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FINNISH MUSHROOMS

Important note: The information given on this site applies to Finland and Finnish mushrooms only.

Boletus mushroom Finland is mushroom picker's paradise, yet only a fraction of the hundreds of edible wild mushroom species growing throughout the vast Finnish forests is picked for consumption.

Most Finns have traditionally thought all mushrooms to be "food fit only for cows", except those living in eastern Finland, near the border to Russia, where mushrooms have been a valued delicacy for centuries.

Fortunately more and more Finns are starting to appreciate mushrooms and the various delicious dishes prepared with them. Used on their own or mixed with cultivated mushrooms, wild mushrooms are an indispensable ingredient in the Nordic cuisine.

Nordic boletus and brittlegill mushrooms In picture on right: a nice amount of brittlegill and boletus mushrooms picked during an evening walk in the nearby forest, a couple of minutes away from our city apartment's doorstep.

Even in the capital cities of the Nordic countries, clean, unspoiled nature is easily and freely accessible  —  one of the many benefits of living in Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark or Iceland.


See also:

Collecting and handling mushrooms

Brittlegill The Finnish mushroom season extends roughly from early May to late November. Most of the best edible mushrooms are collected from late summer to early autumn.

Mushrooms mainly grow in forests, but they can also be found in gardens, parks and roadsides or on fields, pastures and lawns.

But since many mushrooms absorb heavy metals (lead, mercury, cadmium, etc) and can store radioactive elements, they should not be collected near heavily trafficked roads, highways, freeways/motorways, industrial areas, city centres or other polluted areas. A distance safe for picking mushrooms is a minimum of 25 metres from lightly trafficked roads and a minimum of 50 metres from heavily trafficked roads (motorways).

Brittlegills It is best to pick mushrooms when the weather is fair and dry. Only pick mushrooms that you can definitely identify as edible and preferably detach them whole from the ground. There are no easily recognizable differences between non-poisonous and poisonous mushrooms.

In unclear cases, it is advisable to contact a qualified mushroom specialist or organization for help in identifying the mushroom in question. Producing a whole, intact mushroom makes identification easier.

Clean the mushrooms from dirt, debris and/or maggots straight away on the collecting spot and place them in a large, airy basket. Preferably keep the different species apart. All mushrooms should be processed as soon as possible after they have been picked. They start deteriorating very rapidly. Always follow the specific processing instructions given to each mushroom species in question to avoid poisonings. It is safest never to eat mushrooms raw, not even the cultivated varieties.

Mushroom nutrition

Mushrooms Mushrooms are light and nutritious food. They are rich in essential minerals, proteins, vitamins and fibre and low in fat. On the average, mushrooms contain more minerals than certain vegetables, most importantly potassium, phosphorus, zinc, selenium and copper.

Similarly to fish, mushrooms are an excellent source of vitamin D, especially the chanterelles and funnel chanterelles. Mushrooms also contain vitamins A and B.

Certain mushrooms contain a natural sugar trehalose, which is converted into glucose in the digestive system with the help of the enzyme trehalase. Some individuals lack this enzyme and suffer from trehalose intolerance. After consuming mushrooms, they may develop abdominal symptoms similar to those caused by lactose intolerance. Finnish mushrooms containing the highest amount of trehalose are penny-bun (Boletus edulis), chanterelle (Cantharellus cibarius), gypsy mushroom (Rozites caperatus), terracotta hedgehog (Hydnum rufescens) and wood hedgehog (Hydnum repandum).

Poisonous mushrooms and their identification

Fly agaric Some wild mushrooms are toxic, even lethal if consumed, so great care has to be taken to know which ones to eat. The best way to start learning to identify wild mushrooms is to go and pick them with a mushroom expert as a guide.

The traditional way for Finnish small children to identify mushrooms is to go picking them with their parents and grandparents, learning from them as they go along.

However, as the latest scientific studies and more developed research methods may reveal new, previously unknown facts about mushrooms and their safety, the old, traditional knowledge should be checked and brought up to date from time to time.

In Finland, there are several mycological societies operating throughout the country providing information about mushrooms and organizing field trips to collect them, on which one can learn to identify some of the most important species. Some also offer free events for identifying mushrooms collected and brought in by the public.

False morel Some edible and toxic mushrooms may easily be confused with one another. Whenever a mushroom cannot be identified with an absolute certainty, it must not be used for consumption. It is best to learn to identify only three to four most commonly consumed wild mushroom species and concentrate in collecting those solely.

It should also be noted that some mushrooms that are slightly toxic, or even lethal when raw, may still be safely consumed if processed following the specific instructions given to the species in question, resulting in removing or reducing their harmful substances or toxins.

Some toxins in mushrooms are cumulative, so they may not cause any symptoms right away, but after years of continuous consumption. Other toxins can also cause poisoning if consumed together with alcohol.

As freshly picked mushrooms start deteriorating very rapidly, large amount of mushroom poisonings are also caused by people having eaten safely edible, but spoiled mushrooms.

Destroying angel People react differently to mushroom toxins, some being more sensitive to them than others, having allergic reactions or more pronounced symptoms. These kinds of persons, as well as children and pregnant women, should be especially careful when consuming wild mushrooms or avoid eating them altogether.

Toxicity of a certain mushroom species, or the way the toxin affects people, may vary in different parts of the world, so you should always follow the most up-to-date national food safety guidelines of your own country, instead of adapting instructions for picking or cooking wild mushrooms followed in some other country, even if they are for the same species.

Keep track of the most recent mushroom research and studies issued by scientists and mycologists and the guidelines for consuming or processing mushrooms released by your local food safety authorities, as they may provide vital new information about certain mushrooms and their safety. For example, some mushrooms previously thought to be safely edible, have been discovered to contain harmful, even toxic substances (eg the brown rollrim, Paxillus involutus, which contains cumulative toxins), and some traditional processing methods found to be ineffective in removing toxic substances from mushrooms (like the process of drying false morels, which was previously believed to remove or reduce their toxin to a safe level).

See a list for some poisonous Finnish mushrooms.


Listed below are some of the best edible Finnish mushrooms.

Boletes  —  cepes, porcini

Highly esteemed by any mushroom collector and gourmet, boletes are considered as some of Finland's finest and most delicious mushrooms. They are easily recognizable by having small pores instead of gills on the underside of their caps.

Most Finnish boletes are safe to consume, but there are a few inedible species, which have an unpleasant flavour, eg the bile-tasting bitter bolete (Tylopilus felleus), or are suspected to be mildly, but not dangerously, toxic.

In addition, the various species of safely edible orange boletes (aspen/birch/pine/spruce/oak bolete) may irritate the digestive system causing stomachache, nausea and/or vomiting if they are not properly cooked.

Boletes can be fried, stewed, marinated and used to make soups, or they can be preserved by pickling, drying, salting or freezing. They are added to pies, various fillings and stuffings, sauces, stews and ragouts, risottos, hamburger mixtures, omelettes, pancake batters, bread and flatbread doughs, and a multitude of other dishes.

Listed below are the best varieties of Finnish boletes used for cooking.

Boletus varieties

Boletus varieties

Boletus
Boletus

Slippery jacks
Young slippery jacks or
larch boletes
(Suillus grevillei)

Symbols: * = edible
** = good
*** = delicious

  • Brown birch bolete (Leccinum scabrum) **
  • Orange aspen bolete (Leccinum aurantiacum) **
  • Orange birch bolete (Leccinum versipelle) **
  • Orange pine bolete, foxy bolete (Leccinum vulpinum) **
  • Penny-bun, cep (Boletus edulis) ***
  • Pine bolete (Boletus pinophilus, B. pinicola) ***
  • Slippery jack (Suillus luteus) ***
  • Summer bolete (Boletus reticulatus) ***
  • Velvet bolete (Suillus variegatus) **

Brittlegills  —  russulas

The brightly-coloured, mild-tasting brittlegills are highly esteemed in Finnish cooking.

As both their Finnish and English names indicate, brittlegills have a delicate, somewhat dry texture which crumbles easily.

Most Finnish brittlegills have a very mild flavour and can safely be used fresh, prepared in many ways (fried, stewed, salted, pickled, dried, frozen) or even eaten raw (although not recommended). Any inedible varieties may be easily recognized by their bitter flavour.

The varieties listed below are those most commonly picked in Finland.

Brittlegill varieties

Brittlegill varieties

Brittlegill Yellow swamp brittlegill Brittlegill
  • Bare-toothed russula, the flirt (Russula vesca) ***
  • Copper brittlegill (Russula decolorans) **
  • Crab brittlegill (Russula xerampelina) ***
  • Darkening brittlegill (Russula obscura, R. vinosa) **
  • Green brittlegill (Russula aeruginea) ***
  • Tall russula (Russula paludosa) **
  • Yellow swamp brittlegill (Russula claroflava,
    R. flava)
    ***
Symbols: * = edible
** = good
*** = delicious

Milkcaps

Milkcaps are easily identified by the droplets of milky liquid, latex, they exude when cut or broken. The latex of pallid, pickle, rufous and woolly milkcaps is milky white and that of saffron and spruce milkcaps bright orange-red.

To get rid of their bitter taste, most types of milkcaps need to be parboiled before use, preferably twice or thrice. The woolly milkcap also contains some toxic substances but becomes harmless after thorough parboiling.

Milkcaps are most commonly used to prepare salted mushrooms. Listed below are the varieties most commonly used for cooking.

Rufous milkcaps

Rufous milkcaps

Woolly milkcap
Woolly milkcap
Pickle milkcaps
Pickle milkcaps

  • Pallid milkcap (Lactarius utilis) O**
  • Pickle milkcap (Lactarius trivialis) O**
  • Rufous milkcap (Lactarius rufus) O*
  • Saffron milkcap (Lactarius deliciosus) ***
  • Spruce milkcap (Lactarius deterrimus) **
  • Woolly milkcap (Lactarius torminosus) O**
Symbols: O* = edible after parboiling
O** = good after parboiling
** = good
*** = delicious
Woolly milkcaps
Woolly milkcaps
Rufous milkcaps
Rufous milkcaps

Other edible Finnish mushrooms (commercially utilized species only)
For boletes, brittlegills and milkcaps, see here.
 

Wild mushrooms:

    Family Cantharellaceae:
  • Chanterelle (Cantharellus cibarius)
  • Funnel chanterelle, trumpet chanterelle (Cantharellus tubaeformis)
  • Horn of plenty (Craterellus cornucopioides)
  • Yellow-footed chanterelle (Cantharellus lutescens, C. xanthopus)
    Family Cortinariaceae:
  • Gypsy mushroom (Rozites caperatus)
    Family Hydnaceae:
  • Terracotta hedgehog (Hydnum rufescens)
  • Wood hedgehog (Hydnum repandum)
    Family Hygrophoraceae:
  • Arched woodwax (Hygrophorus camarophyllus)
    Family Morchellaceae:
  • Conical morel (Morchella conica, M. elata)
  • Round morel, yellow morel (Morchella esculenta)
    Family Polyporaceae:
  • Sheep polypore (Albatrellus ovinus)
    Family Tricholomataceae:
  • Boreal honey mushroom (Armillaria borealis)
  • Fine-scaly honey mushroom (Armillaria cepistipes)
  • Matsutake, pine mushroom (Tricholoma matsutake)
  • Yellow honey mushroom (Armillaria mellea)
Chanterelles
Chanterelles

Hedgehog fungi
Hedgehog fungi

Funnel chanterelles
Funnel chanterelles

Cultivated mushrooms:

  • Champignons (Agaricus spp.)
  • Shiitake (Lentinula edodes)
  • Oyster mushroom (Pleurotus ostreatus)
  • King oyster mushroom (Pleurotus eryngii)
  • Enoki mushroom, velvet shank (Flammulina velutipes)
  • Sheathed woodtuft (Kuehneromyces mutabilis)
  • Paddy straw mushroom (Volvariella volvacea)
  • Wood ears (Auricularia spp.)

Cultivated shiitake mushrooms Cultivated shiitake mushrooms

Cultivated button mushrooms
Cultivated button
mushrooms (champignons)

Cultivated brown champignons
Cultivated brown champignons

Cultivated oyster mushrooms
Cultivated oyster mushrooms
Cultivated king oyster mushrooms
Cultivated king oyster mushrooms


Poisonous mushrooms

Fly agaric There are about 50 to 60 species of toxic wild mushrooms growing in Finland, a few of which may cause death if consumed. The poisonous substances in toxic mushrooms are divided in three main categories:

  • The protoplasmic poisons, destroying human cells and causing failures in internal organs, especially in liver and kidneys, which may lead to death. Except from false morels, protoplasmic poisons cannot be removed from mushrooms by any processing method.
      Examples: destroying angel (Amanita virosa), deathcap (Amanita phalloides), deadly webcap (Cortinarius rubellus), false morel (Gyromitra esculenta), etc.

  • The neurotoxins, affecting the nervous system causing neurological symptoms like convulsions, hallucinations, depression, coma, etc.
      Examples: fly agaric (Amanita muscaria), brown fly agaric (Amanita regalis), panthercap (Amanita pantherina), ivory funnel (Clitocybe dealbata), some fibrecaps (Inocybe spp.) and brownies (Psilocybe spp.), liberty cap/magic mushroom (Psilocybe semilanceata), etc.

    False deathcaps

  • The gastrointestinal irritants, causing abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, etc.
      Examples: sulphur tuft (Hypholoma fasciculare), fenugreek milkcap (Lactarius helvus), bloodred webcap (Cortinarius sanguineus), conifer roundhead (Stropharia hornemannii), sulphur knight (Tricholoma sulphureum), booted knight (Tricholoma focale) and many pinkgills (Entoloma spp.), among others.
    Also many safely edible mushrooms irritate the digestive tract if eaten raw or insufficiently cooked  —  note, however, that some of the example mushrooms listed below are not recommended for consumption at all by mushroom experts.
      Examples: shiitake (Lentinula edodes), brown birch bolete (Leccinum scabrum), orange boletes (Leccinum spp.), honey mushrooms (Armillaria spp.), wood blewit (Lepista nuda), clouded funnel (Clitocybe nebularis), shaggy parasol (Chlorophyllum rhacodes), chicken of the woods (Laetiporus sulphureus), blusher (Amanita rubescens), some corals (Ramaria spp.) as well as any bitter-tasting milkcaps and brittlegills.

    In addition, some generally non-toxic mushrooms contain disulfiram-like toxins that cause poisoning only if combined with alcohol.

      Examples: inkcap (Coprinus atramentarius), freckled dapperling (Lepiota aspera), club foot (Clitocybe clavipes), lurid bolete (Boletus luridus).

Shaggy scalycaps Symptoms for mushroom poisoning may occur right after consuming the mushroom, or they may appear several hours later, sometimes even several days later.

Mild symptoms include stomachache, headache, nausea and dizziness. More violent symptoms include vomiting, diarrhoea, balance disorders, disorders in nervous system, and fever. When suspecting a mushroom poisoning, it is vital to seek medical care promptly.

Treatment for mushroom poisoning will be more effective if the species of the mushroom or mushrooms ingested are known, so producing a specimen, whether some scraps of the raw mushrooms, any leftovers from the meal or even gastric vomit if the patient has been sick, can help in the identification.

Some poisonous Finnish mushrooms:

    Family Agaricaceae:
  • Freckled dapperling (Lepiota aspera)
    Family Amanitaceae:
  • Brown fly agaric (Amanita regalis) ††
  • Deathcap (Amanita phalloides) †††
  • Destroying angel (Amanita virosa) †††
  • False deathcap (Amanita citrina)
  • Fly agaric (Amanita muscaria) ††
  • Grey-veiled amanita (Amanita porphyria)
  • Panthercap (Amanita pantherina) ††
Symbols: = poisonous
†† = dangerously poisonous
††† = deadly poisonous

    Family Coprinaceae:
  • Inkcap 1 (Coprinus atramentarius)
    Family Cortinariaceae:
  • Deadly fibrecap (Inocybe erubescens) †††
  • Deadly webcap (Cortinarius rubellus) †††
  • Gentle cort, deadly cort (Cortinarius gentilis) ††
  • Split fibrecap (Inocybe rimosa)
  • Sunset webcap (Cortinarius limonius)
  • White fibrecap (Inocybe geophylla)
    Family Crepidotaceae:
  • Funeral bell (Galerina marginata) ††
    Family Entolomataceae:
  • Livid pinkgill (Entoloma sinuatum) ††
    Family Helvellaceae:
  • False morel 2 (Gyromitra esculenta) †††
    Family Paxillaceae:
  • Brown rollrim 3 (Paxillus involutus) ††
    Family Russulaceae:
  • Fenugreek milkcap (Lactarius helvus)
    Family Sclerodermataceae:
  • Earthball (Scleroderma citrinum)
    Family Strophariaceae:
  • Magic mushroom, liberty cap (Psilocybe semilanceata)
  • Sulphur tuft (Hypholoma fasciculare)
    Family Tricholomataceae:
  • Sulphur knight (Tricholoma sulphureum)

1) - Inkcap causes poisoning symptoms only if consumed together with alcohol. Alcohol must neither be ingested for about one day before and a minimum of three days after eating this mushroom.
2) - False morel is deadly toxic if consumed raw. Nevertheless, false morels are commercially sold and regularly consumed in Finland.
Read more about the Finnish false morel fungi and their consumption here.

3) - Brown rollrim contains cumulative toxins.

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