10.06.2005

swedes hit by fungi fever

SWEDES HIT BY FUNGI FEVER

Stephen Brown

The Seattle Times, August 22, 2005

Stockholm, Sweden (Reuters) - When Prime Minister Goran Persson wanted to cheer up Swedes enduring the wettest summer in 13 years, he first tried promising more jobs. Then, he hit upon their weak spot: mushrooms. “We are having a fantastic mushroom year,” he enthused. He may need a more traditional slogan for next year’s elections but Persson knows that Swedes’ fondness for picking mushrooms verges on the obsessive.

This summer’s weather has been disastrous for sun lovers who normally retreat to Sweden’s islands for swimming and boating. But the hot, dry start to the summer followed by persistent clouds and rain was perfect for fungi. The resulting abundance is frontpage news. “Record year in the mushroom woods,” reads one newspaper headline while another newspaper gave pride of place to “Mushrooms to Avoid,” publishing tips on how to detect poisonous varieties. For the uninitiated, or those wishing to expand their repertoire to include exotic woodland varieties, advice is on hand from about 200 experts recognized by the National Mushroom Consultants’ Association.

Sweden is a paradise for mushroom fans. More than half the country is covered by forests, laws of access give people the right to tramp across farmland and private timber plantations, and there are tracts of forest near all the major cities. Some Swedes even recruit their pets to help hunt mushrooms. Inger Andersson in Eskilstuna, west of Stockholm, said her cat Ville meows when he smells chanterelles and sniffed out 20 quarts of them last year.