A Dutch friend who really enjoys a good walk in the woods of Noord-Brabant and talking pictures of mushrooms and other fungi not far from their village has been very upset at all the Eastern Europeans picking ‘buckets full of mushrooms’. I don’t know if they saw any of them pick the mushrooms (I think so) or if they read it in the papers and found culprits to get angry at, but either way, Eastern Europeans really like to pick mushrooms, as I know from that part of my own Eastern European background. And this year is a grand cru year for mushrooms according to experts.
To Eastern European this is harvest time: they will make soups, marinated mushrooms, many dumplings stuffed with mushroom and the likes. It’s free food in the woods and they know which mushrooms to pick and which ones not to. Many cultures are taught not to pick mushrooms at all because some of them are poisonous and they could make a mistake and get sick, just like another part of my own culture taught me.
However, even if the culprits ‘plunder’ the woods, straight up blaming a group of people for a behaviour that is 1) not fully understood by the locals and 2) where the rules are unclear even to the Dutch, then you’ll cultivate racist and bigoted comments in no time, which is exactly what happened to my friend’s post.
There are roughly 5,000 types of mushrooms in Dutch nature, of which about 100 are poisonous, which is why the Dutch learn not to pick them, and people do get sick every year from eating the wrong kinds. Forest rangers explain that mushrooms are not protected by law, but if you do pick too many of them, you’ll mess up nature. They say picking 250 grams is socially acceptable, again none of this is the law and I can imagine that groups of people of all nationalities are going to ignore this. More than the suggested 250 grams is considering ‘stealing’ and can ring up a fine of about 100 euro. However, none of this is a deterrent for someone who wants to just pick a whole lot of mushrooms and has been doing so since they were children.
Besides not knowing the rules and not understanding why the Dutch would leave food lying around in the forest, Eastern Europeans know their mushrooms well. It’s up to the Dutch authorities to find a way to get their vague yet well meant message across instead of making blanket racist comments on social media. That’s not going to work at all.