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Delicacies from Nature's Pantry
On state-owned land, everyone is free to gather wild mushrooms and berries for personal use. Such a peaceful "hunt" through the plantations for delicacies for dinner is a delightful way to relax.
Mushrooms can be picked year-round, but from June to November, boletes and then the popular chanterelles emerge from the forest floor throughout the dune plantations. It's a good idea to bring a basket, a small sharp knife, and a brush for cleaning the mushrooms.
There are mushrooms in all the dune plantations in the national park, but to varying degrees. In areas where non-native trees like spruce and contorted pine are dense, there are not many mushrooms. In areas where hardwood trees, Scots pine, and old spruces mix in the vegetation, there are typically more - and a greater variety of - edible mushrooms.
Boletes, milk caps, and hedgehog mushrooms are often found in drier and conifer-dominated areas. Chanterelles can be found among hardwood trees, in clearings, moss, and wetter parts of the forests. Also, keep an eye out for funnel chanterelles, which prefer moisture and light.
Sea buckthorn is delicious but tricky to pick. You should NOT cut branches of sea buckthorn in nature. It may make it easier to remove the berries if the branch has been in the freezer, but if many people pick this way, it is hard on the bushes and the many birds that depend on sea buckthorn as a food source in the autumn. Instead, wear a good pair of gloves and, if needed, a large fork to remove the berries. Sea buckthorn can be picked from late summer to October. If you wait until later in the season and go out early in the morning after a cold night, picking becomes somewhat easier.
Many people pick bog myrtle for schnapps. Depending on what you pick from the bog myrtle and when, you can achieve different flavors. The catkins should be picked just before they bloom from March to May. The leaves are traditionally picked throughout the summer from June to August, but they can also be picked when they are newly sprouted in the spring, giving a slightly milder flavor.
Good picking spots
- Tved Klitplantage is a good mushroom location
- Stenbjerg Klitplantage, especially east of Kystvejen, also has good mushroom spots
- Vangså Hede and Lyngby Hede are good places to find bog bilberries, blackberries, and cranberries
- Agger Tange and Stenbjerg Klithede are good for sea buckthorn
- You can find bog myrtle on Ålvand Klithede
One of the best places in Denmark to catch oysters is by the Limfjord, and at Agger Tange, you can walk right to the water's edge at low tide and pick them up by hand.
The oyster season lasts from October 1st through March. You are allowed to collect oysters for your own use, but there are some things you should be aware of:
Important things to know when collecting oysters:
- Be cautious of toxic algae in the water, as it can lead to algae poisoning. To be on the safe side regarding warm water algae, only eat self-collected oysters from October to March.
- Only eat (cook) fresh and live oysters.
- Do not collect oysters near river, wastewater, or harbor outlets to avoid disease-causing bacteria.
- In addition to algae poisoning, you can get sick from norovirus or bacteria in oysters. If you're concerned about this, you can heat your oysters at a minimum of 100 degrees for 1 minute. They will be delicious directly on the fire.
- You do not need a fishing permit to collect oysters by hand. However, if you use tools such as a rake or tongs, it requires a fishing permit.
Pacific oysters are an invasive species introduced into Danish waters in the 1960s when the European oyster population was rapidly declining. Pacific oysters are incredibly hardy, tolerating water temperatures ranging from -5°C to +40°C, and this tolerance for wide temperature fluctuations has contributed to the species' global spread. In certain areas of Danish waters, Pacific oysters have become a problem because they feed on the same food as blue mussels. With the dominance of oysters, the conditions for mussels deteriorate, making it harder for bird species such as eider ducks, oystercatchers, and herring gulls, which primarily feed on blue mussels, to find food.
In the Limfjord, you can find both Pacific oysters and the smaller, rounder Limfjord oysters. However, it's best to focus on the former to benefit the environment.
Food and history are closely linked. Coastal communities relied on fishing for many years, and one of Thy's specialties is stockfish. In March and April, cod is caught, the belly is sliced open, gutted, and hung on drying racks for a couple of weeks. Here, they hang and are salted by the sea air until they become so bone-dry that they can hardly be cut into.
In the old days, people used to store stockfish in the attic for times when they couldn't get fresh fish. Then they would be taken out and soaked for a day. Afterward, they were boiled for six to eight hours and served with potatoes and white sauce. Many of the older residents of Thy still can't do without stockfish as everyday food, and in the spring, you can still see the fish hanging to dry in the coastal towns.
The sheep that grazed on the heathlands have also been a valued food source over time. The mutton was salted and preserved, later soaked like stockfish. Then the meat was cut into cubes and layered in a pot with cabbage, and the whole thing was cooked into a dish reminiscent of Irish stew. Cabbage was highly valued in Thy and was transported in large wagons from farms further inland because it couldn't grow in the area's salty and sandy soil. Seagulls were also consumed in large quantities until 1950. Today, a few locals in Thy still enjoy seagull soup with flour dumplings or seagull breast with cranberries and bog bilberries from the heath.
Remember when foraging
- On public land, you may forage over the entire area.
- On private land, you may only pick what you can reach from the road or path you're on.
- You are only allowed to forage as much as can fit in your hat, as stated in the Jutlandic Law of 1241. The law still applies, but with changing hat fashion and new hygiene etiquette, you may forage what can fit in a small bag.
- You may only forage for personal use. Leave the rest so that others can also enjoy the experience of finding and picking food in nature.
- Do not pick species that are scarce in the place where you're foraging.
- Never uproot plants; they probably won't grow in your garden anyway, and it's illegal.
- On public land, you can cut branches and twigs from deciduous trees that are over 10 meters high, and you can collect pine cones from the forest floor, not from the trees.
- When collecting mushrooms, always have a mushroom guide with you, and only pick the mushrooms that you are completely certain are not toxic.
- If you collect oysters or mussels, be aware that they can be toxic in the summer months.
- Remember, you are a guest in nature, so avoid disturbing the birds and animals that live there.
- Pick up any litter you find and take it with you, even if it's not your own
Other exciting things to taste
- Berries and honey can be purchased in farm shops and small roadside stalls.
- Porse Guld is a beer from Thisted Bryghus. The brewery's employees gather the heather themselves during their annual trip to the heath.
- Many people make schnapps flavored with amber, heather, and marsh bilberries from the heath.
- Freshly caught fish can be purchased at fish shops in the coastal towns along the coast or directly from the boats.
- At Vorupør Museum, you can explore the exhibition "The Taste of Thy," which is all about Thy's wild edible plants. You can learn about what these plants meant in homes in the past and what they mean for Thy today. What does Thy actually taste like? The museum offers various activities during the summer.
- Several local eateries have traditional regional dishes on their menus, including Stenbjerg Kroo, which serves a national park platter, and Tri in Agger, where you can enjoy gourmet cuisine made from local Thy ingredients.