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Children dressed like mushrooms, 20 teams prepared mushroom dishes – Poland celebrated the Mushroom Festival. Report from UMDIS agency

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The Mushroom Holiday in Wielikhovo, Poland, has been held annually since 1995, with the exception of the year the pandemic began. This year the 28th Holiday was celebrated. In the 2000s, the event was both a festival for the public and an international industry exhibition – in 2005 there were 52 stands of exhibitors from 10 countries, in 2006 the number of stands was 60. These were the years of a powerful explosion of mushroom growing in Poland.

Now the event is aimed at a wide audience of visitors, it is open to everybody. It takes place over two days – this year on May 28-29. Usually during the day families with children come here for entertainment – and in the evening young people visit concerts of famous Polish artists, which can be listened for free.The organizers are the town and commune of Velikhovo, many guests also come from Grodzisk and the surrounding area. Mushrooms have been grown there for more than 30 years, almost every family has had experience with mushrooms – so mushrooms have become an important part of local culture. Local teacher from Grodzisk Malgozhata Piaskowska in a conversation with UMDIS tells:

– After work we came home, made compost from horse manure with straw which was laid in stables – put on a rack. The growing rooms were built in a yard with a wooden frame – covered with a layer of foil – then insulation material – and again foil. Mycelium was taken from the rural community. We did it to earn money – so did almost all our neighbors who had a yard and could organize a small growing room.

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According to the mayor of Vielihovo, Honorata Kozlowska, and the deputy mayor of Grodzisk, Ryszard Balcerek, many strawberries are also grown here, also there are pig farms – but the goods have not acquired such a metaphorical meaning for the people as mushrooms.Informally, the festival has two groups of organizers – local authorities and the mushroom industry. The first group aims to create good entertainment for locals with competitions, costumes and food, it attracts funding from the commune and the EU. The second group directs efforts to increase the consumption of mushrooms in Poland and attracts resources from the industry: from mushroom growers, cooperatives, suppliers of the mushroom industry.

Organizes from the authorities are the mayor of the city and commune of Vielihovo and the Cultural Center in Vielihovo. The event is supported by the Wielkopolska Regional Agar Chamber. The organizer from our mushroom industry is the Polish Mushroom Industry Association. Partners from the mushroom industry are Magik, Grzybmar, Agro-Team, Holpol, Golpol, Kozlowski and companies that joined the Polish promotion project “Mushroom has power” under the leadership of Vice President of the Polish Mushroom Industry Association Ryszard Gnus from EuroMycel.The meeting in the church where the pastor Wienzyslaw Nowak thanks God for the results of the work that mushroom growers get, asks for favorable conditions for them. In this part of Poland there are many believers, mushroom growers actively support the church.Traditional round dance in Vielihovo – children dress up in mushrooms, an orchestra plays.Competition for groups of children for the best costume related to mushrooms.Competition for children for Mr. and Mrs. Champignon – for the best costume.Competition for the largest grown mushroom. This year’s winner weighed 1,635 grams and had a cap diameter of 92 sm.Competition for the best mushroom dish. Women’s organizations from different villages and towns take part – in Poland such organizations are very much supported by local authorities, women often gather together, cook, prepare needleworks etc. This year the competition was regional – ladies from all over the Wielkopolska region came – 20 teams. In this region, although mushrooms are very popular, vegetarian dishes are cooked rarely – mushrooms are usually a supplement. For example, only a few of the dishes offered during the competition were vegetarian: pancakes, buns – in fact, those that include flour. Others included meat: goulash, bigos.Competition for culinary colleges of the Wielkopolskie region, which is to make a film about how to cook a dish with mushrooms. The competition is organized within the program “Mushroom has power”.Undoubtedly, the festival plays a significant marketing role starting from the stage of promotion when in newspapers and the Internet are placed advertisements for the festival and information about competitions connected with mushrooms. Richard Gnus, Vice president of the Mushroom Industry Association of Poland, said from the stage: “I want to assure you: our industry has so many mushrooms that you can cook them every day, even three times a day.” It is worth noting that under the leadership of Mr. Gnus, people learn about mushrooms facts that should affect the number of purchases. “When Richard brought us fresh mushrooms from the farm, I was shocked that they were so white. I even ate one raw – and then learned that they can and are useful to eat raw, add to salads, – “said local school teacher Ms. Piaskowska. If such an impact is scaled up for the whole of Poland, we can think that the consumption of mushrooms will gradually increase.

Well-known Polish chef Grzegorz Lapanowski, who was involved in the mushroom consumption promotion program, says: “Even before joining the campaign, I cooked mushrooms for myself three times a week. I think that in every dish where Poles are used to use wild mushrooms – champignons will show their best side, you just have to try”.Krystian Szudyga, the President of Polish Mushroom Industry Association explains: Poland is the biggest mushroom producer in EU  (340 thousand tons as of 2020). There are three regions of accumulation of mushroom farms. The largest and most modern – near Siedlce. The second – formerly called the “mushroom capital of Poland” – Velikhovo, there are many old farms. The third region is in Shlionsk.

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