Monday, July 31, 2017

Back to school

 For the next two weeks I’m taking the intermediate Icelandic class here in town at the University Center of the Westfjords (Háskólasétur Vestfjarða). I don’t expect to have any time for adventures during that time. But since the course doesn’t officially kick off until this evening, I can enjoy the sun today and try my hand at picking mushrooms, which is new territory for me. 

I have become quite proficient at picking herbs this summer. I have a dehydrator, which is a lot of fun. I started out drying fruits and now I’m using it for herbs and things like lemon peel, so I can make my own teas. I already wrote about the Dandopeel tea I made. But I’ve made a few others as well, mixing ingredients like mint from our garden with wild herbs such as thyme, chamomile, yarrow and lady’s mantle. I have plenty of tea for the winter now. Plus I often go out and gather fresh herbs for a salad. I always have something fresh on hand. And soon I will pick berries like crazy. But mushrooms … that’s a different story.

A few years ago I was in Þórsmörk for my birthday in September and the mushrooms and berries were ripe for picking. The hut warden walked by with a huge bowl of mushrooms and I asked her about them. She said picking is easy since Iceland doesn’t have any poisonous ones. Meanwhile, I’ve learned that’s not quite true, and you really do have to be careful. But that encounter piqued my interest already way back then. There are numerous Icelandic mushroom books available on the varieties you can pick here. However, none are in English, and although my Icelandic is improving, I wouldn’t want to make a mistake when it comes to trivialities such as identifying if a shroom is poisonous or not.

So I go into our little forest and fill my bag with all different varieties. Back home on the porch, the neighbor and I used her book to identify them. No such luck! In the end, we’re only certain about one being edible. Many are obviously not, and many more are simply not in the book. This is not something I’m willing to take a risk with, so 99% land on the compost and one large one in the pan. I fry it up and make myself a nice little pita sandwich, garnished with dandelion leaves. Well, my first mushroom hunt wasn’t a big success, en þetta er ágætis byrjun!