Mushroom culture runs deep in Slovenia

Oct 17, 2023

Mushroom foraging is an important part of Slovenian culture, to the extent that it is among the nation's favourite pastimes. And knowledge of mushrooms, built over generations, continues to expand as new species and uses for mushrooms are discovered.

Dating back to the settlement of Slovenian lands by ancient Slavs, musroom foraging remains strongly rooted in Slovenia, as well as in Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Poland and Italy, less so in the south of the Balkans, says mycologist and mushroom forager Bojan Arzenšek.

In the past forests mostly welcomed the poor who picked mushrooms for everyday food but later people were increasingly drawn to them by curiosity and the desire to research - and eat - mushrooms.

In Slovenia, known for its woodlands, a true paradise for mushrooms is the north-western region of Gorenjska, especially the Pokljuka and Jelovica plateaus, the steep hills by the Sora River and the Karavanke Mountains. Some years, the area around Ljubljana is also rich in mushrooms, according to Arzenšek.

More than 5,000 species of fungi have been identified in Slovenia, 111 of which are endangered and 41 protected. Around 50 new species are discovered every year. "You never know behind which bush you'll find a special mushroom," Arzenšek said.

"These are not just mushrooms you stick in a pot like porcini, chanterelle or parasol mushrooms, but also those that bring out the researcher in us, amateur mycologists," he added.

Some mushrooms are used in folk medicine, says Arzenšek. They have antibacterial, antiviral and antitumour properties and can strengthen the nervous and immune systems.

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