All Polish seasons - especially from far away - hold a special beauty and magic. However, early fall is the really special one. There is this short and beautiful period of warm weather, blue sky and sunshine, when foliage looks at its magniﬁcent. Here we call it Indian Summer, in Poland it is called Old Woman’s Summer (Babie Lato). Fall is the season of abundance. People want to preserve the delicious ﬂavors for long cold months, so almost everybody does some home food processing. You can make your own marmalades - prune butter is the big thing, but also great are marmalades from red and black currants, gooseberries, blackberries and raspberries. Or you can pickle - just about everything. The most popular are bell peppers and dill cucumbers, but my mom also pickles pears, plums and mushrooms.
In September, people go mushrooming in Poland. You have to be very careful and know which mushrooms are safe and how to recognize the bad guys. Everybody in Poland knows the most noble borowik (boletus), the second best - podgrzybek (bay bolete) or yellow kurka (chanterelle) which are delicious with scrambled eggs. The whole experience of mushrooming is one of a kind. You start your day very early, before dawn. With your family or group of friends, you take a drive to a forest. Some people have their favorite spots, some search for a new mushroom Eldorado every year. You walk through the forest, feeling calm and united with the nature, observing the morning mist rising and day waking up, listening to birds and nature sounds, scanning ground for the shiny mushroom cups. At the end of the day, you compare your trophies with others. And you have to take care of the mushrooms right away. They should be cleaned and segregated, then dried in an oven or pickled.
Children’s fall favorites are chestnuts. Horse chestnut tree (conker tree) is very common in Poland. It blossoms in May when high school students take their ﬁnal exams (matura). And in the fall, it drops shiny brown chestnuts covered with a thick green shell with horns. Kids pick them up and make little puppets out of them - you just need a few toothpicks and some imagination. Chestnuts are also believed to be a natural remedy for arthritis, so don’t be surprised if you ﬁnd them under the bed at your Polish host! Unfortunately, there is a trend of disappearing of the mid-seasons - probably due to the global warming. For last 20 years it’ is not rare to experience a rapid switch from cold winter into hot summer, and instead of a nice beautiful fall, one day you just wake up on a freezing morning. So let’s enjoy the beautiful fall while we can. Maybe now it’s good time for a road trip to a place where foliage is especially breathtaking...