Dry weather has negative impact on popular pastime of mushroom picking


One of the most popular activities in the Czech Republic at this time of year is mushroom picking. Or at least it usually is - the long, dry summer this year has had left the ground very dry and mushrooms hard to find. It's got so bad that some Czech experts are even going abroad to find mushrooms. I discussed the situation with Miroslav Smotlacha, who is one of the leading members of the Czech Mycological Institute.

"I'm 83 years old and I don't recall a dry spell like we've had this year. The dry weather is really bad for mushrooms, because mushrooms need a lot of moisture. They are 90 percent water, and when there isn't water in the ground you can't have mushrooms. There are exceptions and some edible mushrooms grow on tree stumps, and they have come out. Those mushroom pickers who can recognise them can pick those mushrooms growing on tree stumps."

I asked Mr Smotlacha if there were any parts of the country where mushrooms grow better than elsewhere.

"Of course the regions are different, but at the moment mushrooms aren't growing in any numbers anywhere in the country. Right now some mycologists from the South Bohemia region are abroad picking mushrooms, in France and Croatia."

The lack of mushrooms this year has also put annual autumn mushroom exhibitions - which take place every year - in danger.

"Every year we have up to 20 or more mushroom exhibitions around the country and one central exhibition in Prague. This year we're afraid there won't be enough mushrooms to put on show, though we believe things will get better in September."

Picking mushrooms is a big part of Czech culture and most westerners, who couldn't tell one type of mushroom from another, would be amazed by the knowledge that even city dwellers have here in the Czech Republic. Miroslav Smotlacha told me no other nation can compare to the Czechs when it comes to "mushrooming".

"I can safely say that the Czechs are number one in the world when it comes to mushroom picking. It comes from history because in the Middle Ages people picked mushrooms to eat. Then there were mycologists who set up our organisation before the First World War and started to organise courses about mushrooms around the country."