‘Mushrooms Have Kidnapped You’: Pandemic Feeds Russia’s Obsession With Forest Fungi

Joseph B. Hash

For quite a few folks all-around the earth, the coronavirus pandemic has been an excuse to discover a homey new talent like knitting or pastry-producing. For Russians, it’s all about the mushrooms. “I go each and every other working day and just can’t get ample. I want much more, much […]

For quite a few folks all-around the earth, the coronavirus pandemic has been an excuse to discover a homey new talent like knitting or pastry-producing.

For Russians, it’s all about the mushrooms.

“I go each and every other working day and just can’t get ample. I want much more, much more, much more,” claims Svetlana Gladysheva, who has experienced much more time than usual to hunt for fungi in the woods, since the theater where she runs a cafeteria was closed. “My partner explained to me: ‘I’m frightened to shed you. Mushrooms have kidnapped you,’ ” she adds.

Foraging for mushrooms is a longstanding custom in Russia. In accordance to a 2019 survey by the Russian Public Feeling Research Centre, nearly 50 percent the population in the greatest towns, St. Petersburg and Moscow, take part.

That was ahead of the pandemic still left folks with confined vacation alternatives and much more time on their fingers. This calendar year, a St. Petersburg-centered mushrooming group on the social-media website VK has nearly doubled to above 39,000, according to Anton Kubyshkin, the administrator of the of St. Petersburg-centered group.

Pickers compete on their gathering rates of mushrooms for each hour and exhibit off their cabinets laden with Mason jars stuffed with marinated and salted fungi, a staple of Russian cuisine.

It doesn’t hurt that this has been a banner calendar year for mushrooms in the boreal forests hugging St. Petersburg.

‘I go each and every other working day and can not get ample. I want much more, much more, much more,’ claims Svetlana Gladysheva.



Photo:

Svetlana Gladysheva

“Mushrooms begun coming in really early and in huge quantities,” stated Alexey Prozorov, who took a crack from taxi driving to make a residing selling these items of the forest this summer time.

Early every single morning Mr. Prozorov places on rain boots and heads out to the boggy woods of pine, fir, birch and aspen with a thermos of coffee and a pack of cigarettes. He arranges to offer the mushrooms by means of on the net social networks straight from the woods.

A single of the document setters is Natalya Pudovkina, who delivers in these significant hauls that she purchases special baskets designed out of extra-resilient vines shipped from The united states, she claims. Ms. Pudovkina claims an obsession with mushroom choosing is an “inherited disease” in her circumstance, and she is often joined on mushrooming hunts by her ninety one-calendar year-old grandmother.

Natalya Pudovkina, a nurse, posted a image of herself with a indication studying: ‘Have the mushrooms come in nonetheless?’



Photo:

Natalya Pudovkina

Ms. Pudovkina, a nurse who worked extended shifts in a hospital managing Covid-19 clients previously this calendar year, was nervous she’d pass up out on the time completely. Back in May well she posted a image of herself from the hospital, sporting a white hazmat accommodate, goggles, and shoe handles, holding a handwritten indication in her gloved fingers that go through: “Have the mushrooms come in nonetheless?”

Her persistence was rewarded. Ms. Pudovkina established a private document, gathering about a one,000 mushrooms with her mom on a a few-hour hunt.

“It was horrific,” Ms. Pudovkina stated about the extended night time her total relatives put in cleaning, freezing, drying and marinating the mushrooms.

The subsequent working day Ms. Pudovkina was again in the woods.

A little something else driving the mania this calendar year in St. Petersburg is the popular visual appeal of the coveted king bolete, identified as porcini by Italians. These mushrooms improve in complex symbiotic interactions with the encompassing trees, and experts know minimal about what influences their advancement, according to Liudmila B. Kalinina, a junior researcher in the Komarov Botanical Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

Ms. Pudovkina employs special baskets designed out of extra-resilient vines to have her haul.



Photo:

Natalya Pudovkina

Ms. Pudovkina’s ninety one calendar year-old grandmother Anna Davidenko.



Photo:

Natalya Pudovkina

Encountering a king bolete, with its bulbous white stem, topped by a reddish brown cap with a porous white underside, let alone filling a complete basket with the mushroom, generates a significant and pushes foragers to return to the woods for their subsequent fix.

When Ms. Gladysheva, the head of the theater cafeteria, initially receives to the forest, frequently at the crack of dawn, she initially sees just the moss, the dry leaves, and the branches sprinkled with dew. But then she spots a mushroom. “I want to squeal from joy. I sense like a pet greeting its operator,” Ms. Gladysheva claims about obtaining fungi.

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On a current excursion Ms. Gladysheva and a pal immediately packed two baskets with mushrooms, as nicely as a jacket that they utilised as an extra sack. On the way again to the car or truck, they lost their way, experienced to cross a river on a slender log and tear via a thick forest comprehensive of tall nettle. Then they received drenched in a downpour.

Did they contemplate leaving some of the mushrooms to totally free their fingers?

“Are you kidding? That is our catch. That is our treasured cargo. We nevertheless received residence happy.”

Mushroom choosing can even strengthen interactions, according to Svetlana Kostyanaya, a beautician whose small business was place on maintain for a even though for the duration of the pandemic. When cooped up at residence she was obtaining much more arguments with her partner, but their new passion assisted.

“When we fill our baskets, peace and adore sets in,” Ms. Kostyanaya claims.

Alexey Prozorov’s bounty of mushrooms.



Photo:

Alexey Prozorov

On the other hand, it can also cause anxiety as pals compete on the exact same terrain.

Previously this summer time, Ms. Pudovkina, the nurse, invited Mr. Kubyshkin, the social-media administrator, to join her. And when he saw Ms. Pudovkina’s magic formula mushroom patches, Mr. Kubyshkin claims, he lost his head.

Concerning July 20 and August three, he returned to that exact same region nine moments, acquiring to the forest at three a.m., just as the sunlight was about to rise in the northern region, choosing and then heading to function fatigued.

“One time I did sense a minimal responsible and apologized,” he claims about poaching Ms. Pudovkina’s areas.

Yana Oparina discovered to use a compass and received a vuvuzela to scare off wild animals for her new passion of mushroom choosing.



Photo:

Anton Kubyshkin

Yana Oparina received severe about the “quiet hunt”—a Russian name for mushrooming—this calendar year. At age 32, she discovered how to use a compass by means of YouTube and received a vuvuzela that she blows into upon arrival in the woods to scare off any wild animals. She functions on a remote basis this calendar year and has organized her timetable all-around her mushroom hunts, she claims.

Not all of her trips ended up successful. Ms. Oparina has gotten lost, her pal sank thigh deep in a bog, and she experienced to dump a single day’s really worth of choosing following mastering the mushrooms grew too close to an industrial website. The deer flies, having said that, have been the worst.

“Every time I go to the woods, I encounter a psychosis since of these deer flies,” Ms. Oparina claims. “They crawl in your hair, they crawl all above you, they cause horrible irritation.” Still, she adds, “That doesn’t cease me since I definitely adore choosing mushrooms.”

Generate to Yuliya Chernova at [email protected]

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