Enter meet someone obsessed with mushrooms? If not, head to Lithuania to discover that a large percentage of the country is in some way shape or form obsessed with mushrooms. Enter into the Mushroom Kingdom. Says my quirky and amusing guide, “if there were no mushrooms in the forest, the girls would be naked.” Huh? I learn that the majority of residents in more rural areas know which mushrooms should be picked and which ones are poisonous. They’re either picked to consume themselves or they sell them to stores and vendors….or simply set up a small stand on the side of the road just like New Englanders do to sell corn and blueberries.
Mushrooming is a popular pastime from mid-summer to autumn. As a staple, mushrooms are usually harvested in the forest and where you are most likely to find mushroom tables or stands set up on the side of the road is in the Dzūkija region from Druskininkai to Vilnius. Despite its status as a delicacy in Lithuania, mushrooms are thought of by locals as hard to digest. Some of the varieties include:
- baravykas – King boletus (Boletus edulis);
- voveraitė or voveruška (literally, “little squirrel”), lepeška (in Dzūkija region) – Yellow chanterelle (Cantharellus cibarius);
- gudukas, vokietukas, kalpokas – Cortinarius caperatus.
Baravykas is the most valued and sought-after species where it is largely used for drying and marinating or used as a seasoning in soups and sauces. Voveraitė is often used fresh as a seasoning in soups or sauteed. An example of a voveraitė dish is voveraitė sauteed with chopped bulb onions and potatoes. Gudukas, arguably the most locally abundant of edible mushrooms due to its lower popularity, is usually marinated.