Elina Kreuzberg, an exchange student from Canada, loves cooking with ingredients she foraged herself. A huge wild mushroom is her current obsession. ‘When you see a mushroom the size of a child, it can only be one type.’
Eyes glistening, Elina explains that her classmate sent her a photo of a giant mushroom, which he found while hiking. ‘Every time we’re on campus and see a mushroom we run over to examine it. So he knows about my fascination.’ She immediately identified the fungus as a puffball and went to take a look for herself. ‘It’s an absolute beast.’ Knowing the mushroom is edible, she cut the toddler-sized thing from the ground. ‘After cutting it open and deciding if it’s good to eat, I’m probably going to prepare it in a couple of different ways. There will be enough meals for a month.’
To Elina, fungi create a sense of mystery. To forage mushrooms, you need to know which ones are safe to eat and touch. ‘There’s so much potential. Some are edible, some are nice for brewing tea, and others help against certain illnesses.’ In her family, this knowledge is passed down from generation to generation. ‘My mum always went mushroom hunting with me. She learned it from her dad, and he probably learned it from his parents.’
Elina doesn’t recommend going foraging if you don’t know what you’re doing. ‘It’s cool, but it’s best not to experiment too much.’ Even she messes up sometimes. ‘A month ago I got a little too excited when I picked mushrooms on campus.’ After sending photos of them to her mum, she cooked them up. ‘Unfortunately, my mum told me only a few days later that it’s better to not eat this type. That advice came too late.’ Luckily, the mushrooms didn’t make her very ill.