Mushrooms themselves are already a strange and beautiful kingdom of fungi, growing in humid mossy corners of forests. They come in a spectrum from small ruby ones that can be lethal to gigantic leafy almost prehistoric-size umbrellas. Not quite a fruit or a vegetable - these fungi are beloved for gastronomic bites and simple eats. All over Europe, people have been foraging for mushrooms for as long as one can remember - and hey, big ups to the first people to be like “I’m gonna ingest this mysterious potentially deadly cap with a stem!”
While some European countries today allow wild foraging for mushrooms (Aka Sweden, Czech Republic) others forbade it (…the Netherlands). If you’re in the Czech Republic any time from May to November and want to do a fun activity for this season, then houbař (mushroom hunting) makes for the best autumnal fun. It’s a way the locals connect with nature and the superb outdoors of the Central European land. Curious? Follow me on Instagram and YouTube for more adventures!
But before you go, here's top picks in Prague:
While it may sound as simple as going out to an enchanting forest on the outskirts of town to pluck some eye-catching jewels, one should always take extra precautions. Compared to foraging for other edibles like blueberries - there are so many species of mushrooms that even touching some with your bare hands wouldn’t be the best idea. So glove up, bring a wicker basket with you, and to be always sure - a professional guide.
Ask the locals - like our Prague dispatch, Gigi Greene - who loves foraging for mushrooms in the nearby forest from the capital city. Her advice? Wait until the day after the rain to go - that’s when these little gems are at their best to be picked. “Mushroom foraging is such a perfect autumn activity to do here in the Czech Republic. It’s like a nature hike mixed with a scavenger hunt - and if you’re lucky, it will end in a yummy mushroom-filled meal afterwards!”
“Mushroom foraging is such a perfect autumn activity to do here in the Czech Republic. It’s like a nature hike mixed with a scavenger hunt - and if you’re lucky, it will end in a yummy mushroom-filled meal afterwards!” says Gigi Greene
Where to go
Alright, so it’s Prague may be the beating heart of the Czech Republic, but you’ll definitely need to venture out of the gothic castle city to forage for mushrooms. There are some forests near the city (like Hvězda) but c’mon, we’re going on an adventure and the best mushrooms to find are the ones where the bigger, dense thicket of trees will be.
Check out these forests:
- Kunratice Les
- Klánovický Les
- Divoká Šárka.
Tips and tricks
- You can use a tote bag or a bucket for mushroom hunting but what’s the fun in that? No, no, definitely go all out with it and use a classic wicker basket that most Czechs are equipped with.
“Walking through the forest with your wicker basket after some rainy days and seeking out delicious mushrooms is a quintessentially Czech experience that everyone needs to do at least once!” - Gigi Greene, our local Prague resident
- Also bring a pocket knife to cut your mushroom, as well as an app or map of the area you’ll be venturing in.
- Foraging for mushroom is like an ancestral art - for generations they have been picked in a certain way. Don’t just pull on the mushroom or break into the ground too strongly, just gentle use your fingers to collect it from the roots.
- Or, use your handy little knife to slice a part of it off, leaving the rest for mother nature to nourish on.
Mushroom identification apps
- The best mushroom ID app to use is called “Picture Mushroom - Mushroom ID.” (It costs something crazy like $30/month, but there’s a 7 day free trial which is enough time to use it for picking and then cancel the subscription before it charges you)
- There is also an app called “Mushrooms app” which is locally Czech-created. It gives a detailed guide and description of over 200 types and also has the picture feature like the app above.
Things to keep in mind
- Natural-coloured mushrooms are your best friend; think brown, beige, tan. The orange and reds may be beautiful ambassadors for autumn, but they also tend to be the ones you definitely don’t want to even touch.
Now that you have a bundle of joy…
- The natural instinct may be to run the tap water once you get home and rinse them underneath., but mushrooms are way more gentle and should be treated as such! Cut the roots off of any pieces, and then run your knife through the stem to see if there are any internal dots. If there are, then chuck them out since more than likely a worm has weeded its way through. Oops!
- After a thorough check, soak your mushrooms in water - they’ll gradually clean themselves from the dirt they collected.
- I prefer to have my mushrooms preserved and saved so I can eat the joy of my labour throughout the following months. The best way to do this is drying out your mushrooms - simply lay them out in the sun and they’ll eventually (after about 2 days) get all wrinkly and shrink.
- Another popular method of saving your mushroom is freezing them. This will allow them to keep their look. Simply sautéed them first, and then after they cool, pack them away in the freezer.
Enjoying your harvest
- You can serve them up in an omlette, or just slice a slab of butter and then fry the mushrooms up. Eat it as it is, or make a soup out of it. Stuff it in a sandwich or make the traditional Czech smaženice, a hearty scrambled egg-like meal.
- Aside from the yummy distinctive flavours of mushrooms, there’s tons of nutritional value too. They’re low in calories but packed with antioxidants, fiber and protein.
Are you up for more local Czech activities?
The best way to experience the Czech Republic is to go where the locals go and do what the Czechs do. Aside from such cosy activities like mushroom picking, check out our list of other off-the-beaten path activities in and around Prague.
Also, as a bonus - since mushroom hunting is best done after the rain, you can pair it with best Prague activities to do when it's raining.