May has been good so far.

Yes, May has been good this year in that I scored two good batches of morels and so far the oysters have been plentiful and easy to find.  Last weekend I was out to the upper Chapman Creek area and there were lots of oyster mushrooms everywhere.  We picked only the best looking ones and only the young ones, leaving the more mature ones for our wild woodland brothers and sisters.

This year I have decided to try freezing more of my finds than drying.  Last year I dried pounds and pounds of mushrooms so I still have plenty.  One authority on the preservation of mushrooms recommends that certain species need to be aged a year or two after drying to mellow  and deepen the flavor. One in particular is the shaggy grey parasol or the Lepiota rachodes

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I love the strong earthy flavour of these mushrooms and the deep dark colour they give to anything you are cooking.  Almost like the flavour and colour you get from soy sauce, but without the saltiness. And I must say that the flavour profile has deepened and improved.

These mushrooms are great when fresh as they are like a portabello.  However when dried, they don’t re-hydrate as well as some  as they are mostly gill tissue.  The taste and flavour is still very good.  What I do now is to throw the dried mushrooms in a blender and pulverize them.  This way you can add them to any dish and the blend right in.  Good to add flavour and complexity to a dish, without having the “non mushroom lovers” picking all the mushroom bits out of the sauce. Try it with almost any dried mushroom.

Last year we had a fairy large  group-foray up to the Rainy River. We ended up getting  a great haul of Boletus edulis, or the King bolete.  In Italy this is truly a favorite and known as the porcini. These are one of the choicest of the fungi family and when most people think of the taste of a wild mushroom, it is likely this mushroom they are eating.DSCN0718 DSCN0721

They were delicious, and I had some fresh in a light cream sauce ( the way my mother cooked most mushrooms my dad picked) and dried the rest  for use over the winter.  The dried too were delicious, but  didn’t have the same deep wild, woodsy, exotic aroma and taste that the dried porcini I bought at the Italian deli had.  Why?

I did some research and it seems that it could be “terroir”, or soil and habitat they grow in.  Most European picked porcini don’t necessarily come from Italy, but from Poland, and other eastern Slavic countries.

It could be that what we call the King Bolete here in North America is a related but completely different species with it’s own flavour profile.

One interesting fact I read was that in Italy, the porcini are dried over a wood fire.  Maybe that drying process adds some of the aroma so unique to the porcini found in those little, very expensive plastic packages.

With that in mind, this year I plan on doing a bit of experimenting to see if I can reproduce that quality in our own local mushrooms.

Today while out on my morning walk I spied a nice cluster of oyster mushrooms just down the road from me.  Once I pull the bread out of the oven, I will head done there and pick them.  Last year I built a pretty rustic smoker and did some amazing salmon in it.

I think I will give it a whirl tonight to see if I can smoke a few oyster mushrooms.

Oh about the bread…Chris had a meeting, so had to leave  me in charge of the the rising dough she had started. Since we retired she has been baking bread on a regular basis…. nothing better than some fresh mushrooms, sauteed with garlic, chives and thyme, a splash of white wine; piled high on Chris’s home made toasted bread, topped with freshly grated Parmesan and  black pepper.

Keep walking out there and your eyes on the ground.  Hope to see you in the woods some day.

 

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Myco-Culture

What, you may ask ,is Myco-culture, or better yet fungi-culture? I thought I was being brilliant in coming up with a new term for the growing of mushrooms, but one quick Google  search and I found a number of  hits on the internet.  More specifically, there is an on-line discussion group called Mycoculture.org found at http://mycoculture.org/  which is.. “

an email-based discussion group sponsored and maintained by members of the Cultivation Interest Group of the Oregon Mycological Society, to advance the Society’s goals of education and public service, by providing a public forum for the exchange of information and discussion about all aspects of the cultivation of mushrooms. MycoCulture.Org provides a permanent home for the discussion group and brings this service to the Web.

Membership is free, and open to all professional and amatuer mycologists and mushroom cultivators and other interested persons at the discretion of the Moderator.”

 The cultivation of mushrooms…that’s what I’m taking about!

The reason I am talking about this is to… brag!  Yes to brag.

Last year at the end of the oyster mushroom season, I came home yet again with a basket brimming with oyster mushrooms.  I had already picked and dried as much as 20 pounds of fresh oysters, we had eaten several feeds of them fresh, and after the last eating, Chris developed some sever GI symptoms.  We weren’t sure if it was due to the mushrooms or something else she may have eaten.

Having an over abundance of mushrooms, I decided to try something new. I wanted to see if I could grow my own. I had read that oysters are one of the easiest to grow, so what the heck, give it a try.

I had noticed a dead standing Alder tree in the woods just across the street from me. I took a good handful of mushrooms down to the tree, stuffed them unceremoniously under a piece of bark that was peeling off and basically forgot  about them.

Last week I remembered that I had done that “seeding” and figured I should give the tree a check.

I went down this morning and lookDSCN1473 at what I found….DSCN1472 DSCN1474

 

I was stoked!!Oysters growing all over the tree, as well as some very young buds starting.  With a bit of rain that is predicted to be  coming  this weekend, it ought to  help them flush like crazy.

This is the crack in the bark where I put the mushrooms.

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This was a great experiment and shows me how just how easy it is to grow your own mushrooms.

But this was not my first and only attempt at mycoculture.  Last year being such a stellar year for mushrooms here on the coast, people were really generous at sharing their finds.  A fellow SCSHROOM member had dropped by one day with a big pile of Lobster mushrooms.  Some were getting a bit on the weepy side, so he was going to chuck them.  I asked if I could have them for a “seeding” experiment.  He very generously gave them to me aswell as some choice ones to eat.

For those who are not familiar with the Lobster Mushroom, the fungi, Hypomyces lactifluorum, is a parasitic mold that attacks various species of Russula and Lactarius, turning them in to a completely different mushroom. They change from a white plain looking mushroom to a brilliant almost florescent red mushroom, all convoluted and fairly dense. They also have a slight seafood flavor.

I am told that on the east side of the Rockies there is a similar species of mold that turns the host mushroom green.  I haven’t seen those yet, but of someone has, I would love a photo, and a description of how they taste.

Last year there were hundreds of  large Russula Brevipes and R. cascadenis growing on my street.

I had heard from other members that one of our local mushroom gurus  had been systematically spreading the parasitic mold  in the local forests and had begun to see more and more lobster mushrooms each year. His method was to just toss the over-ripe mushrooms among the non infected Russula’s.

My approach was to take the bright red mushrooms, put them into a blender and liquefy them. Actually I made more of a brownish slurry.

I then went to the patch where the Russula’s were growing and where they have returned the last few years. I spread the slurry in their midst and surrounding moss.

The mold has to infect the mycellium of the host mushroom before they start to fruit, so I am very hopeful for a patch of lobsters just down the road this fall.

This year I did a similar thing with the morels that I picked just a few weeks ago.  Some I ate, some I dries and some were too old.  Those and the trimmings I put into the blender and whizzed them up.  Again, brownish slurry, which I left in the blender jar overnight ( don’t know if that will make a difference). Next day I took the “slurry” out to the back 40 and broadcast  it in what I hope was a good spot.  Now I wait until next year to see if anything will come up.

Last year I also took some Gypsie Mushrooms – Rozites caperata – and threw them in the mossy areas amid the Firs in the back 40 that abuts onto  our property. It was very similar habitat to where I had found them growing.  Forever hopeful!!

On a final note, Chris was very brave and decided to give the Oyster mushrooms a try again  this year, to actually see if her symptoms were due to having an allergy to the mushrooms.  She had eaten all the other species I had picked last year, with no problems.  I a happy to say that she has tasted them and had no reactions…. so I didn’t poison her last year with mushrooms.  It could have been something else I made, but we will never know.

Keep your eyes on the ground and hope to see you on the trails some day….. coastalshroomer.

Finally Some Morel Success

It’s not true that the universe is impersonal and mechanistic…in quantum physics all possible present’s and futures exist at the same time.  For example, one future, which could have been  my past, was a place where no morels were found, where I searched and searched, but my basket remained empty. Another possible  future, now my actual  past, was that I did find morels, found them in great numbers!!!

Now, I didn’t actually search and find them in the traditional sense… get my boots on, strap on my gators, take my basket, grab my hat and walking stick, don’t forget my knife and camera and head off into the woods.

Instead I thought a lot about morels.  I was given a few by a good friend which I cooked and greatly enjoyed.  Their aroma lingered for some time in the kitchen and dining room after they were savored. That aroma took me back to my childhood, to a memory of spooning creamed morels overs my mother’s perogies.

I wrote about them in my blog and posted pictures of them on Facebook.  I even went into the woods and listened to Gaia ( see my last post).

Then, last Thursday, someone posted a message on our Sunshine Coast Mycological Society Facebook page. The message was  “to anyone out there…I have a few morrels growing in my yard for anyone interested. please email me”.

That was the universe sending me a message.

I did email that person  and went over on Friday, May1st.  This is what I found

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Amazing black morels!! And I must thank Liz Borland for her generosity in offering them to me.  I offered to share them with her,but she declined, not really being a big fan of mushrooms.

As you maybe able to see from the picture, they were growing in bark mulch, in her garden.  Right where many who know morels say you may find them.

I brought my bounty home, cleaned them, set a few aside for supper and some to fry and put on toasts to take to a neighbor’s birthday that evening and the rest went into the dehydrator.

I searched on line and found a great  simple recipe – baked black cod, served on a bed of pureed minted peas, covered in a simple morel sauce. Delicious!  Take a look..

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First Gaia, now quantum mechanics… I don’t know, I think that I am getting a bit mystical here in my old age. What ever the method, all mushroom hunters have their techniques, their secret places, the “lore” they learned from their fathers their mothers their grandparents and friends  or just experience of how to find those elusive fungi.

The method I used was different, but the outcome was a success. Happy foraging everyone.