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‘Mushrooms Have Kidnapped You’: Pandemic Feeds Russia’s Obsession With Forest Fungi

‘Mushrooms Have Kidnapped You’: Pandemic Feeds Russia’s Obsession With Forest Fungi

For many people around the world, the coronavirus pandemic has been an excuse to learn a homey new skill like knitting or pastry-making.

For Russians, it’s all about the mushrooms.

“I go every other day and can’t get enough. I want more, more, more,” says Svetlana Gladysheva, who has had more time than usual to hunt for fungi in the woods, because the theater where she runs a cafeteria was closed. “My husband told me: ‘I’m afraid to lose you. Mushrooms have kidnapped you,’ ” she adds.

Foraging for mushrooms is a longstanding tradition in Russia. According to a 2019 survey by the Russian Public Opinion Research Center, nearly half the population in the biggest cities, St. Petersburg and Moscow, participate.

That was before the pandemic left people with limited travel options and more time on their hands. This year, a St. Petersburg-focused mushrooming group on the social-media site VK has nearly doubled to over 39,000, according to Anton Kubyshkin, the administrator of the St. Petersburg-focused group.

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