Autumn in Croatia is the perfect time to explore nature. The country’s mountainous regions are currently being enjoyed by walkers and hikers. In less hilly regions, people take to walking the forests and riversides. There, an eruption of colour as the trees respond to the season – red, orange, yellow, purple, brown. Autumn’s colours are epic. But, they’re not around forever. Catch them while you can.
One resident who is sure to take in the full range of autumn’s splendor is Hrvoje Banaj. An outdoor enthusiast from near Zagreb, at weekends, he can be found exploring the forests and mountain of Medvednica, or somewhere else around Zagreb County. He’s been walking the woods since he was a child, accompanied by his father, who taught Hrvoje about mushrooms.
You can collect wild mushrooms across much of Croatia. But, Hrvoje thinks mushroom hunting in Zagreb County is particularly good. Certainly, you can find a surprising bounty in the woods of Zagreb County, as TCN found out last year on a truffle hunting trip.
There are groups of wild mushroom enthusiasts in Croatia. Also, you can find some expert forest guides who know about identifying edible mushrooms in the wild. However, it’s not incredibly common to come across someone in Croatia who has that knowledge and who speaks English. Therefore, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to speak with Hrvoje to ask him a little about his experience of mushroom hunting in Zagreb County.
My name is Hrvoje. I grew up in Zaprešić and I still live there. I attended university in Zagreb, where I studied German language and literature and phonetics. Also, my first course was organ playing. I’m a concert organist.
I’ve been hunting mushrooms since I was 5 or 6 years old. A very early age. My father was a lifelong forest engineer. So, it was a normal part of his work to go into the woods at all times of year, and discover what was there. For him too, mushrooms were a focus of interest.
He’d been going into the woods since he was 13 or 14 and learned about the different kinds of mushrooms from several older, experienced people. As an adult, he bought two detailed books about mushrooms which he learned from additionally. Of course, I read them too. There was no internet back then. We still have those books.
My dad’s work was all around Zagreb and Zagreb County. Often, he would take me with him. He has been retired for a few years now. He no longer has the passion for it as he had had back in the years when he worked. But, I still go mushroom hunting in Zagreb County and I love it.
You can find lots of different kinds of mushrooms all over Croatia. I’ve explored the woods and picked mushrooms across much of the inland of the country.
In Zagreb County, the edible mushrooms I’ve personally seen are; Morels, Chicken of the Woods and all kinds of Porcini mushrooms. Also, Hedgehog mushroom – one of my favourites to eat – and all kinds of Puffballs. I saw a Giant Polypore recently too, while I was walking on Sljeme.
You find Chanterelles and Parasol mushrooms here, sometimes in large numbers. Horn of Plenty and Horse mushroom you also see a lot. Several types of Russula mushrooms grow here. I’ve never seen a St George’s mushroom here. But, I saw and ate them in Slavonia. My father has roots there, so I’ve visited a lot.
Although autumn is usually associated with mushroom picking, that’s actually a widespread misperception. It’s true that some of the more popular and well-known wild mushrooms are most common in autumn. That’s probably where this thinking comes from.
Actually, mushrooms grow all year round in Croatia. Some kinds you only usually see in the springtime. Similarly, many people believe that you have to go into forests to find mushrooms. But, some edible mushrooms in Croatia actually prefer to live in direct sunlight and you can find them at the sides of fields.
If you want to go truffle or wild mushroom hunting in Zagreb County, it’s best to go with a guide. You can find out more about guides and groups from Zagreb County Tourist Board here.
You can see all the different types of edible mushrooms that grow in the wild in Croatia here.
All photos used were taken in Zagreb County and come from the private collection of Hrvoje Banaj, unless otherwise accredited