The joys of collecting mushrooms and ticks

Photo: Andreas Kunze, Creative Commons 3.0

Every cloud has a silver lining, so they say. But the many clouds that have constituted the Czech summer so far have a sort of golden-yellow hue for me. That is the colour of the chanterelle mushroom or liška in Czech.

The chanterelle mushroom,  photo: Andreas Kunze,  Creative Commons 3.0
They are the main mushroom growing in the forests near my chalupa or country cottage. And thanks to the switch between sauna tropical and stormy weather are growing like never before. I soon filled a basket within an hour last weekend and that was leaving behind specimens I would have jumped at in the past.

There is a sort of worry on that count though. As soon as the rain stopped we were out with the basket and knife, but so were a lot of other people as well. In fact, the hills were alive with rustlings and scrapings. I have never seen so many people at that lonely bit of forest. I should not have been surprise: we had seen the telltale signs – mushroom stems without heads - of Homo Czechus Fungius before.

As a latecomer to the world of mushrooms, I basically know three types that – partly based on the fact I am writing now – are reasonably edible and not poisonous. So I feel a bit handicapped on the collecting front.

According to local folklore around Mariánské Lázně – and Czechs are very careful about not giving clues away about their favourite collecting haunts - the pickings are better towards Cheb near the German border. In fact, the story continues that Czechs pop over the German side and then sell the German mushrooms back to the Germans. I am not certain whether this is a false trail. An expedition to the border is being planned and I will report back on the results.

Another problem is also the forest living disease-carrying ticks. Ticks - like mushrooms - are a bit of a Czech revelation for me and maybe vice versa. Coming back from the latter I now imagine I have some of the former. My discovery of one uninvited lodger yesterday perhaps proves I am not paranoid.

My girlfriend – who is a head shorter than me – cannot work out quite why I get the tick attention and she seems immune. It is, I say, like lightning: they go for the tallest objects first.

The fact that our dog used to collect even more ticks than me in the past sort of disproves that vertical separation theory. I argue back however that he used to cover more ground and in that way boosted his tick collection chances.

Once on a packed public bus from a weekend trip just north of Mělník we had the uncomfortable spectacle of what appeared to be an army of ticks scurrying around the dog’s body on the hour long trip back to Prague. We tried not to notice while edging away from the dog and hoped the other passengers had not either.

With the same weather, I will be out again in the woods. If you do not hear from me again I just might have got some tick disease or my flawed mushroom know-how could have taken a fatal turn.