We were recently in Sweden, and spent a wonderful afternoon with the Big Guy’s sister and her family foraging in a wood. We are never in one place for long in Sweden, and I had spent much of the week eyeing up the meadowsweet and rosebay willow herb that was abundant in the area we were in at the start of the week. I have never seen either plant in the Netherlands, so was looking forward to cooking up some goodies with them. In Swedish, meadowsweet is called älgört (pronounced el-lee-yurt), which means moose herb. Rosebay willow herb is called rallarros (pronounced rah-lor-rose), as it used to be the first plant to line the railways once they had been cleared through the forest, hence the name of railway rose. This is what makes it a pioneer species.
As is often the way, when we got out to where his sister lives, we were actually in a subtly different habitat, and so there was no meadowsweet or rosebay willow herb to be had. This is a good foraging lesson – if you see it, grab some, as conditions may not be the same the next time you come back, or if you move onto a different spot.
However, all was not lost, we came across some other things I am yet to find in the low countries. First was wild raspberries. Slightly smaller than their domestic cousins, but just as sweet. They were great to come across, and we filled a few tubs.
Blue berries are everywhere in Swedish forests. We would call this variety bilberries in the UK, they are a little smaller and less sweet than the ones you would typically buy from the shops. They carpet the forest floor, alongside their cousins, the lingonberry. They are actually not at their peak for a few more weeks yet, but I like them when they are sharper too.
The lingonberries are not yet ripe, so we didn’t even try to pick them. Apparently, there is a hybrid between the lingonberry and the blueberry that they call the ‘blingon’. We didn’t find any of those, but I’d love to taste one, just to see what it is like.
The main thing that we actually did go out to find was the chanterelles, and we were not disappointed. We started to come across really tiny ones. This is the kind that chefs often prefer because they are fairly regular sizes, and can pretty up a dish. However, many foragers lament this habit, because if everyone only took the smallest ones, they would not have time to spore, thus spoiling things for future forages, and the fungus itself.
We were lucky in that we didn’t have far to go to find more mature ones, and we found large mushrooms by the bucketful.
Because these mushrooms grow in the leaf litter (often quite well hidden, but once you have found one, there will be more) they will need a little trimming, and a bit of a clean with a stiff bristled brush. This can be time consuming, but well worth it to get rid of grit from between the fine gills.
The next day, we ate a king’s breakfast, starting with sautéed chanterelles and scrambled egg, followed by muesli and yoghurt, liberally scattered with raspberries and blueberries. We were leaving Sweden that day, and it was a fantastic start to our travels.
We did manage to get through all of the chanterelles, even though we picked a lot. We left many of the berries for the Big Guy’s sister, and I know that she will make delicious things with them. I’m also very lucky that she likes to forage as well, and I’m very grateful to her for a wonderful afternoon, and for the huge pot of mushrooms that she’d dried from last year’s bounty.