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How to pick mushrooms in Denmark like you've been doing it all your life

Richard Orange
Richard Orange - [email protected]
How to pick mushrooms in Denmark like you've been doing it all your life
Photo by Jonas Jacobsson on Unsplash

There is one benefit of a wetter-than-usual summer: it's great for mushrooms! Richard Orange discovers five things you need to know about how to mushroom-hunt like a Dane.


Last month's wet weather, although disappointing for those off work on their summer holidays, means that the mushroom season has kicked off earlier than usual.

This is the season when, if you're minded to, you can bunk off from work and make your way to your nearest park, field or woodland to hunt for mushrooms. 

If you're in the right part of Denmark, and find a good spot, you can bring back kilos and kilos, which if dried or frozen can keep you going right through to next season. 

But for many foreigners (at least those who don't come from fungally-fixated nations), it can all seem overwhelming, meaning they miss out on one of the great joys of living in Denmark. 

To know when to go out, study the weather. If there's been a heavy downpour, that will get the mushrooms growing, with ceps showing up 3-10 days after a heavy downpour and chanterelles taking two to three weeks.

The Local spoke to Patrik Björck, co-founder of the Svamp-Klapp, Scandinavia's biggest Facebook mushroom forum, about how to get started. 


A mushroom-hunting mission in the North of Jutland. Photo: Henning Bagger/Ritzau Scanpix

1. Only pick (and eat!) what you know

Many beginners tend to uproot the first mushroom they come across and then seek to identify it and see if it's poisonous or not. Don't do this. It's a much better approach to study just one or two of the most common edible mushrooms beforehand and then go out looking only for them.

"Never eat anything you can't safely identify," Björck advises, although he stresses this is no reason to be overcautious.

"Do not be scared or intimidated by the number of different mushrooms you encounter: only about 100 of the perhaps 10,000 possible mushrooms you might see are good edibles. But only a couple of handfuls are potentially lethal."

Chanterelles (Kantareller), trumpet chanterelles (trompetsvamper), ceps (Karl Johan) and oyster mushrooms (Østershat) make a good start, and are in fact more or less all the average Dane will pick.

To start off with, stay away from the sort of white mushrooms you might find in supermarkets, as they can quite easily be confused with fungi that are very poisonous indeed. Particularly stay away from white mushrooms with white gills (I don't dare touch them).


Chanterelles are most often found in pine woods (although you might find some under beech and oak), and hide under fallen leaves, making them hard to spot until you get the knack for it. You're most likely to find nothing for an hour and then stumble on a patch hiding dozens and dozens, so be patient.

They are yellow and, instead of gills, have ridges which run down the stem a bit with no defined ring dividing them.

The beauty of Chanterelles is that the only thing you can really confuse them with, the false chanterelle (almindelig orangekantarel) is only slightly unpleasant tasting and not actually poisonous.

According to Björck, there are two ways of telling the difference: "Flesh colour: Chanterelles will have white, slightly stringy, meat when cut open. False chanterelles will have orange, slightly rubbery, flesh. Scent: chanterelles are apricot-scented, false chanterelles smell of rotting wood."

A cep, also known as a penny bun mushroom. Photo: Strobilomyces/Wikimedia Commons


The cep is the most popular of the bolete family – in Danish rørhat(ter). It's the porcini mushroom beloved of Italians, which you can buy in delicatessens sliced and dried for risottos.

But many of the others boletes, such as the bay bolete (Brunstokket Rørhat), and birch bolete (Orange skælrørhat) are also tasty.

The boletes are easy to identify due to the spongy tubes they have in place of gills, and their brown dimpled caps. As with chanterelles, there's little chance of unexpectedly ending up in the emergency ward, with only one poisonous genus.

"Genus Rubroboletus are the only truly toxic boletes, albeit not lethally so," Björck says. "You won't die, just wish you did."

These include the Satan's bolete (Satans rørhat), which will make you very sick and the false Satan's bolete, which are both rare in Denmark. 

"To keep away from these, avoid boletes with a grey cap colour and red pores, since that combo only is found in that genus," Björck advises.

You should also watch out for the very bitter but not actually poisonous bitter bolete (Galderørhat), which you can identify by the pinkish pores, and the black web on the stem.

The Devil's bolete. Would you really eat this anyway? Photo: Archenzo/Wikimedia Commons

2. Find your spot

The best forests to hunt for mushrooms in are old-growth forests, ideally a mix of pine or fir with a deciduous tree such as birch, oak or beech. But Björck stresses that you can still find ceps and chanterelles in commercial spruce and pine plantations.

If you ask around, you can normally find out which local forests are deemed decent for mushroom-picking, but you will still need to spend a long time walking around until you stumble upon a really good spot. When you do, note it down, because it will probably still be producing in a few weeks, and then again next year.


If you can convince a friendly Dane to show you some of their best spots, it will save you a huge amount of trial and error, but it would have to be a very friendly Dane indeed, as most guard theirs with their lives.

Often, local nature reserves organise fungal forays, which might be a way of accessing local knowledge.

It also pays to get away from well-trodden paths and at least a few hundred metres away from the nearest car park. Some take bicycles so they can go deep down narrow forest paths. 

Trumpet chantarelles are popular in Denmark. Photo: Jörg Hempel/Wikimedia Commons

3. Get a book

Probably the most popular Danish book is FIND & SPIS de bedste svampe by the Copenhagen University researcher Thomas Læssøe, which is small enough to stick in your anorak pocket. Læssøe is also the author of the beautiful, comprehensive and eye-wateringly expensive Fungi of Temperate Europe

I'm a big fan of the River Cottage Handbook No.1 for Mushrooms, by John Wright, which is amusingly written, full of information, and has good photos and drawings. It's more oriented to the UK, but that pretty much works for Denmark.

Mushroom forums like Svampeliv are also very useful, and the members will quickly identify anything you pick. But you need to upload good pictures, showing the mushroom from various angles, gills, stem and so on.

4. What to bring? 

Björck recommends travelling light. "Bring only useful things. All you really need to carry is a good basket, a knife, your phone. And of course a snack or beverage; forest fika is always a spiffing idea." 

You might want to decouple from technology during your mushroom hunting, but a phone is very useful for tracking your location, and noting down where you find good spots, and also for photographing what you find and getting help identifying it on Svampeliv.


Baskets are better than buckets, as the mushrooms are less likely to get slimy. I sometimes bring two – one for mushrooms I know are edible, and one for ones I picked out of curiosity (ignoring advice no 1 above). Opinel knives are good for harvesting mushrooms, but more or less any knife will do.

Chantarelles and ceps on offer at the Contento pintxo bar in Copenhagen's Nørrebro district. Photo: Thomas Lekfeldt/Ritzau Scanpix

5. Be a snob and don't lay waste to the forest

Björck says it pays to be be picky. "Dragging home maggot-infested corpses isn't very productive. Only pick the perfect specimen. Leave the rest to the critters already inhabiting them. The forests are vast, and there are many more mushrooms in them than you ever could pick, so discretion is strongly advised." 

Many Danes leave the root of the mushrooms, believing that this will help them grow back, but as mushrooms are just the fruiting bodies of vast underground networks, in reality leaving the root doesn't make any difference at all.  

You should, however, avoid ripping up every mushroom you see then throwing it away when you decide it might be poisonous.


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