The Harz: awesome mushroom mountains

For the first time we would like to test our luck and go mushroom picking in the Harz. At the end of October, a mix of cooler temperatures and sunshine awaits us with a varied nature experience. Especially the diversity of the different species surprises us.

xFor years a friend has reported on exceptionally good sites near Bad Grund and regularly shows us his basket of delicious porcini mushrooms, bay boletes, chanterelles and red caps. In addition, he repeatedly emphasizes that Walkenried in the Southern Harz Mountains and Stolberg in the Eastern Harz Mountains are home to many rather rare mushroom species. We put this to the test and chose a rather less touristy mixed deciduous forest in the northwestern Harz near Langelsheim.

“The thrill of going ‘mushrooming’.”

What is the attraction of going “mushrooming” anyway? For Viktor Schmidt, who comes from Ledde in Westphalia to the Harz Mountains, the experience of nature is the most important thing – the beauty and smell of the forest, especially in the months of September and October.

Viktor Schmidt from Ledde near Tecklenburg with a parasol. Right: On a decayed tree stump the Honey mushroom grows with preference.

“You feel a bit like a treasure hunter, you are completely concentrated and totally relaxed”, Christian from Braunschweig says on the same question, “if you don’t scan the ground like a sniffer dog and check small elevations in autumn leaves, you will miss a lot”.

Christian from Braunschweig is happy about the first find of the day. Right: Bay boletes love moss.

Already at the start of our mushroom hike, the various parts of the forest are carefully inspected. An increased spruce stand speaks rather for porcini mushrooms and bay bolete, which feel well, however, also under oaks and beeches.

“Tasty as a Wiener schnitzel”

Viktor Schmidt is currently dealing with a parasol. “If you cut off a mushroom at the bottom of the stem or carefully twist it out you will not harm the mycelium”, he says and admits knowing only a very small part of the 14,000 mushroom species growing in Germany. He strongly advises against eating a mushroom that could not be clearly identified beforehand on the basis of several very distinctive characteristics. “Many species are poisonous to deadly,” warns Schmidt. A mushroom app on your mobile phone could be a great help.

After a rather cool October morning, the first rays of sunshine are great for mushroom pickers. Right: The mushroom basket is already well filled after a short time.

“The parasol will be breaded and fried in a pan tonight,” says Viktor Schmidt, looking forward to the nutty-tasting delicacy, which some say tastes like a Wiener schnitzel. When raw, however, the parasol is poisonous, as is the honey mushroom, of which only the hat should be eaten. Both mushrooms are eatable only after a roasting or cooking time of at least 15 minutes.

Mushroom picking in the Harz: “The whole year is mushroom season”

Mushroom pickers are great mystery-mongers and are reluctant to reveal their favourite areas. Already at dawn many go on a treasure hunt, so that nobody can preempt them. Of course it is advantageous to know the relevant places, but even those who, like us, simply test their luck will not be disappointed in the Harz mountains, especially if it had rained in September and October in mild weather. The experts say that mushroom picking is possible all year round, so even in spring or winter you can find delicious eatable mushrooms such as morels, shaggy inkcap or St. George’s mushroom.

Text, pictures and design: Michael and Jochen Hotop

Harz mountains: Mushroom Eldorado

Why are the Harz mountains such a special Eldorado for mushroom pickers? This is due to the many different rock formations and soils, but also due to the diverse deciduous and coniferous forests. However, in the Harz National Park, which covers about ten percent of the northernmost low mountain range in Germany, collecting is prohibited.