Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Wild Foraged Foods


Here are a sampling of the edible mushrooms that I brought back from my outing with the mushroom experts. Starting with the biggest one, and going clockwise, we've got an Amanita grisette, chanterelles, purple Laccaria amethystea-occidentalis, candy caps, and a few oyster mushrooms.

The first ones we cooked up were the chaterelles. We made a delicious cheesy creamy sherry and shallots sauce. The dish was splendid, but in all honesty that sauce would have made shoe leather taste wonderful.

I read that the way to prepare the chanterelles was to gently tear them apart, rather than slicing them. I'm not sure why that's preferable, but it certainly was satisfying.

The next night, I cooked oyster mushrooms, some of which we grew ourselves, and some that were wild-harvested. I hadn't cooked oyster mushrooms in years, and had completely forgotten that the reason they're called oyster mushrooms, is because of their freaky seafood smell. I had a small panic attack, while cutting them, because they smelled like a cross between fish, sperm and feet. I was sure that if I served them for dinner, Robb and I would die of mushroom poisoning. This, I suspect, is karmic payback for the first time I cooked oyster mushrooms. (Someday, I'll tell that story. But not today.)

Anyway, thank goodness for the internet, and for the people on the mushroom walk who assured me that certain mushrooms are supposed to smell "spermatic."

The next day, our dear friend Ellen came to visit! Our very first houseguest, and the futon company lost our address and phone number, and couldn't deliver the bedframe. (They tell me that they'll be here within the hour.)

Ellen is an adventurous eater, so we had chanterelles again. (I went back and picked more.) We sauted the candy cap mushrooms, and served them over vanilla ice cream. These mushrooms really do smell like maple syrup when you cook them. It's totally insane.

How do they taste? They have more fragrance than taste. But they're not bad. Anyway, how many people can say that they've served their guests mushroom-studded ice cream?

I suspect that the big mushroom that still remains is going to get buried in the back yard. It has dried out a lot, and honestly, I'm a bit scared of it. Intellectually, I know that I was given this mushroom by a serious expert on this species of mushrooms. But I also know that this species encompasses the the most poisonous mushroom on the planet. No point making myself sick with worry and self-doubt.

Worry and self doubt are not on the menu for New Year's Eve!


Kay/The Little Foxes said...

We used to have a very funky little ice cream shop here in Asheville called Sweet Dreams. I loved it because a) it had a neat name; and b) all the walls were painted with chalkboard paint, which I thought was brilliant. Anyway, if they were still in business, I'm sure they would be serving mushroom ice cream - some of their stuff was so esoteric I can't even remember what it was - I'm a vanilla girl myself ;-))

Nanci said...

Interesting new hobby you have! Funny, but last fall, I took a hike with Wildman Steve Brill... who is an expert on foraging! It was fascinating! He has some good books too! Look him up on the web by his name!


Anonymous said...

Thank goodness I never was bold enough to eat any mushrooms I found in the woods! It would have ended badly!

Only one other person I knew -who knew her mushrooms- was a Russian immigrant friend of mine in Detroit named Tonya, she told me in her youth when her family was put on a collective farm by Stalin, (who they still hate to this day) her mothers knowledge of safe wild mushrooms was the only thing that kept her family from starving to death. They used to hunt them in the woods, and somehow grow some under their floorboards, in dirt holes they clawed out by hand from under the wooden shed they lived in. Apparently this is a VERY good talent to have! Here's hoping you won't have to depend on it for this New Year!

If you can get a bag of potting soil, you can probably start growing lettuce where you live, right? Just plant it right in the bag in case you have not had a chance to test your soil yet.


Kristen said...

I don't think anyone blames you for not eating the big scary one. Thousands of years of human trial and error have encouraged us to approach even the tamest-looking wild fungi with skepticism--even things declared safe by genuine experts. In the words of Arthur Dent, "Ah, this is obviously some strange usage of the word 'safe' I wasn't previously aware of."


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