Picking wild mushrooms is popular in Finland.
The diversity of mushroom species is huge. The total number of species worldwide is estimated at one million. Majority of them can be identified only with microscope. Around 2000 macrofungi species can be found in Finland, of which over 200 are edible. However, in practice only 5-10 of them are widely utilized for food.
The edible part of the mushroom is a fruit body but the what keeps mushrooms alive is mycelium, which grows underground. Temperature and moisture conditions define when a part of mycelium in soil aggregates and differentiates into a fruit body. In Finland, the season for foraging mushroom starts from May and lasts until November when the famous Trumpet chanterelle (Craterellus tubaeformis) can still be found. The high season for most mushroom species is August and September.
According to statistics from the Natural Resources Institute Finland, more than 16 million kilos of edible mushrooms are picked from forests in a year when yield is good. If there is unfavorable weather conditions, the annual collected crop may go down to just three million kilos. The yearly potential mushroom harvest is thus highly volatile.
Mushrooms have an economic significance to entrepreneurs that collect and sell them as well as to private households as a source of nutrition. Some of the species such as the Penny Bun bolete (Boletus edulis) are in demand in international markets.
Foraging for non-timber forest product is one of the most popular ways to use forests recreationally. It also has multiple benefits from the both health and economic aspects. Everyman’s Rights allows anyone to pick mushrooms from Finnish forests. This right is commonly utilised – according to a survey from 2010, about 40 % of the adult population have picked mushrooms during the year.
When picking mushrooms for food, it is highly important to be sure about its species. Some mushrooms are very toxic, and their ingestion may cause severe health damage, or could even be fatal. A good rule of thumb with mushrooms is that if you’re not sure about the species, leave it unpicked.