Mushrooms, Russian vodka , and caviar, oh my!
Mushrooms, Russian vodka , and caviar, oh my! If you were to choose which is Russia’s favorite which would it be? Each of them seem to be essential elements in the Russian diet. During Lent mushrooms are used as a replacement for meat, they have also rescued Russia’s popuation from starvation during times of famine. I sure you would like me to talk about vodka or even caviar but this post is about the ever popular mushroom, They have featured as a main ingredient or complementary part of many dishes in the traditional foods here. Some of these mushrooms bring exorbitant prices on the international market. So what can you do with mushrooms? They can be pickled, dried, fresh, or become part of delicious recipes such a mushroom strudel.
Going on a Mushroom Hunt
If you plan on going on a mushroom hunt be prepared, the act of hunting these precious edible fungi is so engrained into the minds of the Russian culture hunters have even been known to risk their lives in this pursuit. But most of the time it’s just a time when the whole family comes together (you’re lucky if invited) were they all enjoy nature together in the fresh outdoors. Once you are out there it’s quickly understood how hard the work really is that brings these tasty little morsels to the table.
The common Russian is completely aware of the how, when, and where to pick the ever elusive mushroom, they understand very well what mushroom types are more desirable (also which ones are poisionous), which is quite opposite of most westerners who would need a guide when picking mushrooms. Russians have been perfecting the art of mushroom hunting for centuries, and members of the Russian diaspora have carried the tradition with to the States and other countries.
Mushrooms found in Russia
There are dozens of types of mushrooms grow in Russia, and they don’t only grow on the ground. Some of the best mushrooms are harvested from decaying logs and tree trunks, and others are particular to specific climates, growing conditions, and forests.
Chanterelle mushrooms are widely known. In Russia, they’re referred to as lisichki. These nutritious mushrooms of orange or yellow color are prized for their culinary uses. They are often sauteed in butter to bring out their flavor.
Porcini mushrooms, or beliy grib, grows in pine and spruce forests and are common throughout Europe. In markets, they can be found dried, canned, or fresh and are used in Russian, Polish, and other regional cuisines.
Oyster mushrooms, veshenka, are a type of mushroom commonly eaten in Russia and elsewhere. They’re characterized by their pale color and grow on the sides of trees. These mushrooms are also often sauteed. Of all the mushrooms out there these are probably one of my favorites.
Russian Mushroom Dishes
Though mushrooms are often appreciated on their own in a little butter, they’re also incorporated into dishes. You can find many of these dishes at Russian restaurants, or make your own dishes by clicking on the links to the following recipes:
Russian Mushroom Pierogi: Pierogi are bite sized pies often filled with savory meat or vegetables. They are delicious with sour cream and butter or as an accompaniment to a larger meal.
Beef Stroganoff: A favorite of mine is a quintessential Russian recipe. You will find beef tenderloins, mushroom, and onions, served up in a tasty sauce that goes well with noodles or potatoes.
Russian Mushroom Barley Soup – This is a soup that you will find in many Russian homes. It’s common to eat soup with every meal. In the winter time it becomes a way to keep warm.
Mushroom Picking Safety
Even Russians themselves have been known to pick and ingest a poisonous mushroom or get lost while mushroom hunting, so use caution if you plan to participate in this popular tradition. If you’re in Russia and wish to do some mushroom hunting, it’s important to find a local guide who can point you to the mushrooms that are safe to eat and steer you clear of those that are poisonous or deadly. While out mushroom hunting, respect the natural habitat you’re in, disturbing as little as possible and cutting mushrooms with a clean, sharp knife. Also, take precautions against getting lost—especially if you stray away from any established trails.