Urban mushroom hunters take trams to the woods

Several wooded areas in the city have wild mushrooms for picking

The wet weather makes prime conditions for mushroom hunting, but what is a person to do in the big city?

There are actually a number of places easily reachable by public transportation or on a bike that is apt to offer some edible fungus.

Amateurs should beware, though, that not all mushrooms are edible and some are quite toxic. There are no easy rules as some edible mushrooms have poisonous cousins that look almost the same. If you are new to picking, you should definitely go with a friend who knows their mushrooms.

The Czech Mycology Society will examine your mushrooms either at their center in Prague 1 or via email, but only during limited hours. When in doubt, do not eat something as some mushrooms can be fatal.

Mushrooms are most likely to be found in wooded areas in moist and shady spots. They grow fastest after a rainfall. Pine woods have the best picking.

Most pickers go out in the early morning, so the choicest items are gone by the afternoon.

Divoká Šárka is huge urban forest, and there is more to it than a nude swimming area. The trails can lead you deep into densely wooded areas that seem to be seldom explored. Trams 20 and 26 terminate at the park's entrance.

Less well-known is Klánovický les on the eastern edge of the city, near Horní Počernice and Klanovice. You can get there on a bike from metro Černý most or by the commuter rail line S1. Buses from Černý most to Újezd nad Lesy or Klanovice will also get you there.

The area recently has had a problem with wild boar, which has attacked dogs off the leash. So keep an eye out. The boar also is competition for eating mushrooms. Some of the boars have been culled by hunters but they are still in the area.

Closer to the city center is Obora Hvězda, which is home to the star-shaped summer palace Letohrádek Hvězda. The park, ringed with a large fence, has a very wild part aside from the somewhat maintained central path to the palace. The park was founded in 1530 by King Ferdinand I as a game reserve. Tram 22 and 25 to Vypich and trams 1 and 2 to Sídliště Petřiny are the easiest ways to get there. Buses also go there.

The metro to Roztyly will drop you at the edge of Michelský les and the adjacent Kunratický les. Many people use one of the other for the whole complex. Locals will argue with you over which name is correct. Kunraticko-michelský les, to be diplomatic, covers 300 hectares. It is Criss-crossed by trails and popular with bikers and joggers. It also has the ruins of a castle, most parts of the foundation as the towers were intentionally torn down. Buses to the other side of the woods stop at U Labutě.

Wild mushrooms can be used in soups, put into omelets, added to sauces and gravies, or served sauteed as a side dish.

To find out about the Czech Mycology Society, visit www.myko.cz (ENG)

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