Wild mushrooms contain many health benefits and are a great way to expand your diet. Since ancient times humans have collected and eaten wild mushrooms and in fact, the earliest evidence of mushroom consumption dates back nearly 19,000 years.
In the Nordic you will find many edible wild mushrooms and foraging for these tasty forest treats is a popular pastime. That has not always been the case though.
Tracing the consumption of wild mushrooms is very difficult as they don’t preserve well in the archaeological record. As for written records, there is little to no mention of mushrooms in old Nordic or Viking writings.
Some researchers have proposed a theory that Viking warriors actually used wild hallucinogenic mushrooms to work themselves into a rage before battle, leading to the legends of the Norse “berserker” warriors.
Whether this is true or not, it seems likely that at least some mushrooms, probably the non-hallucinogenic types, were consumed in ancient Nordic times, simply for the fact that they are easy to dry out and store during long winters and Viking voyages.
At some point though, wild mushroom consumption died off in most of the Nordic.
Whether this was related to fears of turning “berserk” or simply a change in dietary trends, mushrooms became food “only fit for animals” and all were seen as toxic to humans.
This trend only changed in the last 200 or so years when French cooking, which incorporates many types of mushrooms, gained popularity in the Nordic region thanks to French-born King Karl XIV Johan of Sweden.
For many in Sweden, this was a time of famine and the King’s suggestion that people start collecting and eating mushrooms was a serious boost to the diets of the country’s poor and hungry.
You don’t have to look as far as France for edible mushroom recipes though.
While most of the Nordic viewed mushrooms as toxic, the people of Eastern Finland have a long tradition of foraging and preserving wild mushrooms.
They preserve them both by simply drying them out and also salting and pickling them. It’s quite interesting that while the Finnish people continued to collect and eat wild mushrooms, most of the rest of the Nordic simple forgot that their forests were filled with these edible fungi.
It makes you wonder what other food sources we are completely overlooking in our ignorance of the natural world around us.
Today edible mushroom foraging is an important part of many Nordic autumn traditions. Thanks to the unique Swedish law of Allemansrätten, foraging on any public or private land is both legal and encouraged.
While you can recreate these recipes with store bought mushrooms, foraging for your own wild mushrooms gives the dishes something extra special.
Nordic Preserved Mushrooms
Nordic wild mushrooms are preserved through both drying and salting methods
1 1⁄3 pounds (600g) mushrooms
1⁄2 cup (100g) coarse sea salt
Prepare your mushrooms. Only select the best mushrooms for drying or salting as bruised or blemished mushrooms are more likely to spoil. Smaller mushrooms can be left whole but larger, thicker mushrooms should be cut into 1⁄2 inch slices.
To Dry Mushrooms:
Place mushrooms in a single layer on a sheet of newspaper directly under your stove exhaust fan. Turn on fan to the lowest setting and allow mushrooms to air dry for 24 hours.
After the first 24 hours, you may turn the fan off but allow the mushrooms to continue drying for another 24 hours.
After a full 48 hours on the newspaper, transfer mushroom to a plain cardboard box and store in a warm, dry place (i.e. on top of a radiator or the kitchen stove after a day of cooking) for another 24 hours.
They will be fully dried by this time and can to stored in airtight glass jars until needed.
To Salt Mushrooms:
Quickly blanch prepared mushrooms and allow to cool.
Combine mushrooms and salt in a bowl at a ratio of 100g salt to 600g cooked mushrooms. Stir to combine.
Transfer mushrooms and salt to glass jars, pack tightly, and store until needed in a cool, dark place.