Saturday, September 24, 2011

"There are Bold Eaters and Old Eaters, But There are No Bold, Old Eaters."

Happy Fall everyone!

This lovely fall morning was the annual CIA mushroom forage, lead by mushroom expert  Bill Bakaitis.

Early this morning, about  forty of us, met up in a local, yet secret, location to begin our forage.

"It is safe to pick mushrooms here today, but never again can you come to these woods with the intention of finding mushrooms. Its called trespassing."

So off we went into the woods, stopping to go over a few interesting finds, including Winter Berries and a Sassafras Tree. Once cross the railroad tracks, the woods were ours to rummage through and scour for mushrooms.

At first they were few and far in between, but once our eyes adjusted to what it actually was we were looking for along the woodland floor, all sorts of things started to appear.

About half way through the early portion of the hunt, Claire stumbled up a black frilly mushroom. It got tossed in the bag with all the others we had collected in hopes of using in our Sunday meal. Little did we know, she had stumbled upon a Black Trumpet mushroom, a highly coveted specimen. Soon people were turning them up by the handfuls.

Left: Specimens shown at the lecture
Right: Specimens found in the woods

A Black Trumpet is a mushroom commonly grouped with the Chanterelles although it is actually in a different genus altogether. Also known as Trompettes de la Mort or the Trumpet of Death, they are not poisonous and have no known poisonous look alikes. Now that is not to say go out in the backyard and look for these. I would still recommend a specialist look at anything you plan on eating. These need a particularly good washing before using and can be used in almost any application to add a deep flavor and complexity to any dish.

Continuing on, it wasn't long until Christina found a beautiful Hen of the Woods growing between two Oaks. This one we all knew was edible, from our Product Knowledge class way back in B Block. We split the harvest with another student forager and carefully toted ours, by hand, throughout the rest of the afternoon.

Hen of the Woods are highly coveted mushrooms and can grow, in the wild, up to one hundred pounds per cluster. They are currently being farmed by the Japanese and are being shipped the USA by the bushel. These are best cooked slow and low with an ample amount of liquid or in a cream sauce for a pasta. I am thinking that a mushroom cream sauce over a pork medallion with black trumpet risotto and a salad made with roasted beets may be the way to go.

Along the way we found a few Puffball Mushrooms that were good for eating and few that weren't. The ones that are white on the inside are of the edible variety; when cut open, if they are black they are most definitely poisonous. Some edible Puffballs can get up to the size of a soccer ball! Other people found Chanterelles, Oyster Mushrooms, Hedgehog Mushrooms, oh and of course some salamanders.

What was the proverbial cherry on top was, a farmers market perched on the side of the road on the way back from the forage, boasting apples, honey, fresh eggs, and an array of vegetables. We got some peaches for a peach cobbler, a bunch of baby beets that I think I might roast tomorrow, some honey sticks and a beautiful Honeycrisp Apple.  

What an amazing way to start Fall. It doesn't get any more local than this.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              

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