Autumn Foraging

By Zhayra Escalona

In a city far from nature, autumn days go by as if autumn were not present. If it weren’t for the decreasing temperatures and the dampness of the day, one would see no difference between the warmer seasons and the colder ones. Life is limited to the everyday routine, nothing particularly seasonal springing to mind; simply, working indoors, whether it is October or March, in a pristine and rather modern building, with poor Wi-Fi but nevertheless great access to 4G reception. 

One would think this to be an advantage when compared to being surrounded by hills and mountains dotted with poor reception areas and unveiling trail after trail with no signs of civilisation. 

But if there is something that “lack of” teaches well, it is to be able to appreciate “what we have” much more. 

This is a story on the nostalgia resulting from resourcefulness soaked in centuries’ worth of tradition: the art of foraging during early autumn. 

I recall the days spent in the Little Carpathians, with golden rusty leaves up to the ankles as I ventured off the main trail, basket in hand, in search of… wild mushrooms. A lot more fun than popping by a supermarket and paying an exorbitant amount for a couple of chanterelles, mushroom hunting became my favourite pastime as I grew older. Morels, gypsy mushrooms, pine mushrooms, and the good old penny bun, all wonderful for cooking with some butter, onion, and herbs, and, if lucky, with some wild garlic picked during the trip to the forest. 

Not that everything is fun and games – this is a wild game to play, always being watchful for the poisonous neighbours, with their colourful spotted caps (if overt about their true nature), or dense with closed hats (if working more undercover). After all, all mushrooms are edible; but some only once, so it is best to head into the forest with more seasoned eyes and hands to keep you out of hospital. 

With a heavy heart I get up and gather my things thinking of what to make for dinner. In this place of concrete, the best solution to my nostalgia can be bought next door. Convenient? Yes, especially considering that they are pretty much ready to cook, having virtually no dirt to clean. A quick rinse does the trick, instead of having to rub all the soil off and blanching them with boiling water or potentially even having to dry them for later use. 

I envision some beautiful porcini mushrooms, but on a student budget? Button mushrooms are a more sensible (albeit flavourless) purchase. Even if sacrificing taste, and potentially not finding the cure to my nostalgia, I head to the supermarket next door and limit to treasure the memory of autumn days. These days characterised by mist so heavy that droplets hang on to my jacket’s sleeves, as I leave all the city stress behind and head home with a basket full of nature’s autumnal gifts. 

Edited by Amelie de Paepe

Artwork by Chira Tudoran