrooms. Photo by Jannet Serhan on Unsplash
 
The beauty of chanterelles is that the only thing you can really confuse them with, the false chanterelle (narrkantarell) is only slightly unpleasant tasting and not actually poisonous.
 
There are two ways of telling the difference:
 
  • Flesh colour: Chanterelles will have white, slightly stringy, meat when cut open. False chanterelles will have orange, slightly rubbery, flesh.
  • Scent: chanterelles are apricot-scented, false chanterelles smell of rotting wood.
 
A cep, also known as a penny bun mushroom. Photo: Strobilomyces/Wikimedia Commons
 
The cep is the most popular of the bolete family. It’s the porcini mushroom beloved of Italians, which you can buy in delicatessens sliced and dried for risottos.
 
But many of the others boletes, such as the bay bolete (svartbrun rørsopp), and birch bolete (rødskrubb) are also tasty.
 
The boletes are easy to identify due to the spongy tubes they have in place of gills, and their brown dimpled caps. As with chanterelles, there’s little chance of unexpectedly ending up in the emergency ward. The only poisonous genus, Rubroboletus, does not grow in Norway. 
 
You should also watch out for the very bitter but not actually poisonous bitter bolete (Gallerørsopp), which you can identify by the pinkish pores, and the black web on the stem.
 
 
2. Find your spot
 
The best forests to hunt for mushrooms in are old-growth forests, ideally a mix of pine or fir with a deciduous tree such as birch, oak or beech. But you can still find ceps and chanterelles in commercial spruce and pine plantations.
 
If you ask around, you can normally find out which local forests are deemed decent for mushroom-picking, but you will still need to spend a long time walking around until you stumble upon a really good spot. When you do, note it down, because it will probably still be producing in a few weeks, and then again next year.
 
If you can convince a friendly Norwegian to show you some of their best spots, it will save you a huge amount of trial and error, but it would have to be a very friendly Norwegian indeed, as most guard theirs with their lives.
 
Often, local nature reserves organise fungal forays, which might be a way of accessing local knowledge.
 
It also pays to get away from well-trodden paths and at least a few hundred metres away from the nearest car park. Some take bicycles so they can go deep down narrow forest paths. 
 
3. Get a book/ know where to check your mushrooms
 
River Cottage Handbook No.1 for Mushrooms, by John Wright, which is amusingly written, full of information, is a good place to start and has good photos and drawings. It’s more oriented to the UK though, which is a slight drawback. 
 
The Norwegian Association for Mycology and Foragingg has an app (Sopp Kontroll) which will help you identify mushroom varieties. They
also have in-person events which you can head to and have your mushrooms checked by experts. You can view their event calendar here
 
4. What to bring? 
 
It’s best to bring only useful things — a good basket, a knife, your phone, and of course a snack or beverage; coffee and biscuits in the forest is part of the whole experience. 
 
You might want to decouple from technology during your mushroom hunting, but a phone is very useful for tracking your location, and noting down where you find good spots, and also for photographing what you find and getting help. 
 
Baskets are better than buckets, as the mushrooms are less likely to get slimy.
 
Opinel knives are good for harvesting mushrooms, but more or less any knife will do.
 
 
5. Be a snob and don’t lay waste to the forest
 
It pays to be be picky. Dragging home maggot-infested corpses isn’t very productive. Only pick the perfect specimen. Leave the rest to the critters already inhabiting them. The forest are vast, and there are many more mushrooms in them than you ever could pick, so discretion is strongly advised.
 
Many Norwegians leave the ‘root’ of the mushrooms, believing that this will help them grow back, but as mushrooms are just the fruiting bodies of vast underground networks, in reality leaving the ‘root’ doesn’t make much difference.  
 
You should, however, avoid ripping up every mushroom you see then throwing it away when you decide it might be poisonous.

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READER QUESTION: Is it better for tourists to use cash or card in Norway?

For many heading to the bureau de change and getting their money exchanged into a foreign currency is a holiday tradition. However, as card is king in Norway, is cash necessary, and are there any better alternatives? 

READER QUESTION: Is it better for tourists to use cash or card in Norway?

Question: I am travelling to Norway soon, should I exchange cash for the trip and do many places accept it? 

Getting your money transferred into the local currency is usually up there with packing and taking out insurance when most people prepare for a trip away. 

However, nobody wants to be lumbered with unspent foreign currency, nor do they want to lose out when they exchange it back into local money when they return home. 

So, when travelling to Norway, do tourists need to have their money exchanged for Norwegian kroner? 

Well, it’s up to what you feel comfortable with, but if you prefer to pay with cash, then you may actually have trouble getting rid of it. 

This isn’t because Norway doesn’t live up to its reputation as one of the most expensive European countries, but because physical money is becoming far less common. Many shops and restaurants may refuse to accept it- even if it is legal tender. 

Additionally, very few shops accept foreign currency such as euros and dollars, so you’ll have an even harder time trying to get rid of that than you would the local currency. 

Norway’s government itself wants to try and reverse the decline of cash to try by attempting to solidify customers’ rights to pay with cash in Norway

In short, Norway’s government has submitted a proposal that means all shops, restaurants and service providers in Norway, excluding pop-up shops, food trucks and the like, will need to accept cash. 

But, the bad news for those who prefer to use cash on trips abroad is that the proposal will probably not enter law until 2023 at the earliest- and that’s if the rule change is given the green light to go ahead. 

On the other hand, cards are accepted everywhere in Norway, from the large cities and tourist hubs to remote mountain villages.

Many will be eager to point out that using a card has drawbacks. The biggest of these is that many banks will offer less than competitive exchange rates and charge fees on every card purchase you make while abroad. 

Foreign transaction fees can range from 1-5 percent, which can soon add up if you are spending a long time in Norway or spend quite a bit of money. 

Another drawback to using the plastic square abroad is that while Visa and Mastercard are accepted pretty much everywhere, not everywhere will take American Express. 

There may be a better option

Although, there may be an alternative that offers the best of both worlds. 

These days, many cards are available that don’t charge foreign transaction fees. This means you won’t get lumbered with cash you can’t spend, nor will you have to stump up for using your cards abroad. 

Furthermore, many of these cards will not charge any fees for using foreign ATMs, meaning that if you need cash in a pinch, you can always draw some out. 

As well as getting out of being lumbered with any foreign fees, you can transfer the amount of money you wish to spend into an account with no foreign fees. This also helps you budget and prevent overspending while on a trip to Norway. 

If you are reading this before heading on holiday and are worried that your card with no foreign charges won’t arrive on time, you can typically link the account to your Apple Pay or Google Pay before the card comes and you activate it. 

For an overview of where you can set up a bank account with zero transaction fees in the UK, click here. For other countries, click here. If you can’t find an option for your own country with the links provided, you will need to search for accounts with the option for zero transaction fees online instead. 

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