How to pick mushrooms in Norway like you’ve been doing it all your life

Summer may be drawing to close, but in Norway there's a consolation: It's mushroom-picking time!

How to pick mushrooms in Norway like you've been doing it all your life
Mushroom picking in eastern Norway. Photo: Christian Roth Christensen/Visit Norway
This is the season when many (perhaps even most) Norwegians bunk off from work early to roam their local forests, bringing back giant hauls of hedgehog mushrooms (pigsopp), tasty chanterelles (kantareller), trumpet chanterelles (traktkantareller) and ceps (Steinsopp).
If you're in the right part of Norway, and find a good spot, you can bring back kilos and kilos, which if dried or frozen can keep you going right through to next season. 
But for many foreigners (at least those who don't come from similarly fungally-fixated nations), it can all seem overwhelming, meaning they miss out on one of the great joys of living in Norway. 
To know when to go out, study the weather. If there's been a heavy autumn downpour, that will get the mushrooms growing, with ceps showing up 3-10 days after a heavy downpour and chanterelles taking two to three weeks.
A good haul of chantarelles picked in Trondelag. Photo: Terje Rakke/Visit Norway 
Here's some advice: 
1. Only pick (and eat!) what you know
Many beginners tend to uproot the first mushroom they come across and then seek to identify it and see if it's poisonous or not. Don't do this. It's a much better approach to study just one or two of the most common edible mushrooms beforehand and then go out looking only for them.
It's best not to eat anything you can't safely identify. But this is no reason to be intimidated as while only about 100 of the perhaps 10,000 possible mushrooms you might see are good edibles, only a couple of handful are potentially lethal.
Hedgehog mushrooms, chanterelles, trumpet chanterelles and ceps make a good start. 
To start off with, stay away from the sort of white mushrooms you might find in supermarkets, as they can quite easily be confused with fungi that are very poisonous indeed.
Particularly stay away from white mushrooms with white gills (I don't dare touch them).
Hedgehog mushrooms are quite common in Norway and are popular with beginners as they are impossible to confuse with anything else, with the shaggy teeth which cover the bottom of the cap. 
Photo: D J Kelly/Wikimedia Commons 
Chanterelles are most often found in pine woods, and hide under fallen leaves, making them hard to spot until you get the knack for it. You're most likely to find nothing for an hour and then stumble on a patch hiding dozens and dozens, so be patient.
They are yellow and, instead of gills, have ridges which run down the stem a bit with no defined ring dividing them.
The beauty of Chanterelles is that the only thing you can really confuse them with, the false chanterelle (narrkantarell) is only slightly unpleasant tasting and not actually poisonous.
There are two ways of telling the difference: Flesh colour: Chanterelles will have white, slightly stringy, meat when cut open. False chanterelles will have orange, slightly rubbery, flesh. Scent: chanterelles are apricot-scented, false chanterelles smell of rotting wood.
A cep, also known as a penny bun mushroom. Photo: Strobilomyces/Wikimedia Commons

The cep is the most popular of the bolete family. It's the porcini mushroom beloved of Italians, which you can buy in delicatessens sliced and dried for risottos.
But many of the others boletes, such as the bay bolete (svartbrun rørsopp), and birch bolete (rødskrubb) are also tasty.
The boletes are easy to identify due to the spongy tubes they have in place of gills, and their brown dimpled caps. As with chanterelles, there's little chance of unexpectedly ending up in the emergency ward. The only poisonous genus, Rubroboletus, does not grow in Norway. 
You should also watch out for the very bitter but not actually poisonous bitter bolete (Gallerørsopp), which you can identify by the pinkish pores, and the black web on the stem.
2. Find your spot
The best forests to hunt for mushrooms in are old-growth forests, ideally a mix of pine or fir with a deciduous tree such as birch, oak or beech. But you can still find ceps and chanterelles in commercial spruce and pine plantations.
If you ask around, you can normally find out which local forests are deemed decent for mushroom-picking, but you will still need to spend a long time walking around until you stumble upon a really good spot. When you do, note it down, because it will probably still be producing in a few weeks, and then again next year.
If you can convince a friendly Norwegian to show you some of their best spots, it will save you a huge amount of trial and error, but it would have to be a very friendly Swede indeed, as most guard theirs with their lives.
Often, local nature reserves organise fungal forays, which might be a way of accessing local knowledge.
It also pays to get away from well-trodden paths and at least a few hundred metres away from the nearest car park. Some take bicycles so they can go deep down narrow forest paths. 
3. Get a book
I'm a big fan of the River Cottage Handbook No.1 for Mushrooms, by John Wright, which is amusingly written, full of information, and has good photos and drawings. It's more oriented to the UK, which works for Skåne where I live, but would be more of an issue the further north in Sweden you get. It includes lots of field mushrooms few Swedes would touch, giving you a competitive edge.
In Norway the website and associated Soppkontrol app are popular among mushroom hunters. 
4. What to bring? 
It's best to bring only useful things — a good basket, a knife, your phone, and of course a snack or beverage; coffee and biscuits in the forest is part of the whole experience. 
You might want to decouple from technology during your mushroom hunting, but a phone is very useful for tracking your location, and noting down where you find good spots, and also for photographing what you find and getting help. 
Baskets are better than buckets, as the mushrooms are less likely to get slimy. I sometimes bring two – one for mushrooms I know are edible, and one for ones I picked out of curiosity (ignoring advice no 1 above).
Opinel knives are good for harvesting mushrooms, but more or less any knife will do.
5. Be a snob and don't lay waste to the forest
It pays to be be picky. Dragging home maggot-infested corpses isn't very productive. Only pick the perfect specimen. Leave the rest to the critters already inhabiting them. The forest are vast, and there are many more mushrooms in them than you ever could pick, so discretion is strongly advised.
Many Norwegians leave the 'root' of the mushrooms, believing that this will help them grow back, but as mushrooms are just the fruiting bodies of vast underground networks, in reality leaving the 'root' doesn't make much difference.  
You should, however, avoid ripping up every mushroom you see then throwing it away when you decide it might be poisonous.

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When will Norway’s universities return to normal?

Universities in Norway fully opened on Monday, just a few days before the end of the spring semester. But how long will it take for them to get back to normal?

When will Norway's universities return to normal?
The law faculty at the University of Oslo. Photo: Mahlum/Wikimedia Commons
How open are Norwegian universities now? 
As of this Monday, universities in Norway are fully open, but they need to respect the current guidelines on reducing the spread of coronavirus, including the one-metre rule, which will mean that lectures and social events will not be able to be held as usual.
In areas where staff and students rely on public transport, home office and digital meetings will continue to be held.
In a statement on Friday, Norway's universities minister Henrik Asheim said that having full opening in the last week of the semester would help students and staff to prepare for the autumn semester, and also be useful for master's students taking summer course. 
What has happened in the spring semester? 
Universities closed their doors on March 12 when Norway's government announced the decision to impose a lockdown, and most then decided to shift to digital tuition for the rest of the spring semester. 
In April, students and postdoctoral students who needed access to campuses to continue their research were allowed back.
University employees began to return to their offices from the start of May, although the majority only returned to their offices towards the end of the month. The Arctic University of Norway in Tromsø only officially ended home-working on June 5th. 
In the week starting May 11, universities began to reopen some of their buildings to some students, with libraries and reading rooms reopening, albeit with quota systems, and Masters and PHD students who have their own offices were allowed to return, so long as they followed strict guidelines. 
This meant the return of about 25 percent of students. 
On June 15th, universities became fully open again, although for most the spring semester ends on June 18th.  
What sort of rules have been in place? 
Since May 11, have limited the number of students who can come to libraries and reading rooms, so as to be able to maintain a minimum one metre distance between desks.
Universities have also been insisting that students take an online course in minimising infection before entering their premises. 

What will happen to international students coming on exchange to to study on exchange this autumn? 

Norway's education authorities have instructed the country's universities to arrange international exchanges as normal for this autumn, but few are actually doing so. 
The University of Oslo is offering exchange students a digital course, arguing that with most visa offices now closed, it is in practice impossible for prospective students to get an entry permit. 
The Arctic University of Norway in Tromsø on May 11th cancelled all international student exchanges for the autumn, saying that uncertainty over border controls made it impossible to arrange in practice. 
The University of Bergen is going ahead with international exchanges for students from the EU/EFTA countries and the UK, with the exception of clinical rotation at the medical faculty, which has been cancelled. It has told those exchange students who decide to come to expect “a blend of in-person instruction and online instruction”. 
What about international students starting undergraduate and master's degrees? 
Most of those who applied to study degrees in Norway this autumn did so well before the coronavirus lockdown, leaving many in the difficult situation of having been accepted for international study they may not be able to receive. 
The University of Oslo has told many international students that the first autumn semester will be taught online, meaning many will not be able to come to Norway. 
With it still uncertain whether borders will be open by the time the semester starts in August, some students have been told they can try to come in August, but that if they do so, they will have to find their own accommodation.