That Fantastic Fungus – the Mushroom!

It’s time to take to the woods in pursuit of that wily, but oh so delicious mushroom.  Chanterelles appeared early this year, possibly due to our hot summer, followed by a quantity of rain.  I went through our first bunch very quickly – they are so good with everything and so versatile.  Bake them with salmon, sauté them and enjoy them as a side dish or with other vegetables, add them to an omelette or throw them into a soup.  The Museum at Campbell River has posted a recipe on Ezabu for pickled chanterelles you could try. If you have some leftover, dry them in the oven and keep them on hand.

Chanterelle mushroom

Chanterelle mushroom

 Not everybody is good at spotting these highly sought after stars of the mushroom world.  While they have a rich yellow colour (see photo), like many other fungi, they can hide under and around logs and undergrowth, yet are often found grouped together, so once you stumble upon them, you just might end up with a bagful.  Some people make a job of it and take bagfuls into the dealer in Campbellton who I heard this year is paying $2 per pound, which doesn’t sound like much, but recently a nephew of mine made close to $200 in a day picking mushrooms.

Where did he find so many?  Aha!  There is the crux of the matter.  While they may be numerous in some areas, those in the know aren’t likely to reveal to you exactly where this might be.  We have our favourite spot, and the only clue I will give is that it is somewhere near John Hart Lake. 

 The Campbell River Museum recently hosted a mushroom walk through the Beaver Lodge lands and both days had maximum attendance.  Watch out for these oppportunities, as identifying mushrooms is a skill well worth requiring. 

Aside from chanterelles, there are lovely little edible mushrooms like Angel Wings growing on the sides of logs that are translucent white and tender.  angel-wing-mushrooms1

 

I had the fortune to take a mushroom walk with botanist Ian Forbes back in the ’80s and still remember learning about these tender treats then. 

Cauliflower mushroom

Cauliflower mushroom

Pictured here is a real winner – the cauliflower mushroom, that to me looks like a brain and generally grows at the base of a tree.  Our daughter Stephanie, who is a chef, assured us that it is quite edible, so we tried it and are still upright, so this is a mushroom to be trusted.  It has a very delicate flavour, so you wouldn’t want to overwhelm it with anything too powerful like tomato.  It is easy to be fooled though, and in ‘Mushrooms of Western Canada’, they will tell you that even experts are never one hundred percent certain whether or not a mushroom can be eaten.

 I trust my hubby, who seems to have a nose for finding mushrooms (and this is not to confuse him with the truffle hunting swine of Europe).  We can be driving along, and he will say “I think we should stop here”.  Sure enough, we park, walk a few feet into the woods and there they are, chanterelles in all their glory.  As he also has the gift of spotting their golden heads, he picks them (which means using a small knife and cutting the stem) and I follow along dutifully with the bag.  There is a white variety that are also very tasty, but again, you should know your mushrooms before you attempt to eat them.

So if you want to get out in the woods this fall, either find a local expert or take your guide to mushrooms with you and have fun hunting for fungi!

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