Friday, August 27, 2010

Gatherer's harvest - treasures of the forest

Summer is clearly over here in Finland, where I came couple of days ago. The beginning of autumn brings different kind of activities after the summer of lazy afternoons in record-breaking high temperatures.

One of my favorite activities during this season is to go mushroom hunting. -  The fierce beasts of deep forests, beware -here I come!!!

Today the temperature was hovering around pleasant 18 deg Celsius (I coulda easily handled couple of deg's more, though) and me, my mom and my godmother went to the woods that surrounds my godmother's new house. The day was pretty perfect for a mushroom hunt. It had been raining some in past two days, so the expectations of finding some 'shrooms were high.

Cool autumn sun in Mervi forest.

Mushrooms seem to be just the thing for me: one can have a relaxed stroll in the forest and (hopefully) find occasional mushroom here and there sticking out of the ground. Quantity doesn't need to be that humongous and one will already have something to cook. My patience runs thin very fast what comes to picking berries or such. - Waaaayys too much work for any kind of decent amount. 


Mushrooms can also be frustrating at times, I admit that, especially if you don't find any =) At those times I ofter get the definite feeling of them 'shrooms laughing at me behind my back.

"Njännäjjäänjäänjäää, she didn't see us, she didn't see us here under the spruce!"
But usually, if you manage to find one you will find more, since the mushrooms tend to grow in sort of circular clusters.

I don't know soooo much about mushrooms, so I usually tend to stick to those few I know well, -so to say beyond the possibility of making a mistake with them. Luckily, in the Finnish forests there is only couple of really deadly mushrooms, it's more the question of totally spoiling your dish with something that tastes like puke or dung. The deadly ones are also quite distinctive in design, so they are pretty easy to to tell apart from the edible ones.

Chanterelle is probably THE all time favorite mushroom in Finland. There are many reasons for this. It's relatively common, very easy to recognize because of it's bright color and particular shape. It's not as easy to find though as one would expect, because the autumn leaves on the forest floor try to hide it pretty effectively. These guys just below here were remarkably easy to spot, so this it the dream situation =)


Chanterelle is very much appreciated also because of the ease of the use of it. It just needs to be brushed clean (there is very rarely any bugs or maggots in it) and then it can be thrown to frying pan with little bit of butter, onion, salt and white pepper. And Voilá, there you have it! Delicious, simple and absolutely delicious!

These are about 5cm in diameter

It was clear that someone had hit the source already before me, but luckily chanterelle grows quite fast and has many "rounds" during it's season, roughly from July to end of October. The ones I found today were relatively small, but never mind, they'll be just as tasty.

For more facts on any Finnish mushroom, check out this page: Fungi in Finland and Sweden and what they say about chanterelle.

The safe catch: Shape and color almost impossible to get wrong.

Sheep polyphore
Another mushroom that I quite fancy is a white one called sheep polyphore, but one has to be really lucky and find them real young. This mushroom is almost always totally infested with maggots and cannot therefore be used. But today I managed to find about dozen of really cute baby-sized polyphores, that were totally maggot-free. This one is also very simple to prepare, just clean and fry.

Sheep polyphore

Penny buns
Boletus edulis aka penny bun or porcino is the biggest export mushroom of Finland and this seems to be a year when the forest really yields plentifully. I've never seen so many so clean and big penny buns on one go before. Also my godmother was astonished, and she's been walking these forests for past forty years.

These mushrooms are also delicious without much of hassle. They just need to be cleaned and sliced and they're ready to go to the frying pan with some olive oil, pepper, parsley and salt to turn into sort of mushroom steaks.

Of course there is a huge variety of different kind of brilliant recipes for mushrooms, but somehow I just like them best in pretty simple ways. Then you can still really taste the mushroom itself without conflicting it with other flavors. Matter of taste. And I guess there is so many chanterelle now that they'll turn easily into a pie -I'll keep you guys posted on how that turns out, stay tuned =) =)

Penny bun

All in all, I just like to walk in the woods occasionally. If it's nice cool weather and the forest floor is dryish, it's just perfect a place to go minding one's own business. Never mind the mushrooms or other forest bounty, the biggest yield can actually come out of one's head.

No wonder they call the forest "the poor man's church".

Nonetheless, we did find something during our short outing. In just one hour (my mom was the first to give up) we came up with this:

Our Penny bun catch: Biggest ones nearly 20cm in diameter

Quite a nice lot of chanterelle and sheep polyphore

Nice, huh?

This is one of the things we created:

A creamy chanterelle pie with some leek. Yummy...

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Bundesfeier Im Fluss

Kulturfloss Im Fluss
Im Fluss is an open-air festival that has been organized in Basel for quite some years already and they always have programm for approximately two weeks offering a concert practically every night on a little raft moored just next to the Mittlere Brücke in downtown.The festival starts always on the last week of July.

The audience can sit on the stairs by the river bank or on the restaurant terraces to enjoy the concerts. I really like this festival since it's free and very popular and I always meet there whole lot of people that are usually somehow not so often on the move.

Im Fluss, the raft

The river bank

1st of August is the Independence Day of Switzerland. To honor the day city of Basel organizes every year a humongous fireworks spectacle among other things. They bring two barges to the Rhein near the Mittlere Brücke and both barges shoot in sync like there was no tomorrow. This is bigger than any New Year and widely know also outside Switzerland.

Prelude: Fireworks by Chill am Rhy restaurant

Anticipated waiting

Most of Basel and whole lot of  visitors all come to the river to observe the spectacle. At the same time the open-air festival Im Fluss is also going on, so they offer usually two bands to entertain the audience while waiting for the fireworks.

Roli Frei & the Soulful Desert

Hundreds of little lanterns were released

- A benefit for Camerun organized by FAIRMED

Since I was also this year setting the equipment up for the festival, I was privileged to go see the fireworks from the raft. This is a very cool option since the river bank is totally jam-packed with people and you have to elbow your way in and crane your neck to see something. This you can see in a photo above, I guess. Instead of this, I could go on the raft where there was only something like 20 people and I could lay back on the floor. Real chill!!!

Albeit it's bit crowded by the river, it's definately worth seeing, at least once in your life if you happen to be in the neigborhood. This was for me the first time I saw it properly, previous years I've been somewhere further away. But this time, I was really in the heart of it all, soooo coooool.

This year the show lasted something like 25 minutes with enormously big rockets. It seems to get bigger every year... I would be really interested to know how much they invest into this =)

One of the two barges, some 30m away from the raft

Below you can see a little fraction of the show.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Spaktekel in Dornach

On a gray Saturday on July we drove to Dornach to check out this open-air festival organized on an old castle ruins there. Dornach is a little village on the Baselland canton, just outside Basel city.

Old drawing of the castle Dornach
castle today (photo source: Rockets)

a real lousy photo of one of the stages

The festival is called Spaktekel Burgruinen-Fest and this was, as far as I could figure, the fifth time it was organized. From the outside the entrance looked pretty much the same as any other festival would, but inside it was somewhat different. It felt instantly like I had stepped through a timemachinen and landed somewhere in the Middle Ages. Or at least a live action role play of those times. Amongst the colorful tents there were fair maidens in their long gowns and knights in shiny armors scurrying about. ( The rest of the population was mostly Goths dressed in black with occasional "Muggle" here and there.

Mead (honeywine, which the hobbits also greatly enjoy) was being drunken out of horns and guys were competing in ax-throwing and archery. The whole area was lit only by candles and torches and there was also a fire-show late in the evening.

The bands performing at the festival were mostly somehow medieval or celtic tuned; lots of flutes, drums, bagpipes, vocals arranged to many layers like the Vikings used to do. For a sample check out Kel Amrun or Ilsah.

Flyer, photo by Verein Spaktekel

fuzzy atmospheric pic

This festival was a very nice and laid-back experience for me. And suitable for the whole family, so there was relatively lots of kids too. I also especially enjoyed the fact that it is not soooo commercial and merchandise-oriented, but more about just like-minded people hanging out and enjoying music. -And mead, of course. By, the Viking Blood was good, -red and strong, not too sweet. No wonder it's the bestseller of the manufacturer Imkerei.