Delicacies From Below: Part II of II
[Continued from 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.
Several mushrooms are almost bewilderingly delicious, and in markets they start at about $15 per pound. Some are not even commercially available. Collect your own, and the only price you’ll pay is a walk in the woods. Actually, I prefer biking. In fact, it’s been my experience that riding a bike is the key to productive mushroom hunting. I have discovered at least a dozen consistent mushroom spots – of porcinis, parasols, princes, blewits – while on my moving bicycle. From a car, I never would have spotted them. And I can almost guarantee that a novice wouldn’t see them from a car. Walking is not much good, either; some of my Bay Area patches are 20 miles apart. On a bike, I can foray 40 miles – or as little as five – and be home with several pounds in just an afternoon.
The primary factor affecting mushroom growth is moisture. Mushrooms like it wet. Generally speaking, they rise when the rain falls – usually starting in November – though summer fog drip or irrigation can create hotspots from June through September. Effective mushroom hunters also must know their quarry and know their quarry’s habitat. Many wild mushrooms occur in close association with particular trees; porcini mushrooms, for example, are found almost exclusively within the root-spans of conifers. Ditto for parasols (L. rachodes). Chanterelles (genus Cantharellus) often occur among oaks.
Other favorite mushrooms are the porcini. I prefer it sautéed on low heat until browned. I also dry many and grind them into a seasoning powder with a mortar and pestle. The parasol (L. rachodes) is a white, mild mushroom. It has a shroomy taste like a standard button mushroom yet is far more complex. The prince (A. augustus) may be the best. Of the same genus as the Portobello, the prince is vastly superior. Twice as big, it smells and tastes of amaretto. I enjoy this one dipped in egg and seared like French toast.
For identification tips, visit www.mykoweb.com, one of the most reliable and informative mushroom websites – but never trust photos for a sure identification of a questionable specimen.
NOTE: Legality of mushroom harvesting is an issue to consider. In many public places, it is downright illegal. If you are caught, you could be fined hundreds of dollars. If you sell mushrooms without a license, you risk seeing the walls of a prison cell. Yet no one blinks if you pick blackberries. Go figure.
LAST NOTE: Treat your mushroom patch as you would your garden. Harvest its fruits as they rise, and consider yourself a steward of the land. Last summer, a productive prince patch of mine was destroyed when some idiot blue collars with the local park service chopped down a cluster of pine trees. I couldn’t do anything about it but cast them dirty looks as I passed on my bike. Nor could I stop the city gardeners in as a team of them doused my favorite L. rachodes patch with Round-Up this February to kill “weeds.”
And somehow, I’m the lawbreaker by harvesting the forest’s mushrooms.