Mushrooms symbolizes to me the autumns of my childhood. As far back as I can remember, we used to go for weekend hikes, to pick mushrooms with my parents. Starting in the end of August all through October, we would walk and comb the woods in the mountains, in the immediate vicinity of my birthplace, when I was a little girl.
I was born under the majestic Tatra Mountains, in north eastern Slovakia, in proximity of the Polish border. This part of Europe contains the most pristine and to date, still unspoiled and undiscovered nature.
I am often told by my parents that they experienced the best part of their lives living under these mountains. When I was a child, I spend almost every afternoon with my father in their vicinity. He would take me on long walks, placing me into a stroller or into a sled, depending on the season. One can say, that I spend the first years of my life mostly outdoors, surrounded by breathtaking nature. Perhaps that is when my incurable love for it was born.
Once I start to remember the autumn hikes taken with my family, I see in my memory the golden an red coloured spots here and there, among all the evergreen spruce trees, with the tall snowy peaks of the Tatras as a backdrop. The last five years out of the thirteen which I spend in my home land, preceding the immigration to Sweden, were spend in a more central part of eastern Slovakia. This is a softer natural environment called "The Slovak Paradise". It is a national park, with rolling hills and a multitude of rich wooded areas, lined by pristine meadows; all perfect for mushroom picking in the early onset of autumn.
My parents continued with this traditional autumn activity even upon our relocation to Sweden. In fact, the Swedish nature was abundant with this forest fruit, as the Swedes, or the Scandinavians for that matter, do not really enjoy mushroom picking as much as the central Europeans do. At least they pick quiet different kinds. I still recall the beautiful autumn weekends, when we returned from long hikes with baskets full of mushrooms and the way my mother would prepare these in the evening. The best ones were neatly cleaned, thinly sliced and dried, to be used later in the year in soups and winter cuisine.
Unfortunately, the tradition of mushroom picking has not been passed onto me, nor my sister, I believe. Today I can no longer adequately distinguish the poisonous ones from the edible ones and therefore I do not dare to pick them. A great shame. Particularly, as my backyard offers a plethora of mushrooms right now and most of them I do indeed recognize from the autumn walks I used to take in my childhood.