Slovenia’s forests are full of mushroom pickers these days. Porcini mushrooms are especially popular, and social networks are flooded with pictures of trophy mushrooms. Is this year’s mushroom season one for the record books? Slavko Šerod, the head of the Lisička (Chanterelle) Mushrooming Association in Maribor: “Last year’s season was more exceptional, but social networks have left a different impression.”
According to the Fungus Protection Act, mushrooms should be placed in baskets rather than bags. Old and small mushrooms – those measuring five centimeters or less – should be left in the woods so they can deposit their spores. Mushrooms should be cleaned in the forest. The allowed amount is up to two kilograms; violators face a fine up to 208 euros. Recreational pickers tend to focus on a few types of mushrooms and virtually wipe them out; just few of them respect the limits or refrain from damaging the surface of the ground.
The forestry ranger service is understaffed, and it tends to focus on clean-up tree removal, explains Andrej Drašler, the head of the Forestry Inspectorate. He adds that the amount of traffic violations in the forests is increasing: “Mushroom pickers do not respect the signs, even when we set up physical road blocks. By breaking the rules, they are interfering with forest management, especially at a time when clean-up tree removal is being carried out in many Slovenian forests.”
The responsibility of enforcing mushroom-related rules is divided among several inspectorates, which together handle fewer than ten violators a year. Along main roads, mushroom sellers hawk mushrooms from Eastern European countries. Allegedly, such mushrooms have been preserved with solvent and are not safe. At the University Hospital in Ljubljana, doctors treated 14 mushroom poisonings in September. Four of the patients were kept in the hospital. To avoid poisonings, it’s important that people pick and eat only mushrooms with which they are familiar. Mushrooms are difficult to digest, so they shouldn’t be eaten by children, the elderly, and patients with restricted diets.