Deep North Episode 47: Mycological Magic

mushroom foraging iceland

On a grey afternoon in late August, a small crowd has gathered near the old hydroelectric power station in Elliðaárdalur, a nature area near the capital. Helena Marta Stefánsdóttir, a specialist in the Forestry Service, has prepared a lecture on mushroom foraging 101 for the amateur mycologists gathered here. But it seems to be the first day of fall and as the wind picks up, a drizzle slowly grows into a light shower. The children are getting restless, and it’s only through their low murmur that I’m able to pick up fragments of tips. Never eat the ones that… Usually, a white mushroom will… I’m not exactly reassured, but everything is getting damp and we head off for the cover of the woods to continue our search.

Read the story here.

East Iceland Startup Makes Beverages Flavored with Locally Foraged Herbs

A start-up in East Iceland is producing nonalcoholic beverages using wild, Icelandic herbs, Austurfrétt reports. The company, Könglar (meaning ‘pine cones’), has been selling its beverages at restaurants throughout East Iceland since earlier this year and aims to be a truly local product. “People are always asking us if it’s possible to get [our drinks] in the [capital area],” says marketing manager Brynjar Darri Sigurðsson. “And we always say, ‘no, you have to come out East.’”

Producer Dagrún Drótt Valgarðsdóttir got the idea for making natural beverages from local, Icelandic ingredients after sampling a blueberry drink made in Finland. “We started to wonder if we could use that method using the nature we have here,” she says.

Könglar received subsidies from the municipality of Fljótsdalshérað, as well as the government’s Food Fund, which aims to “strengthen development and innovation in the production and processing of food and by-products from agricultural and marine products,” with an emphasis “on innovation, sustainability, value creation and the competitiveness of Icelandic food throughout the country.”

Thus far, the company’s beverages, all of which have names inspired by local folk tales, include a lovage drink, a dandelion iced tea, and a rhubarb soda. Dagrún says their focus has been “to use what’s around us as much as possible” instead of opting for imported produce or ingredients that aren’t native to Iceland. So, for instance, if they want the flavor profile of a tart, green apple, they use rhubarb, which is plentiful in East Iceland. In the future, Dagrún says Könglar would like to use their same production and infusion methods to make herbal-flavored beers and wine.

Follow Könglar on Instagram, here.

MAST Warns Against Mussel Collection This Summer

Hvalfjörður mussels

The Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority (MAST) has issued a warning against the collection and consumption of mussels from Hvalfjörður fjord in West Iceland, just half an hour outside of Reykjavík. Diarrhetic Shellfish Poison, or DSP, algae toxins have been identified in the mussels in higher concentrations than is safe for human consumption.

According to measurements taken by MAST on May 4 at Fossá in Hvalfjörður, collected mussels contained 260 µg/kg DSP; the maximum level of DSP for safe human consumption is 160 µg/kg. As the toxicity level is so high, it is expected that Hvalfjörður mussels will be unsafe for human consumption all summer.

As indicated by the name, DSP toxins can cause diarrhoea, abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting. Symptoms occur quickly after consumption and should pass in a few days.

MAST also monitors aquaculture in Iceland and says there is no reason for people to avoid domestically farmed mussels.

Hungry for More

When opening acclaimed restaurant Agern in New York, Gunnar Karl Gíslason tasted twenty different types of butter before he found one he liked. His pastry chefs sourced several kinds of organic milk because the ice creams made from regular milk tasted off to him. He never did end up finding lamb that met his standards in the US, though he found a single farm in the mountains of Pennsylvania whose grass-fed sheep he deemed adequate to serve his guests. But in Reykjavík, he’ll scarf down the local classic – a hot dog with ‘everything:’ crispy fried onion, fresh onion, mustard, remoulade, and ketchup – like the Akureyri-raised country boy he is. There’s a catch though: he’ll only get one from certain shops where they heat the sausages the way he likes them and serve the right kind of ketchup.

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