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Mushrooms and Forest Tea: 1919

So a few weeks ago I stumbled across a magazine on ebay called Hilf Dir Selbst, a post WWI self help magazine that sounded interesting.  I got it for 1 euro and it’s wonderful! It has articles on everything from starting your own rabbit farm to turning an old skirt into a bed jacket to lots of useful articles about recipes and herbs.

This was published the year after the war ended and people were seriously poor, which means people pretty much had to figure out ways to live without a lot of luxury.  What I love about these kinds of magazines is that you get interesting info like “recipes often call for pepper because it’s so hard to get”.  All the recipes below can be made on an extremely low budget, easily, using only plants found in forests or easily grown in the garden.   I thought these were really interesting so I’ve translated them and put them up.  If you notice any translation mistakes or try any of these at home, please let me know!

Hilf Dir Selbst May 1919

(ignore the nightshade picture in the middle, it belongs to an article on the previous page. Also, sorry the scan is so blurry!)

Mushrooms in the Kitchen


The mushrooms, regardless what kind they are, should be cleaned, washed and put in a very little bit of water.  Add a small onion and a little salt and stew them slowly together. [when these recipes call for mushrooms, it seems many of them expect the mushrooms to be first prepared in this way, although I don’t see that it’s necessary]

Mushroom soup with noodles and or oat grits.

The mushrooms should be slowly stewed together with an onion and the noodles.  Then stir in a little flour to bind it and some finely chopped parsley.   If you’re using oat grits, the flour isn’t necessary.

Mushrooms with potato:

Mealy potatoes should be boiled with some onion, salt, and a soup cube.  Mash the potatoes, then add the mushrooms and some parsley to taste.

Mushroom and potato salad

Mushrooms should be cooked till soft with their own juice, some vinegar, salt and onion, then drained in a colander.  Take the liquid and add a little sweetener, finely chopped chives and parsley, borage, and salad burnet to taste, then add the finely chopped mushrooms and a sliced, boiled potato.    You can also add celery stalks.  Then let the salad sit for a few hours before serving.

Mushrooms in vinegar to put on bread

Cook the mushrooms till soft in its own juices and a little vinegar.  Then make it spicy with some horseradish and herbed vinegar or dill.  Serve on bread or also as a side dish with potatoes and beef.

Mushroom Ragout

Your Sunday meat should first be cooked with a lot of soup vegetables to make a meat stock.  Let the stock stand until it is cold and remove the fat to use later for the vegetables. Then brown the flour without using any fat, add it to and boil it in the stock till it’s clear, then add your finely chopped stock meat and the prepared mushrooms.  Then add herbal vinegar (if you don’t have any regular), a tiny bit of sweetener, and salt to taste.  You can also add salted, boiled potatoes to the dish.

Mushroom casserole with vegetables:

In a prepared casserole dish, layer finely weighed prepared mushrooms, then sauerkraut, mashed potato, finely chopped turnips, mushrooms (always put some in between), onion, dandelion, and pour broth of 1/4 liter of soured milk and a little potato flour over it all.  Bake in the oven for 1-2 hours.

Sauteed potato and mushrooms:

Leftover potatoes can be added to mushroom broth with a finely chopped onion and sauteed.  When they are soft, add the prepared mushrooms, and finally some parsely should be sprinkled on top and mixed in.

Mushroom gravy:

In a pot add some browned flour, finely-chopped onion, some salt, nutmeg, and finely chopped prepared mushrooms.   With a little vinegar and pickled onion and 1 tsp. of mustard, mix the mass and put the dip on fish or beef.  If you don’t have these, put it on potatoes.

Mushroom spread for your bread

Take finely chopped mushrooms and add various herbs like chives, parsley, and thyme; then add onions and salt and cook everything together [I assume in a little water?].  Boiled grits or oat flakes should then be added and mixed well, and the mass should be put into jars.  It must be thick so that you can spread it easily.  In all recipes fine pepper is recommended because it’s so hard to get.  However, most mushrooms (with the exception of button mushrooms and steinpilzen (porcini mushrooms) ) taste better without it.

Mushroom patties cooked in lard

Finely chopped mushrooms that have been drained of their juices should be mixed with boiled, grated potato, chopped onion and salt and as much egg white as you need to keep everything together should be formed into patties, and then fried in lard.   Then brown some flour, add the mushroom juice, small pearl onions, and chopped cucumber and serve over green beans or sour cabbage.

Mushrooms with herbs

Dandelion, orach [also called mountain spinach], and other wild vegetables should be boiled till soft and then finely chopped.  Do the same with the mushrooms when the herbs are done.  Then mix together with some onion, salt and flour and cook them through.   You serve this with potatoes.

Mushrooms and pearl barley

Soak 1/2 kilo of barley for 24 hours, and boiled for 2 hours in lightly salted water.  Fresh mushrooms should be cleaned and steamed in a pot with a little fat and water.  Larger mushrooms should be chopped, but leave the smaller ones whole.  After steaming them for about 20 minutes, mix them with the barley.

Collect Leaves and Blossoms for Tea

Nut Leaves

In June you an collect the young leaves of the walnut tree.  They must be dried quickly in artificial heat (the oven) so that their green color stays.  Walnut leaves when dried have a spicy smell, but not as strong as the fresh leaves.  If they turn brown, you can’t use them.

Strawberry Leaves

You can collect the leaves of wild strawberry in every forest, preferably in May or June before they are fully grown.  Dry them in a warm, airy place.

Waldmeister (Sweet Woodruff) Leaves

By Waldmeister (Asperula odorata) we are talking about the entire (best dried quickly on high heat) above ground part: the stem, flowers and leaves.  It grows in shadowy green forests, especially in beech forests.  You collect the herb in May, preferably before the flowers have fallen as it has the best aroma at this time. The flowerless plant can be used for many things, but not for tea.  You can tell the difference by the strenght of the aroma.  Waldmeister becomes blue-green to black-green when dried.

Deadnettle Flowers

Deadnettle (Lamium album) for tea can be found all over Germany on village streets, as hedges,  and often grow in thick masses.   On the plant, the leaf stalks grow to 1/2 meter and look like burning nettles but don’t sting. From the end of April to June the beautiful, large, snow-white flowers grow, and should be collected before they’ve totally opened on a warm, dry day.   Take the flowers out of the green part and dry them quickly and on high heat.  If they turn brown, don’t use them.

Blackthorn Flowers

The 1-3 meter high thorny blackthorn grows on sunny hills and forest edges all over Germany.   It is also often planted as a hedge.   The blackthorn puts out many little flowers in April and May before the leaves are fully developed. Collect them on dry days, remove the green part and dry them in the sun.  If the flowers are collected after rain or not dried quickly enough they become brown or black and are not usable.

Blackberry and Raspberry Leaves

The leaves on blackberry and raspberry brambles that can be found hanging everywhere in light forests, mountains and on forest paths are best collected in June and July while they’re still young.


4 responses to “Mushrooms and Forest Tea: 1919

  1. Pingback: Pickled and Jammed: Ways to pass a rainy day « Young Jen in Spats

  2. Pingback: Part Two: Vintage Winter Crafts (are more fun then they sound) « Young Jen in Spats

  3. This is so interesting to me. Which recipes have you tried?

    • I’ve tried the mushrooms in vinegar (ie. pickled mushrooms) and I think the first two. The basic mushroom recipe is a really good one to have! I’ve also tried most of the tea leaves.

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