Our Pick of Mushrooms

By , August 9, 2015

On a recent afternoon I wandered through the forest and went a little bit crazy. I started picking mushrooms, and by the time I stopped, I had more than I necessarily wanted to deal with at one time.

My problem stemmed (if you will) from my desire to find king boletes. We’ve harvested a few early boletes from one specific section of our trail above the cabin, enough to whet our appetite. They’re just barely in season; we likely won’t see many of them before about the middle of August.

As I searched the forest floor, I picked other mushrooms, chanterelles and some early but healthy-sized hedgehogs. Then I entered a swale to the south of us where we get a lot of mushrooms, and found false matsutakes.

Mock matsutakes, chanterelles, and hedgehogs (Photo: Mark A. Zeiger).

Mock matsutakes, chanterelles, and hedgehogs (Photo: Mark A. Zeiger).

I’ve mentioned this giant mushroom before (see Measuring Hunting Success in Mushrooms). They’re very firm fleshed, but offer a lot of good tasting mushroom all at once.

I should have stopped there, but I dipped down into a favorite chanterelle patch, and couldn’t resist picking some of the largest ones I found. I think because I still had the goal of finding boletes, I allowed myself to view my task as unfinished.

I came to my senses when my mushroom bag filled to capacity. I headed home, wondering what I would do with all the fungi I’d found. I knew I should clean and slice them for drying, but I didn’t feel ready to dodge drying racks in the cabin or on the grounds. I couldn’t cook them all at once for eating. I faced an embarrassment of riches, an overambitious harvest without the will to take responsibility for it.

I started by sautéing some of the chanterelles for dinner that evening. The next day I tackled one of the false matsutakes.

I sliced one thinly and pan fried the slices with the Lebanese spice blend, Zatar. Delicious! We have several of these mushrooms to experiment with, and because they decay very slowly, we can take our time about it.

I cleaned the mushrooms over a couple of days, and I’m working on drying those that don’t get eaten immediately. I will manage to use all of the mushrooms before they go bad.

I’m often faced with the dilemma of enjoying the hunt, but not the responsibility of processing the catch or find. It requires discipline and forethought. I can’t resist mushroom hunting, but I hopefully will remember this lesson in overindulging.

5 Responses to “Our Pick of Mushrooms”

  1. joanna says:

    This has nothing to do with mushrooms, but I saw this article and thought of you guys. You tend to keep politics off the blog, but I thought you would find it interesting, no matter your view on our country’s complicated race relations: http://www.buzzfeed.com/ariannarebolini/illustrator-is-getting-hate-for-her-anti-racist-art#.urKEgmzDJV

  2. Angie says:

    I noticed the sudden, early abundance of mushrooms this year, too, but I have yet to find a bolete. However, a friend has brought me an early flush of chicken-of-the-woods from an undisclosed (to any but me) location on his property. *burp*

  3. Mark Zeiger says:

    Angie, yesterday we found chicken of the woods about 6 yards up our trail. Too old to cut, unfortunately. This year the gypsy mushrooms are the main crop, do you eat those? We just recently started, and we’re not real enthusiastic for them. But, the hedgehogs came on early, and Michelle says she likes them as much as boletes.

  4. Mark Zeiger says:

    Joanna, thank you so much for sending this link!

    I’m not sure how to respond to it here. You’re right, I do try to keep politics off the blog, because it would be so easy for me to go off in that direction. In that vein, I don’t want to say too much about this article, except that I am once again appalled by the poorly thought out arguments of so many people. Ironically, I’ve just been arguing on Facebook with an old friend about whether or not racism is a problem in the U.S.

    Two major themes of this blog, for me, have been: 1) Try to open people’s minds to the possibilities of life and 2) There’s a REASON we live out in the woods!

  5. Angie says:

    Mark, I’ve never had gypsy mushrooms. I learned my fungus foraging in the east and the southwest, so there’s lots of varieties I’m not familiar with. Chanterelles and boletes, though, yes! When I lived in Santa Fe and foraged the New Mexico landscape, I always had gallon jars full of dried king porcini. And, yes, the picking is the fun part and I can never stop. The cleaning and drying and/or cooking is the tedious part, especially after, say, a 3-day weekend fungus-picking camping trip.

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