Mushroom gathering and berry picking have always been popular hobbies in the Czech Republic: in the summer and autumn the sight of families headed with baskets in hand into the forest, leaving their cars parked on dirt roads, is a fairly common sight. On average Czechs gather up to 20,000 tonnes of mushrooms annually, around 9,000 tons of blueberries, and several thousand tonnes more of assorted forest fruits: including elder-berries, brambleberries, and more, usually for home consumption, sometimes for sale. Earlier I spoke to Bohumír Lomský, a representative of The Forestry and Game Management Research Institute:
“I think it’s a typical Czech feature: Czechs love visiting the forest. They are used to visiting and are guaranteed free entrance under the law. Nature is a hobby for many here, as are berry and mushroom-picking.”
Last year, pickings were significant but still slimmer than usual, due to less than ideal weather conditions. By comparison the most successful year statistics say was 1995, when Czechs picked more than 60,000 tonnes, or around 5 billion crowns’ worth of forest fruits and wild mushrooms. How often do Czechs head for the forest? On average an amazing 20 times per year. Of course, they are not alone in their passion for mushroom and berry picking: the hobby is shared by others in this part of Europe, namely by Slovaks and Poles and – further east – Ukrainians and Russians.