In Russian there is a phrase for when it’s raining and the sun is shining simultaneously: gribnoy dozhd (mushroom rain). Supposedly these conditions are perfect for mushrooms to grow, and that appears to truly be the case here in Siberia. Yesterday morning thick fog on the lake prevented those of us who are not on the sampling cruise to Maloe More from collecting zooplankton samples in our rowboat, so we spent an hour gathering mushrooms in the woods. Mushroom-gathering is a popular pastime in Russia, and many different varieties of mushrooms grow in the forest behind the field station. The station manager, Lyudmila Nikolaevna, was our guide through the woods and instructed us on which mushrooms are poisonous and which are the best to eat.
At the risk of belaboring Steve’s earlier message about the amazing diversity here, I must say I was very impressed by the many varieties of mushrooms we came across. Perhaps even more impressive, however, were Lyudmila Nikolaevna’s extensive familiarity with mushroom varieties and uncanny ability to find good mushrooms lurking under shrubs or even buried underground.
I learned a lot about mushroom identification in just that hour-long walk. By looking at the underside of the cap, one can tell if the mushroom is a bolete or not. Boletes apparently are almost all edible and have a porous underside while other mushrooms have gills. I also learned that toadstools like the same environment as white boletes so if you see toadstools there is a good chance that you’ll find some good white boletes nearby.
Despite all this new knowledge, it became clear that I completely lack any sort of sposobnost (aptitude) for finding good mushrooms. Luckily my companions were much more fruitful in their efforts, and at the end of an hour we had an overflowing bowl of mushrooms which were then turned into a delicious lunch. Ochen vkusno!