Lithuanians race to choose wild mushrooms

Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017|8:44 p.m.

VARENA, Lithuania– Numerous Lithuanians associated baskets and containers Saturday in a southeastern pine forest.

Why you ask? It’s the national championship of wild mushroom selecting– a competitors constantly held on the last Saturday in September.

That’s when conditions are “not too dry, not too wet, the humidity is perfect,” discussed mushroom hunter Janina Juodine.

A rainy, fairly warm summer produced perfect conditions for the foraging celebration in Lithuania, where forests cover more than 33 percent of the Baltic country and mushroom-hunting is considered the second-most popular sport after basketball.

“Walking between trees and looking for huge brown mushrooms is a fantastic way of spending a Saturday,” stated Julius Sostakas, an IT engineer from Vilnius. “It is a part of our cultural heritage.”

Mushrooms– fresh, dried, salted or marinaded– are considered an essential element in Lithuanian food, used in numerous meals to include special taste to meat, fish and potatoes.

More than 4 hundred edible varieties can be discovered in Lithuania’s forests, including edible boletus, slippery jacks, chanterelles, blewits and morels.

The festival Saturday happened 60 kilometers (37 miles) south of the capital, Vilnius, near the border with Belarus. It drew countless onlookers along with local mushroom sellers dressed in Lithuanian folk costumes– colorful knee-long skirts with embroidered aprons and woven sashes.

“This is a great occasion,” contest judge Rimute Avizininene informed The Associated Press.

She said 21 teams had participated, adding that the largest chosen edible boletus– understood in the country as the king of Lithuania’s forests– weighed 621 grams (22 ounces).

A local group called Mushroom Nightmares won Saturday’s contest by providing 58 kilograms (128 pounds) of mushrooms.

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