Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Mushrooms On a Log

So, now that I've talked up wild mushrooms as the best things ever to hit a soup pot,  I must admit

that I am trying to grow some mushrooms myself.

A couple of years ago I purchased a kit for Sonoma Brown Oyster mushrooms and Lion's Mane mushrooms. Why those? Just because they would grow in Maple logs and I knew I would always have a ready supply of them. The Big Leaf Maple is practically a weed here in the Willamette Valley.
You may have noticed I said "a couple of years ago".

I actually never got around to using them because the envelope with the mycelium plugs in it had fallen to the back of our very unpredictable refrigerator and froze. They were all brown and slimy so I assumed they were dead and left the envelope in the back of the fridge for TWO YEARS. Can anyone out there beat that for procrastinating?

In my defense we are talking about a spare fridge which does not get used for much except canning overflow and summer produce.

Anyway I cleaned that fridge out last week and lo and behold, the mycelium plugs were white and fluffy!

As luck would have it, or sad to say, depending on how you look at it, we had fresh cut Maple logs on hand.
Our beloved Maple which was somewhere around 200 years old, had given out in the heavy rain we had this fall. We are very sad and miss her every day.

But then I had these limbs for my mushroom project.
A 5/8" hole is drilled, the mycelium plug pounded in and then hot bees wax is poured over the hole to keep out competing fungi.

Every 4" all around the log.

This project took about an hour per log, which adds up to 4 hours. Oh, my aching back!

Mr. J kept climbing on the logs and letting me know that he was bored and that he thinks that log mushrooms are absolutely no fun and he feels I would benefit much more from crawling around in the woods looking for mushrooms with him. He may be right.
Now we will see if it all worked right... in... about a year. I'm not getting my hopes up, but I will be excited when, and IF, I get some Lion's Mane mushrooms next Fall.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Foraging For Fungi

I have been crawling around in the underbrush, following deer and rabbit trails since I was a little girl in search of, among other things, the elusive Chanterelle mushroom.

Chanterelles are among the easiest mushroom for beginners to ID and that is why my family trusted me, as a small child, to bring them home for dinner every Fall.

Since everyone has heard horror stories about eating the "wrong" mushrooms,  I don't really think I need to stress how careful you need to be when gathering mushrooms. We all know that you need to be very careful when identifying mushrooms in the wild.

With that said, I spend a lot of time convincing people to eat wild mushrooms. I have found that friends and family tend to be a little nervous about the mushrooms on the table, and they must be assured beyond a shadow of a doubt that they were wild crafted by someone who knew what they were doing.

It's a shame that wild mushrooms are so hard for people to enjoy. Their taste is beyond compare! No farmed mushroom can even come close to the flavor of a wild mushroom. So, it is really worth learning to ID a few kinds of mushrooms if you like to hike or ramble in the woods and eat good food.

These are Common Puffballs which are delicious and just as their name indicates - common. They are everywhere this Fall.

Just because I have been picking a few types of mushroom since I was little, it does not make me an expert. I have been slowly learning to identify more and more kinds of fungi over the years from books and other more senior mushroom hunters.

My favorite book on the subject is one that June got me for Christmas a few years ago. It is the simplest reference book for wild mushrooms I have ever found. And it is because of this book that I have happily discovered the Red Cracked Bolete.

When I was little, I was convinced this mushroom was poisonous and no adult told me otherwise. It is a crazy looking mushroom with "tubes" instead of gills and if that isn't weird enough it "bruises" blue!

It is delicious and it turns out to be one of the few edible mushrooms that is safer for a beginner to ID. No look-a-likes (except other edible mushrooms in the Bolete family, some don't taste good and a few will make you sick, but none of them will kill you) and it seems to grow everywhere. It is not elusive like other wild mushrooms. It is literally growing in our front yard here on the homestead.

What  am doing for this mushroom season, other than eating and eating mushrooms, is drying them to use in stews, sauces and soups for the rest of the year. The flavor is indescribable, it's effect is almost like MSG, the soup tastes delicious but you can't really tell what makes it so amazing. The secret? Just a couple of diced up, dried wild mushrooms.

Chanterelles do not dry well, so I sauté them in lots of olive oil and put them in the freezer to spoon into my scrambled eggs this winter. YUM!