By Marie Kambas
The forestry department is urging wild-mushroom pickers to avoid using tools and implements to displace surrounding foliage in pursuit of their goal, warning that violators could face a fine or jail.
Wild mushrooms abound in rural areas and in mountainous regions from the onset of autumn, and the first mushrooms have already started appearing on the market.
Despite warnings, authorities have established that many mushroom pickers continue to use implements such as rakes to remove foliage covering mushrooms. That practice is strictly banned, and carries a fine of up to €5,000, a year in jail, or both.
“Clearing away foliage severely damages the forest ecosystem since smaller mushrooms are destroyed along with microorganisms and plants in the area,” the forestry department said in a statement, adding that the aftermath was also “aesthetically unappealing”.
Mushroom picking should only be carried out by individuals after careful observation and by those in a position to distinguish between edible and poisonous varieties. One of Cyprus’ most in-demand edible mushrooms, the wild red, is almost identical to a poisonous one and its ingestion can be lethal.
During collection, foliage should be removed by hand only where the mushroom grows, and the foliage should be replaced afterwards.
Collectors must always use a small knife, and not pull out the entire mushroom. This allows the fungi to reproduce, the forestry department said.