I grew up with a large backyard in suburban Melbourne and a Dad with a passion for fruit and vegies. As a youngster, it was quite common for me to go and collect my dinner straight from the garden, or grab a piece of fruit from the tree on the way to school. Then there was the time I started selling my parents vegetables back to them at a price… but that’s a completely different story.
Where I live in Austria is largely farming… actually it’s mostly cornfields… and no, it’s not the corn you eat, it’s the corn the animals eat. Devastated! But during Spring/Summer it seemed that every week there was a new fruit or vegetable you could go and pick straight off the bush/tree, practically for free. In Australia it seems that you have to pay a premium for the ‘honour’ of picking your own food!
Strawberry Land (yep, that’s what it’s called) was a definite highlight, though I soon tired of bending over to pick them. Then came the apricots, the berries (all kinds), the apples, the walnuts etc etc. But one of my favourites was Eierschwarmel. These are special yellow (yes, yellow) Austrian mushrooms that grow at a certain time of year, at a certain altitude and only in certain conditions. Read: they can be tricky to find.
We had a very wet summer which turns out is perfect conditions for these mushroom. Apparently the Italians are crazy for them and as there’s a limit to how many you can collect in a day, they are often caught at the border trying to sneak more than their allocation back into the country. Crazy!
The first time we went hunting, we spent almost 45 minutes and found absolutely nothing. I was ready to pack it all when… we found one… then more… then more… then more! And I was hooked. We took them back to Thomas’ mother, who, as well as cooking them, also had the task of confirming they were, in fact, edible. Most of the mushrooms you find in the forest are definitely poisonous. She made them into an amazing goulash. Heaven! Needless to say we went back a few times to collect mushrooms and got quite good at finding them.
Sadly, the summer seemed too short and after the last of the walnuts and apples, winter really closed in. Of course, this signifies the beginning of warm cider and hot, roasted chestnuts available on the street. So all in all, not bad.