Monday, November 26, 2012

Foraging in Ukraine

Note:  Christie Bond of Burlington, Vermont is a returned Peace Corps Volunteer from Ukraine and has joined us in working on the Pickle Project.  We look forward to more posts from her!)

As winter approaches, I have been eagerly awaiting the first snowfall in order to tromp the grounds looking for tracks and other animal signs. As a prelude, I’ve been digging into Paul Rezendes Tracking & the Art of Seeing: How to Read Animal Tracks and Sign. The language used by Rezendes, “seeing” brought me back to tracking of another kind – foraging in Ukraine.

Although one might assume “tracking plants” to be far easier than following the signs of moving animals, it took me a while to find what my counterpart Maria described as my “mushroom eyes.” Not unlike tracking animals, it’s important to wait for the right conditions – rain after several warm days, and then the hope that your mushroom eyes are working! As Rezendes says, “If you know an animal well, you will know where to look for it and when,” - the same is true for mushrooms.
(Mushroom Pizza – Sumy)

When traveling the highways in Ukraine, it is common to see babushkas with foraged mushrooms for sale – fresh and dried. In addition, when the weather is right, any location will do. While on a weekend retreat near the Desna river, one of the program planners mentioned he had seen oyster mushrooms near the sanatorium entrance, so we happily ended our meeting in search of them. He brought them back the following day in the form of a soup that his wife had prepared.

(Mushroom Soup - Odessa)

Without Maria, Dr. Valarie, or Tatiana (all passionate foragers), I am reluctant to go on my own. Luckily this fall was particularly rich with giant puff ball mushrooms (which have no poisonous look-alikes). Rezendes believes that through tracking, a person can develop an intimate bond with the animal, and furthermore develop a more keen understanding of their relationship to the natural world. I believe the same can be said for foraging. Through the collection of mushrooms, one can develop a keen sense of their environment.

For helpful foraging tips, visit:

(Top photo:  Mushrooms at an Odessa Market)

1 comment:

  1. Great post, thanks for sharing! I would love to visit the Ukraine some day soon.

    - J.O. from Gardner MA Car Insurance