Delicacies from Below: Part I of II
If you eat mushrooms you find, you are doing so at your own risk. While every effort has been made to ensure that the information contained in this site is correct, the author and editors of BrokeAss Gourmet caution against the use of the information in any particular application and accept no responsibility or liability for errors, omissions or representations, expressed or implied, contained herein.
Agaricus augustus. Lepiota rachodes. Boletus edulis. Lactarius deliciosus. Clitocybe nuda. These are a few of my favorite things. Beautiful, a tad bit freakish, technically illegal to possess in most public places, and delicious, these are wild fungi. By learning to collect your own, you attain access to an arcane world of delicacies – for free. And on the kitchen end of the matter, preparation is minimal. Don’t be mistaken: You can – and should – wash mushrooms, though some chefs claim it’s a sin. And you needn’t make soufflés or risottos; in fact, you’ll best taste your wild mushrooms through simpler techniques – and no mushroom recipe beats a hot pan, olive oil, salt and pepper, white wine, and 10 to 20 minutes at the stove.
Before we go on, I must address poisonous mushrooms. This is not a matter to be taken lightly. People die painful, violent deaths almost every year from eating mushrooms of the Amanita genus, usually the Death Cap (A. phalloides). First, they may marvel at the wonderful taste and texture of this attractive mushroom. After an hour come stomach pain and nausea. This passes, however, and they are granted about 24 hours of relief. They are not in the clear, however, for all this while the amanitins – the deadly compounds in the mushroom – are maneuvering for a spirited assault on the liver. Amanitins are an effective army, and the besieged liver stands no chance. It melts, and without a transplant, you die, and if there’s one thing a broke-ass gourmand can’t afford, it’s a liver transplant. Thus, the moral of this story before it’s even begun is, do not eat wild mushrooms if you do not have a clear understanding of what you’re doing. Amanitas grow worldwide. They are a clear and present danger, year-round.
Mushrooms are a fast-growing, abundant, and truly sustainable food source. Those that cannot be cultivated encourage us to leave the beaten path and stalk through the forest. Better yet, many mushrooms only grow among particular trees and thus indirectly encourage environmental conservation, even among the most unlikely, arrogant, ignorant circles of urban food snobs.