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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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DISCOVER NORWAY

The most common mistakes you are likely to make when camping in Norway

Norway’s focus on the outdoors means that campers have the right to pitch a tent pretty much anywhere. Despite the country making camping easy, there are plenty of pitfalls to avoid.

The most common mistakes you are likely to make when camping in Norway

Access to Norway’s nature is protected in law, as is the right to roam or Allemannsretten. This Norwegian word translates to “everyone’s rights,” as it is believed that access to nature should be universal.

The law, outlined in the Outdoors Act, allows people to travel and camp wherever they like, with only a few small exceptions.

READ MORE: What are the rules and culture of camping in Norway?

However, even with the law on your side, there are some unwritten rules that you should follow.

Trying to go too far off the beaten path when wild camping

When choosing a spot to set up camp, it can be tempting to try and find a new spot away from others for the best possible experience.

Though it might be tempting to enjoy a small slice of the great outdoors just for yourself, it is advised to stay somewhere already established for camping.

This is done to protect the scenery and cause minimal disruption to the landscape and local wildlife.

While you can technically camp almost everywhere you want, you should do your part to protect the local environment and leave as much nature undisturbed as possible.

Not looking at the rules on fires

One surefire way to make a campsite feel cosy is to build a fire that you can either use to make food or for some extra warmth.

But doing so could land you in trouble. For all of summer, there is a general fire ban in Norway. There are exceptions, such as using a disposable grill or making a fire while camping in an area without a risk of spreading. Another area that is exempt is the campfire areas in proper camping sites.

If the weather has been warm and dry, which you are hoping for if you are going to be sleeping under the stars, then local authorities may introduce a complete ban on open flames. It’ll be up to you to check whether there is a total ban in the area you’ll be staying in.

Those who have been camping in Norway before may have seen the locals bring hotdogs in a flask of boiling water. While not a culinary delight, it does help get around the fire rules – and has other uses that we’ll get into more detail on.

Waste and weight

The right that allows you to camp and stay pretty much wherever also acts as a social contract. If you are to use the natural landscape, then you also have a responsibility to keep it clean for others.

One of the most inconsiderate things someone can do is spoil the landscape by leaving behind waste, be that trash or human and animal waste.

If you don’t have access to a proper toilet, you must bring a shovel to dispose of any waste. You also can’t go to the bathroom within 50 metres of any water sources, as many hikers and campers in Norway will drink from the streams, rivers and waterfalls.

Semi-related is not overpacking. The more you carry, the harder time you’ll have. Furthermore, the excess stuff you have could end up becoming waste.

Things like single-use grills, paper plates, and disposable cutlery can all end up becoming waste as they aren’t ideal to carry back with you. This makes options like hotdogs in flasks a much more hassle-free and waste-free alternative.

Mosquitos

There are plenty of wild animals in Norway that can be dangerous to humans, from ticks and jellyfish to wolves, beers and moose.

Mosquitos in Norway don’t pose the same risk to humans as they do in other parts of the world; however, they do have the potential to ruin your camping trip.

Just remember to wear clothes with long sleeves, use mosquito spray, and ensure there aren’t any mosquitos in your hammock or tent when turning in for the night.

Forgetting about the sunlight in summer

If you are a light sleeper, camping in Norway may not be for you. In some parts of the country, the sun doesn’t set in the summer.

Even in parts of the country that get a “nighttime”, it still doesn’t get particularly dark, and the sun comes up in the early morning hours.

Therefore, you might have trouble drifting off or might be awoken much earlier than you’d like. This is more of a problem in a hammock than in a tent.

Some solutions, such as sleeping masks, should help make things a lot easier.   

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