‘Mushrooms Have Kidnapped You’: Pandemic Feeds Russia’s Obsession With Forest Fungi

For many people today about the planet, the coronavirus pandemic has been an justification to

For many people today about the planet, the coronavirus pandemic has been an justification to master a homey new talent like knitting or pastry-generating.

For Russians, it’s all about the mushrooms.

“I go each other working day and just cannot get ample. I want extra, extra, extra,” says Svetlana Gladysheva, who has experienced extra time than typical to hunt for fungi in the woods, due to the fact the theater exactly where she operates a cafeteria was closed. “My partner explained to me: ‘I’m concerned to lose you. Mushrooms have kidnapped you,’ ” she adds.

Foraging for mushrooms is a longstanding custom in Russia. In accordance to a 2019 study by the Russian General public Belief Study Middle, virtually 50 percent the populace in the greatest towns, St. Petersburg and Moscow, participate.

That was before the pandemic left people today with restricted vacation solutions and extra time on their arms. This year, a St. Petersburg-centered mushrooming group on the social-media internet site VK has virtually doubled to around 39,000, in accordance to Anton Kubyshkin, the administrator of the of St. Petersburg-centered group.

Pickers compete on their gathering rates of mushrooms for each hour and exhibit off their cabinets laden with Mason jars crammed with marinated and salted fungi, a staple of Russian delicacies.

It does not hurt that this has been a banner year for mushrooms in the boreal forests hugging St. Petersburg.

‘I go each other working day and can’t get ample. I want extra, extra, extra,’ says Svetlana Gladysheva.


Svetlana Gladysheva

“Mushrooms began coming in incredibly early and in huge quantities,” stated Alexey Prozorov, who took a break from taxi driving to make a living promoting these items of the forest this summer time.

Early every single morning Mr. Prozorov places on rain boots and heads out to the boggy woods of pine, fir, birch and aspen with a thermos of coffee and a pack of cigarettes. He arranges to offer the mushrooms through on the internet social networks straight from the woods.

One of the record setters is Natalya Pudovkina, who delivers in such hefty hauls that she buys exclusive baskets built out of extra-resilient vines shipped from The usa, she says. Ms. Pudovkina says an obsession with mushroom selecting is an “inherited disease” in her circumstance, and she is in some cases joined on mushrooming hunts by her ninety one-year-previous grandmother.

Natalya Pudovkina, a nurse, posted a photograph of herself with a indicator examining: ‘Have the mushrooms arrive in yet?’


Natalya Pudovkina

Ms. Pudovkina, a nurse who worked lengthy shifts in a medical center treating Covid-19 sufferers before this year, was nervous she’d skip out on the time completely. Back in Could she posted a photograph of herself from the medical center, putting on a white hazmat fit, goggles, and shoe covers, holding a handwritten indicator in her gloved arms that study: “Have the mushrooms arrive in yet?”

Her persistence was rewarded. Ms. Pudovkina set a individual record, gathering about a one,000 mushrooms with her mom on a three-hour hunt.

“It was horrific,” Ms. Pudovkina stated about the lengthy night her whole loved ones spent cleansing, freezing, drying and marinating the mushrooms.

The subsequent working day Ms. Pudovkina was again in the woods.

Anything else driving the mania this year in St. Petersburg is the popular look of the coveted king bolete, acknowledged as porcini by Italians. These mushrooms develop in intricate symbiotic associations with the bordering trees, and experts know minor about what influences their growth, in accordance to Liudmila B. Kalinina, a junior researcher in the Komarov Botanical Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

Ms. Pudovkina employs exclusive baskets built out of extra-resilient vines to have her haul.


Natalya Pudovkina

Ms. Pudovkina’s ninety one year-previous grandmother Anna Davidenko.


Natalya Pudovkina

Encountering a king bolete, with its bulbous white stem, topped by a reddish brown cap with a porous white underside, let alone filling a entire basket with the mushroom, creates a higher and pushes foragers to return to the woods for their subsequent take care of.

When Ms. Gladysheva, the head of the theater cafeteria, first receives to the forest, typically at the break of dawn, she first sees just the moss, the dry leaves, and the branches sprinkled with dew. But then she spots a mushroom. “I want to squeal from pleasure. I really feel like a puppy greeting its proprietor,” Ms. Gladysheva says about obtaining fungi.

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On a new vacation Ms. Gladysheva and a good friend immediately packed two baskets with mushrooms, as well as a jacket that they utilized as an extra sack. On the way again to the car or truck, they dropped their way, experienced to cross a river on a narrow log and tear through a thick forest complete of tall nettle. Then they got drenched in a downpour.

Did they look at leaving some of the mushrooms to free of charge their arms?

“Are you kidding? That is our capture. That is our precious cargo. We nevertheless got house happy.”

Mushroom selecting can even increase associations, in accordance to Svetlana Kostyanaya, a beautician whose business enterprise was set on maintain for a even though in the course of the pandemic. Whilst cooped up at house she was having extra arguments with her partner, but their new interest served.

“When we fill our baskets, peace and really like sets in,” Ms. Kostyanaya says.

Alexey Prozorov’s bounty of mushrooms.


Alexey Prozorov

On the other hand, it can also cause strain as close friends compete on the very same terrain.

Earlier this summer time, Ms. Pudovkina, the nurse, invited Mr. Kubyshkin, the social-media administrator, to be a part of her. And when he noticed Ms. Pudovkina’s secret mushroom patches, Mr. Kubyshkin says, he dropped his brain.

Amongst July twenty and August 3, he returned to that very same location 9 times, obtaining to the forest at 3 a.m., just as the sunshine was about to increase in the northern region, selecting and then likely to do the job fatigued.

“One time I did really feel a minor responsible and apologized,” he says about poaching Ms. Pudovkina’s areas.

Yana Oparina figured out to use a compass and got a vuvuzela to scare off wild animals for her new interest of mushroom selecting.


Anton Kubyshkin

Yana Oparina got critical about the “quiet hunt”—a Russian title for mushrooming—this year. At age 32, she figured out how to use a compass through YouTube and got a vuvuzela that she blows into on arrival in the woods to scare off any wild animals. She functions on a distant basis this year and has organized her schedule about her mushroom hunts, she says.

Not all of her outings ended up thriving. Ms. Oparina has gotten dropped, her good friend sank thigh deep in a bog, and she experienced to dump a single day’s value of selecting right after studying the mushrooms grew too in the vicinity of an industrial internet site. The deer flies, nevertheless, have been the worst.

“Every time I go to the woods, I encounter a psychosis due to the fact of these deer flies,” Ms. Oparina says. “They crawl in your hair, they crawl all around you, they cause terrible irritation.” Still, she adds, “That does not cease me due to the fact I actually really like selecting mushrooms.”

Publish to Yuliya Chernova at [email protected]

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