Monday, July 26, 2010

And your mind is moving slow

We saw these fantastical mushrooms this past weekend growing in an oldish oak forest that, according to family lore, hadn't been logged in around 100 years. They were growing in a pile of oak leaves and were so brilliant as we went by that I just had to get out and snap. There were two clusters of them and I wondered if there would be more and then I wondered...could we eat those puppies? When we came home we did a little research and decided that the answer was...maybe. And that's the trouble with wild mushrooms, isn't it. Some of the most deliciously edible fungi have a deadly poisonous or not-quite-deadly poisonous look alike. In this case we think we're looking at either the delectable and amazing Chanterelle or its poisonous look alike the Jack-O-Lantern. Of course not being a mycologist, not even really having a clue, makes it impossible for us to take the chance and try them.
Wild mushrooms are an authentic wild food that people have been identifying and harvesting properly for thousands of years. But there is always that story that a friend told you, or that you read on that most unreliable of sources the internet, that describes the wretched deaths of the famous wild-food guy and his entire family and all their cousins after they ate the incredibly deadly amanita muscaria that they thought were wood ear or hen of the woods or something perfectly wonderful to eat. And then there are the hallucinogenic mushrooms which look like button mushrooms or puffballs, both highly prized culinary ingredients. One bite of these delicate little morsels and you are off, laughing at the way the lamplight falls on the floor or how the cigarette smoke leads!!
For me, mushrooms are impenetrable mysteries that are best left alone and while I grow food, harvest eggs and honey, can, freeze, dry and participate in all sorts of food gathering and preservation I plan to do my mushroom hunting and gathering at Hannaford.

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