Almost all mushroom species in the ridge forest are pine tree companions. These mushrooms grow according to the green vegetation surrounding them, in this case, pine roots. This relationship is symbiotic and called mycorrhiza. Mushroom picking is also beneficial to the pine or even vital because the fungi improve the availability of water and nutrients in the soil. Part of the ridge’s fungal species include wood-rotting fungi, which ensure that the natural nutrients in organic material are returned to the nutrient cycle. Without fungi decomposing trees the ridge would be covered with a thick layer of needles.
Edible mushrooms of special interest to mushroom hunters are also found on the ridge. However, it is best to head to the fringes of the ridge where the groundwater is often closer to the surface and the growth conditions for mushrooms are more favourable for the formation of spores. The mushroom season begins in May where mineral soil has been exposed to reveal morels.
The morel is a valued edible mushroom but only after its toxicity has been taken away. It contains tissue destroying gyromitrin unless it is boiled twice for at least 10 minutes. As morel breaks down cellulose, it is possible to “cultivate” the species by digging newspapers into the places where morels are present. If cultivation succeeds, a crop can be harvested for several years.
Another harvestable mushroom is the gypsy mushroom, whose use is infrequent due to its appearance, which people connect with the deadly fibrecap, even though the species is easy to recognise. The gypsy mushroom is a medium-sized, brown-yellow mushroom, which is egg-like when growing on the ground. It has grey-coloured gills attached to the white stipe that has a white ring under the cap. Its scent and flavour is mild and good to eat in all types of mushroom dishes. In warm, humid summers, it is a very fertile mushroom, filling the mushroom basket fast.
Photos: Jyrki Oja