Food foraging is a tradition in Slovenia. It could also be the most memorable experience of your trip: a day of foraging and feasting at a secret spot in natural surroundings.
Lifetime Experience Food Foraging Tour
My Slovenian ancestors didn’t forage for food just because it was fun. It was also a necessity for poor farmers barely making a living off small parcels of land. The bounty of Mother Nature provided different varieties of healthy, nutritious food and throughout the year, if you knew where to look and what to eat. Or, what NOT to eat.
That’s where the website Lifetime Experience comes in. Tour guide Lado Rot designs custom adventures for travelers who want the forest-to-table experience. He offers mushroom and medicinal herbs foraging tours under the nickname of “Doctor Fungi.” Watch this video and then read on for the details.
Morning Mushroom Wakeup Call
I’m an early riser, so I didn’t mind the 5 am wakeup call on the day of my foraging trip. We reached the village of Sv. Katarina in time to hear the bells chime 6 am. We climbed inside the trunk of an ancient linden tree for a moment of meditation and emerged in time to witness a magnificent sunrise.
There is also a practical reason for the early start: mushroom hunting is a popular activity in Slovenia. Everyone safeguards the location of a preferred spot. Even then, it’s competitive. You don’t want to arrive after the forest floor has been picked over. We ate a light breakfast of tea and homemade yogurt with cereals and medicinal herbs. Then we followed Lado into the woods, baskets in hand.
Healthy or Harmful?
Spotting the mushrooms under a carpet of autumn leaves took some practice. Knowing which ones to eat or avoid? Well, that requires a lifetime of experience, or lots of studying in the reference books that Lado keeps at his forest hideaway.
Turns out that the iconic amanita muscaria mushroom with its bright red and white polka-dotted cap is among the ones that can be toxic if eaten. As for its possible benefits in shamanic healing, that’s another story.
Experienced mushroom whispers like Lado call this one the “holy mushroom” when properly used for medicinal purposes and spiritual healing in the hands of a trained expert. In other words, don’t try this on your own! Better and safer to rely on someone who knows what they’re doing,
My main takeaway from the tour is that mushroom foraging is one activity I’ll never do without the leadership of an experienced guide. The delicious portobello mushrooms don’t look the same in the wild as they do on a restaurant plate. Booking this tour is the next best thing to having a Slovenian grandma, who learned about mushroom hunting from her grandma.
Lado explained that foraging has a few rules like “don’t be greedy.” Take only what you need. It’s important to leave some fungi on the forest floor to repopulate the area for future finds. The forest is more than generous enough to provide for everyone who takes only their fair share.
Mushroom Foraging Feast in the Forest
The second takeaway is that you’ve never really tasted mushrooms until you’ve picked them fresh from the forest. One participant on our tour confessed that she hated mushrooms; she was a convert by the end of the day.
Everyone in our group pitched in to slice and season the mushrooms. Lado cooked up a tasty gobova juha — a fresh-picked version of the mushroom soup that is a staple in most Slovenian restaurants. We also grilled the portobello mushrooms and followed our feast with a tasting of homemade honey liqueur.
How to Book Your Foraging Tour with Lifetime Experience
Reserve your foraging adventure on the website. Or email Lado at firstname.lastname@example.org. Each trip is customized to the time of year and the interests of the participants. I’ve also taken the truffle hunting tour with Lifetime Experience.
Lifetime Experience arranges custom or group tours from Ljubljana or Bled, other locations by request. A forest food experience is a fun activity at any time of the year. Just be prepared with sturdy hiking shoes and seasonal clothing.
Food Foraging Tradition: From the Farmers’ Market to Famous Chefs
If you don’t have time to go on a food foraging trip, you’ll find fresh-picked mushrooms for sale in the Ljubljana Farmers’ Market when it’s mushroom season. They’re also on the menu at restaurants run by some of Slovenia’s famous TV chefs.
When my Slovenian neighbor returned from a foraging trip to the forest, she gifted me the biggest portobello mushroom I’ve ever seen. My son Andrew is an accomplished chef in his own right, when he’s not too busy writing Slovenia-inspired novels. Sauteed with scrambled eggs, one mighty mushroom made an easy, delicious meal.
In the springtime, Slovenians forage for wild garlic or dandelions. Dandelions? Yes. My American eyes see a pesky weed, but Slovenians see dinner! My friend Špela Vodovc has the recipe in her excellent cookbook, Cook Eat Slovenia. Order the cookbook here and she’ll ship it to the USA. The beautiful photos make it easy to follow the instructions in English, using American measuring units.
Foraging for Wild Garlic in a Secret Spot
My neighbor also took me on a springtime trip to forage for wild garlic. It’s called čemaž in Slovene (pronounced cheh-mosh). Watch the video here:
Terry’s Travel Tips
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Many thanks to Lado Rot and Lifetime experience for sponsoring this post. It describes the typical experience that any traveler can expect. Opinions are my own. Subscribe to my free monthly newsletter for more travel secrets and new posts. Don’t be a stranger!