02 January 2011

Mushroom Picking in the Polish Mountains

On our honeymoon, my Wujek and Ciocia (pronounced "Choh-Chah" and meaning "Aunt") took us for a day trip to the mountains of Poland where they own a bit of property outside of a small ancient village. 

We had a picnic of Kabanosy (pronounced "Kah-bah-NOH-sih" and is a Kielbasa, or type of sausage), smoked fish, delicious bread, Polish cheese, tomatoes, bottled carbonated water, and other baked goodies.  Butter and Polish Ketchup were our sandwich condiments.

We then went further up the mountain into Lasu (pronounced "Lah-Sooh" and meaning "the forest") to go "zbierac grzyby" (pronounced "Zbee-eh-RAhCH Gzhih-bih" and meaning "gathering mushrooms").

Forgive the lesser quality of my photos, at the time it was very damp outside (or else there would have been no mushrooms to gather!) and I had my basic point and shoot with me.  But I believe the photos give a great idea of how amazing the experience was.

Just a few feet from my family's house, we discovered a group of mushrooms many would say remind them of the Smurfs' village.  They are abundant in European, and particularly Polish, fairy tales and are where the Krasnoludki like to sleep, according to some.  I believe they were Red Pine Mushrooms.  They were the first wild mushrooms my husband had ever seen.  I, myself, am no expert in mushroom picking but have gone over a dozen times since childhood. 

We came upon a deer feed stand in the middle of the woods and my Wujek explained that in the winter, you were forbidden to shoot within so-many meters of the deer feed stand because otherwise the deer would avoid such places and likely starve because the snow there fell so high.

At one point, my husband disappeared and we were all quite nervous as he did not speak Polish and we were near the border but there were no highways or major towns nearby, only the occasional scattered ancient mountain village.  We had no idea where he could go.  After a while, he turned back up and admitted he had wandered down the mountain a bit, climbed a tree and just relaxed, watching some other people walking by gathering mushrooms.

My husband came up to me at one point, excited to have learned a word "Pienkni means Mushrooms!".   My Ciocia and I figured out that all of the mushrooms he was bringing to her were so nice looking that she kept exclaiming "Pienkni" (pronounced "Pyehn-knih" and meaning beautiful) because they were so nice looking.  He was a good sport about it. 

In our search, we found a particularly large mushroom that was bigger than my Wujek's fist, and it was promptly dubbed the King of Mushrooms.  We cut it off so that the roots would be intact, hopefully another would grow from that spot later. 

The next day, we had a fantastic dinner with my Wujek, Ciocia, and cousins.  Dishes included a fresh fish my Ciocia bought at the local market that morning, a delicious mushroom sour cream sauce, potatoes, and a broccoli salad my husband to this day talks about and wishes I would make for him.  The "King of Mushrooms" was cut up and set to dry in a corner of the warm kitchen for drying and use later in a dish, such as Bigos.

It was a truly memorable experience.

1 comment:

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