Apple grumble – fungus fun

There can't be many people out there who have enjoyed the Swedish summer so far. But if you do spot someone eyeing the leaden skies sporting a huge grin, they're more likely to be a mushroomer, than, say, an apple farmer. Whilst the nation's fungal friends revel in the wettest early summer in years, orchard owners are already counting the cost of the weather to their livelihoods.

Sunday’s DN reported from Skåne on the fate of apple grower Thomas Bech’s crop. Practically his entire yield of 120 tons has been ruined by hail storms, a fate shared by many other growers in southern Sweden. Hail is the worst possible weather for growing apples as it covers the fruit with holes.

“For me it’s a question of 95% or maybe even 100% of the harvest being destroyed,” said a resigned Bech. What makes matters even worse is that insurance policies no longer exist to cover for such eventualities as they became too expensive for the insurance companies.

The 115 apple growers in the ‘Äppelriket i Skåne’ co-operative reckon the Swedish harvest as a whole will be down by about 25% due to the cool, wet conditions. And the smaller the Swedish harvest, the more apples will be imported. Imported apples already represent 40% of the market and the implications for the Swedish market are obvious. “Now we need some warm weather,” said Kurt Knast of Förenade Fruktodlare i Simrishamn, “The more cheap fruit’s imported, the less Swedish growers will get paid.”

In central Sweden, the apple crop has been hit by frost damage and moths. The pear crop is also expected to be below average.

DN gave the final word to Thomas Bech: “I’ve no plans to chuck it in and go into computers, but it’s no fun to put in so much work for nothing. A year’s work ruined in twenty minutes. It’s tragic.”

Food for thought for those irritatingly happy mushroom pickers. Tuesday’s Aftonbladet attempted to summon up a little summer joy by trying to get excited. “Is your holiday disappearing in a river of rain? Longing for the beach?” it asked. “Change your plans. You should be heading for the woods this year,” it unconvincingly suggested.

“The mushroom loves wet summers,” explained expert Anders Bohlin. And apparently in many parts of Sweden, the forests are bursting forth with chanterelles, button mushrooms and even the cep (karljohansvampen), which doesn’t usually put in an appearance before August.

So where can you find the rascals? Aftonbladet’s top tips are to look on well-mown lawns (for the tasty-hatted nejlikbroskskivling, which is beyond the scope of the Local’s dictionary), at the edges of marshy areas and in mixed deciduous-coniferous forests.

“The cep is clearly my favourite and is the king of edible Swedish fungi,” enthused Bohlin. “Of course, everybody enjoys a bit of sun, but a dry August is devastating for the mushroom and last year the crop just dried up. We’re hoping for a record year this year.”