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DISCOVER SWEDEN

How to pick mushrooms in Sweden like you’ve been doing it all your life

Summer may be drawing to close, but in Sweden there's a consolation: It's mushroom-picking time! Richard Orange discovers five things you need to know.

How to pick mushrooms in Sweden like you've been doing it all your life
Chanterelles are some of the easiest and tastiest mushrooms to pick. Photo: Audun Braastadl/NTB Scanpix/TT

This is the season when many (perhaps even most) Swedes bunk off from work early to roam their local forests, bringing back giant hauls of tasty chanterelles (kantareller), trumpet chanterelles (trattkantareller) and ceps (karljohansvamp).

If you’re in the right part of Sweden, and find a good spot, you can bring back kilos and kilos, which if dried or frozen can keep you going right through to next season. 

But for many foreigners (at least those who don’t come from similarly fungally-fixated nations), it can all seem overwhelming, meaning they miss out on one of the great joys of living in Sweden. 

To know when to go out, study the weather. If there’s been a heavy autumn downpour, that will get the mushrooms growing, with ceps showing up 3-10 days after a heavy downpour and chanterelles taking two to three weeks.

The season is now fully under way from middle Sweden and up, and the first mushrooms are just starting to appear in the Småland and Skåne regions to the south.   

The Local spoke to Patrik Björck, co-founder of the Svamp-Klapp, Sweden’s biggest Facebook mushroom forum, about how to get started. 

1. Only pick (and eat!) what you know

Many beginners tend to uproot the first mushroom they come across and then seek to identify it and see if it’s poisonous or not. Don’t do this. It’s a much better approach to study just one or two of the most common edible mushrooms beforehand and then go out looking only for them.

“Never eat anything you can’t safely identify,” Björck advises, although he stresses this is no reason to be overcautious.

“Do not be scared or intimidated by the number of different mushrooms you encounter: only about 100 of the perhaps 10,000 possible mushrooms you might see are good edibles. But only a couple of handfuls are potentially lethal.”

Chanterelles, trumpet chanterelles and ceps make a good start, and are in fact more or less all the average Swede will pick.

To start off with, stay away from the sort of white mushrooms you might find in supermarkets, as they can quite easily be confused with fungi that are very poisonous indeed. Particularly stay away from white mushrooms with white gills (I don’t dare touch them).


A Norwegian mushroom-hunter removing the root from a chanterelle. Photo: Gorm Kallestad/NTB Scanpix/TT

Chanterelles are most often found in pine woods (although you might find some under beech and oak in Skåne), and hide under fallen leaves, making them hard to spot until you get the knack for it. You’re most likely to find nothing for an hour and then stumble on a patch hiding dozens and dozens, so be patient.

They are yellow and, instead of gills, have ridges which run down the stem a bit with no defined ring dividing them.

The beauty of Chanterelles is that the only thing you can really confuse them with, the false chanterelle (narrkantarell) is only slightly unpleasant tasting and not actually poisonous.

According to Björck, there are two ways of telling the difference: “Flesh colour: Chanterelles will have white, slightly stringy, meat when cut open. False chanterelles will have orange, slightly rubbery, flesh. Scent: chanterelles are apricot-scented, false chanterelles smell of rotting wood.”


A cep, also known as a penny bun mushroom. Photo: Strobilomyces/Wikimedia Commons

The cep is the most popular of the bolete family – in Swedish sopp(ar). It’s the porcini mushroom beloved of Italians, which you can buy in delicatessens sliced and dried for risottos.

But many of the others boletes, such as the bay bolete (brunsopp), and birch bolete (tegelsopp/aspsopp) are also tasty.

The boletes are easy to identify due to the spongy tubes they have in place of gills, and their brown dimpled caps. As with chanterelles, there’s little chance of unexpectedly ending up in the emergency ward, with only one poisonous genus.

“Genus Rubroboletus are the only truly toxic boletes, albeit not lethally so,” Björck says. “You won’t die, just wish you did.”

These include the Satan’s bolete (djävulssopp), which will make you very sick but is only found in Sweden on Gotland and Öland, and the false Satan’s bolete, which is rare but can be found in eastern Sweden at Drottningholm in Stockholm, Sparreholm in Södermanland, Linköping in Östergötland and Öland.

“To keep away from these, avoid boletes with a grey cap colour and red pores, since that combo only is found in that genus,” Björck advises.

You should also watch out for the very bitter but not actually poisonous bitter bolete (gallsopp), which you can identify by the pinkish pores, and the black web on the stem.


The Devil’s bolete. Would you really eat this anyway? Photo: Archenzo/Wikimedia Commons

2. Find your spot

The best forests to hunt for mushrooms in are old-growth forests, ideally a mix of pine or fir with a deciduous tree such as birch, oak or beech. But Björck stresses that you can still find ceps and chanterelles in commercial spruce and pine plantations.

If you ask around, you can normally find out which local forests are deemed decent for mushroom-picking, but you will still need to spend a long time walking around until you stumble upon a really good spot. When you do, note it down, because it will probably still be producing in a few weeks, and then again next year.

If you can convince a friendly Swede to show you some of their best spots, it will save you a huge amount of trial and error, but it would have to be a very friendly Swede indeed, as most guard theirs with their lives.

Often, local nature reserves organise fungal forays, which might be a way of accessing local knowledge.

It also pays to get away from well-trodden paths and at least a few hundred metres away from the nearest car park. Some take bicycles so they can go deep down narrow forest paths. 


The trumpet chanterelle is quite common in Sweden, and is smaller and darker than the normal chanterelle. Photo: Janerik Henriksson/TT

3. Get a book

Probably the most popular Swedish book is Lilla Svampboken, the little mushroom book, by Pelle Holmberg and Hans Marklund. It’s small enough to stick in your anorak pocket and has more than enough mushrooms in it to get you started.

I’m a big fan of the River Cottage Handbook No.1 for Mushrooms, by John Wright, which is amusingly written, full of information, and has good photos and drawings. It’s more oriented to the UK, which works for Skåne where I live, but would be more of an issue the further north in Sweden you get. It includes lots of field mushrooms few Swedes would touch, giving you a competitive edge.

Mushroom forums like Svamp-Klapp are also very useful, and the members will quickly identify anything you pick. But you need to upload good pictures, showing the mushroom from various angles, gills, stem and so on.

Swedish speakers can also look at Björck’s YouTube channel Svamp för Alla, which is super geeky but very useful.


From left, a chantarelle, trumpet chantarelle, penny bun mushroom/cep and another chantarelle. Photo: Janerik Henriksson/TT

4. What to bring? 

Björck recommends travelling light. “Bring only useful things. All you really need to carry is a good basket, a knife, your phone. And of course a snack or beverage; forest fika is always a spiffing idea.” 

You might want to decouple from technology during your mushroom hunting, but a phone is very useful for tracking your location, and noting down where you find good spots, and also for photographing what you find and getting help identifying it on Svampguiden or Svamp-Klapp. 

Baskets are better than buckets, as the mushrooms are less likely to get slimy. I sometimes bring two – one for mushrooms I know are edible, and one for ones I picked out of curiosity (ignoring advice no 1 above). You can get good ones at Biltema, Ikea, and Åhlens, among other places. 

Opinel knives are good for harvesting mushrooms, but more or less any knife will do.


Bring a basket. Photo: Gorm Kallestad/NTB Scanpix/TT

5. Be a snob and don’t lay waste to the forest

Björck says it pays to be be picky. “Dragging home maggot-infested corpses isn’t very productive. Only pick the perfect specimen. Leave the rest to the critters already inhabiting them. The forest are vast, and there are many more mushrooms in them than you ever could pick, so discretion is strongly advised.” 

Many Swedes leave the root of the mushrooms, believing that this will help them grow back, but as mushrooms are just the fruiting bodies of vast underground networks, in reality leaving the root doesn’t make any difference at all.  

You should, however, avoid ripping up every mushroom you see then throwing it away when you decide it might be poisonous.

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DISCOVER SWEDEN

Five of the best spots in Sweden for a naked swim

As temperatures soar in Sweden this week, even the thought of wearing a swimsuit might seem a bit much. If you feel the need to expose a little more skin to the elements, here are some of Sweden's best nude beaches.

Five of the best spots in Sweden for a naked swim

From vast, sandy shores to coastlines dotted with caves and inlets, Sweden’s as many as 90 nudist beaches span the range of what the country’s beaches have to offer.

According to Malin ArlinderEkberg, chair of the Swedish Naturist Federation, interest in naked swimming and bathing grew significantly in Sweden during the pandemic. 

“Those [nudist] associations which have camp sited had more visitors than they usually do, a whole lot of people who wanted to try something new when everyone was having holidays at home,” she told TT in an interview last summer. 

But she said that while Swedes aren’t particularly shy about getting their clothes off, they were reluctant to tell friends that they visited nudist beaches. 

“On hot days, the nudist beaches are rammed, but I promise you that 90 percent of those there won’t dare tell friends and relatives that they go there. The first step is to talk about it and not make such a big deal out of it. Everyone at my job knows I’m a naturist. I do the same things that you and everyone else does, just without clothes.

But you don’t have to join the federation, or even visit a nudist beach, to enjoy a naked swim in Sweden. 

Almost any spot by the sea or on a lake can be your own nude swim spot, so long as you remain respectful of other visitors who prefer to keep their bikinis and swimming trunks on, and choose a moment when there’s no one nearby to strip off and leap in.  The rule is not to flaunt your nakedness.  

READ ALSO: How to find Sweden’s cleanest and best beaches in the summer of 2022 

Sandhammaren

The Sandhammaren beach in Ystad is among Skåne’s most popular, and it’s easy to see why it’s often considered one of Sweden’s best beaches. Its white sandy dunes and long coastline in the southern tip of Sweden make it a popular spot for swimmers and sunbathers, while the pine forest inland is perfect for walks year-round (clothes not optional when traipsing through the forest).

Watch out for strong currents when venturing out for a swim. Historically, pirates took advantage of the strong currents at Sweden’s southernmost tip to run unwitting ships aground before swooping in to plunder the ships.

When you tire of sun and sea, you can visit a lighthouse that dates back to the 1860s, or head back toward Ystad, which The Local ranked among Sweden’s cutest hidden gems in 2015.

Ribersborg
Another one of the many beaches Skåne has to offer, Ribersborg – or Ribban, as the locals say – is close to Malmö’s city centre.

The nude section at this beach is designated at brygga, or bridge, 10, where you’ll also find a public restroom and outdoor shower. If you fancy getting back into your clothes after a few hours in the sun, there’s an outdoor gym you can use, or you can take your dog to the large, dog-friendly area.

Malin Arlinder-Ekberg, chair of the Swedish Naturist Federation, at Ågesta nudist beach. Pontus Lundahl/TT

Ågesta

Ågesta is Stockholm’s only official nudist beach, although you will find naked visitors at other breaches, such as Brunnsviken, Lövnäsbadet, and Kärsön.

At Ågesta, by Lake Magelungen, you’ll find a sandy beach where you can bring the whole family. There are play areas, picnic tables, and even a barbecue area.

Venture inland from the rocky shore and you’ll find yourself walking through the forest that surrounds the beach. And if you tire of the sand, there’s a large grass-covered area where you can spread your towel and settle in for a day of sunbathing – without any tan lines getting in the way.

Amundön

Gothenburg’s Amundön is more rocky than sandy, but don’t let that deter you. Here, you’ll find a hilly 4.5km trail in a protected part of Gothenburg’s archipelago. On your way to the nudist beach, you’ll pass through various hilly and grassy landscapes on your way to the large rocks and cliffs that make up the coast.

On a warm summer evening, the cliffs are ideal for watching the sunset. Bring your own refreshments, because the amenities here are limited to a public restroom. In between dips in the water, you can sunbathe on the rocks or explore the archipelago.

Gustavsberg

Another official beach, Gustavsberg, by the Nora lake in Dalarna, boasts a sand beach with shallow waters that make it safe for even the youngest swimmers. Between the playground, picnic area, grassy sunbathing area, and large barbecue area, it’s easy to spend long Swedish summer days at Gustavsberg. 

There’s a camping space here too, if you can’t tear yourself away from this idyllic space. Rates are available here.

If the shore and camping area get too crowded, rent a boat – you can also buy a fishing
license – and paddle out into the lake for some solitude. 

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