When autumn comes, many people fall back into primeval times. They collect mushrooms and indulge in the collecting instinct that has been in us for thousands of years. Chestnuts, porcini mushrooms and chanterelles are their prey. They proudly carry home what they have found to enjoy. Experienced collectors know “their” mushrooms. But again and again people collect wild mushrooms, who should rather resort to cultivated mushrooms.
According to the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation, there are around 14,400 species of mushrooms in Germany alone. Only specialists can tell them apart. Most collectors therefore focus on a limited mushroom segment that they know for sure or think they know for sure. Unfortunately, for every delicious edible mushroom there is also a poisonous or inedible double.
Mixing them up can be problematic or fatal. Anyone who confuses real and false chanterelles will at best have digestive problems. On the other hand, anyone who collects death cap mushrooms instead of the hoped-for button mushrooms is taking a deadly risk. Insecure collectors should rather keep their hands off collecting. The package of mushrooms from the supermarket and the enjoyable walk in the forest are then the better alternative.
However, a large number of mushroom poisonings are not due to mix-ups but to improperly harvested, transported and stored wild mushrooms. If the basket threatens to remain empty, overaged, eaten mushrooms are also gladly taken away. Often molds have already settled on the mushrooms and poisons have developed. So only take young, firm specimens with you.
An open basket that isn’t over-packed is the best way to transport the mushrooms. However, in the absence of another container, a plastic bag is often used. The mushrooms – and ultimately the collector – don’t get it at all. They sweat, lie on top of each other and press each other. Even mushrooms that are still good at harvest spoil so quickly. It is not for nothing that cultivated mushrooms are grown in dishes in which they are not squeezed, brought on the journey and wrapped with special films that release excess moisture thanks to their micropores. This keeps mushrooms, shiitake and oyster mushrooms clean and dry.
Cultivated mushrooms can be eaten raw. Therefore, it does not matter if they are only briefly heated during cooking. A number of wild mushrooms such as parasol mushroom or red cap are only edible after thorough cooking. If you heat them too short, you get digestive problems. In order to be able to eat them without hesitation, they must be stewed for at least 15 minutes.
Nevertheless, you shouldn’t eat too many, because the radiation exposure to wild mushrooms still plays a role. WHO recommends eating no more than 250-300g of them per person per week. This does not apply to cultivated mushrooms. Ultimately, the quantity limit for wild mushrooms also benefits nature. Because only if enough mushrooms remain in the forest do they have the chance to multiply sufficiently. Almost all of the particularly popular species belong to the group of mycorrhizal fungi.
That means they live in symbiosis with trees and other plants. Without the exchange of substances between fungal and plant roots, the vitality of the forest suffers. Professional collecting in the forest is therefore prohibited almost everywhere and private collecting is limited to a maximum of 2 kg. True mushroom lovers therefore only collect with a sense of proportion and prefer to use mushrooms from controlled German cultivation more often.