Was that the last foray for 2015?

Last Sunday, myself and 18 other enthusiastic shroomers, hiked up into the mountains above Pender Harbour and had a great afternoon tromping through the woods.

It was a cold and clear day and the views from the ridge we were on were breath taking.  There was a great view down  into Pender Harbour and Barry, our foray leader, pointed out his house to us.

When we got the area that Barry had scoped out, we found a tree blocking the road. Barry got out of his truck and grabbed his chainsaw out. In minutes, with the help of the rest of us, we bucked up the tree and cleared the road. Note to self…pack a chain saw with you when you are heading up into the back country. Never know when you have to clear the road.

Many years ago, when I was living in the City, a neighbour of mine took that one step further. He was an older guy, much into fishing and hunting, and taking pack horses into the back country on the Alberta-BC boarder. He told me that he and a friend had a favourite valley in the Fernie area where they hunted for Elk and deer every year.

There was only one old logging road into this valley, and each year he and his friend would go there to hunt. In order to keep the elk population in good shape and so that other hunters wouldn’t find their private “Shangrila”, they dynamited the road to keep others out.

I know that many shroomers are very secretive about their “patches” and will go to extreme lengths to keep their favorite spots protected. However, dynamiting the roads to keep it safe….that I have not heard of yet.

I come by my passion for mushrooms and being in “the bush” from my father Tony. My ethnic background is Ukrainian, and being the son of an eastern European, mushrooms were always on the menu.  As much as my father was passionate about mushrooms, my mother was just the opposite. There would often be a “discussion” about where my father was off too, especially when she found him pulling on his rubber boots and putting  his mushrooming buckets into the truck.

It frustrated my mother to no end when my father would arrive home with a pail or two filled with mushrooms.

My dad picked and he cleaned the mushrooms but it was my mother who cooked and canned them. She never froze them, only canned them.

As for cooking, she did it the way most Russian or Ukrainians did…boil them for at least an hour, drain, and then make a “much-ka” as she called it, then add the mushrooms to it.

Much-ka ( my spelling) was the universal sauce used in our house. It was a basic cream sauce made by frying onions and garlic in butter or margarine ( that’s when butter was bad for you and margarine healthy), followed by fresh full fat cream from the farm, salt and pepper. That was it. You would then add your prepared mushrooms and heat through and serve on perogies, home made noodles (macaroni to my dad), new potatoes, chicken, pork-chops or just a slice of rye bread.

Sometimes my mom would add dill to the sauce, particularly with new potatoes or her young chicken stew.

Just recently I asked my 88+ year old mother how she actually canned her mushrooms. Her response was to clean then boil in salted water for 1  hour, pack into pint jars then process in boiling water for 2 hours. After they were cooled, store in the fridge or cool place, like the root cellar.

I said “2 hour?”.. she said you cook them an hour to get rid of the possibility of poison, then process for 2 hours as an added insurance.

When I told her I just lightly saute them in butter, she was quite shocked.

I have to say that even with the cooking for lengthy periods and canning, the mushrooms still had good flavour and texture. I know that  my dad picked morels in the spring, birch boletes in the summer and another mushroom as well that I have yet to identify. He called them “cows mouths” or “karovchi-peski” ( my spelling of the Ukrainian vernacular).

They were a light tan to gold in colour; short stemmed; light coloured gills;somewhat funnel shaped cap with the edges curled under; when you cut the flesh it turned an orange colour and was firm.

Sometimes we called them chanterelles, but it was more than 45 years ago that I picked them, so my memory may be wrong about if they had gills or folds at the time. They were my favorite.

In the fall my dad picked peidpenki – or honey mushrooms.  Now I now know that these mushrooms should be boiled for 5 minutes then fried, as if you don’t do this, some people have gastric upset. If you dry the honey mushrooms, you just have to re-hydrate and  cook. The drying seems to have the same effect as parboiling them when fresh.

My dad also picked another species of mushroom after I left home, which he called “pitch-chi-ritchie.  I don’t know what they looked like or what they tasted like, as I never got to see or taste them.

I asked my father why he liked picking mushrooms so much.  His response was this….” I love being in the bush…it reminds me what it was like in the Ukraine as a boy….also the mushrooms are free … nothing tastes better than something that you get for free”.

What use to really get my mother going was that his favorite day for foraging was Sunday. My mother was very religious and was always insisting that my dad drive us all to church on Sundays. My dad was not a “church” kind of man, he believed in God, but disliked the organized church,and especially the priests…”blood suckers” as he called them.

He would say to my mother ” my church is in the bush…I feel  close to  God  when I am in the woods” …..then off  he would go with his boots and his pail, singing merrily as he went.

My dad had a wish…that wish was that if he could choose the time and the place where he would  died, he wished he could die while in the woods, hunting for mushrooms.

 One day his friend fellow forager,had gone out mushrooming  but failed to return when he said he would.  His family and friends being concerned , went out to look for him. They found him, sitting on the ground, leaning against a tree.  He had passed away. From the look on his face,peacefully. Beside him was his picking pale, full of mushrooms. All around him in the grass, were hundreds more. That was how my dad wished to go.

Unfortunately that didn’t happen as he died one very cold February day, in the hospital, after a very short illness.

This fall I went to Saskatchewan to visit my mom.  One of my families traditions, is to visit the graves of close family. So one day we did that and visited my father’s grave as well as several uncles, aunts and grandparents.  All the graves sites were well maintained and the grass cut.

However, right over my father’s grave, there were mushrooms growing. No  where else in the whole grave yard were there mushrooms growing…only over my father’s grave.

I smiled and I thought… how  appropriate…my dad was an avid shroomer…he loved being out in the wild, foraging for mushrooms…he even hoped that when he had to leave this world he would do it while on a foray. That never happened, but he still rests where mushrooms keep him company.

I digress…back to the foray…the Barry took us took was great, but at first, there seemed to be too many ferns and undergrowth to see anything. We hike up a steep trail for about a hundred yards when the under-story began to clear.  I said to the folks just behind me, lets go in here to the left.  I stepped off the trail and right there in front of me was a huge cauliflower mushroom…WP_20151115_11_37_32_Pro (1)

I shouted ” I found a cauliflower” and everyone came running. A few thought I joking, but no, in fact there she was…beautiful and fresh, with no elk nibbles. I gave everyone a piece to take home and try, and I still had a couple of pounds left.

There were a few russulas but as we moved along the slope the forest floor was covered in winter chanterellesWP_20151031_14_22_40_Pro (2)

Everyone was able to pick large numbers of them.  This is the kind of weather that winter chanterelles really like.

As for other varieties…there were a few late oyster mushrooms and when they start to show up you know the season is about done.

That beautiful red mushroom a the front of this blog is Hygrocybe conica, or Witches cap…it seemed to be out everywhere as well. (Correction…this mushroom is not Hygrocybe conica, but Hygrocybe miniata….thanks Ann)

So, there you have it, time to put away the basket, clean the harvesting knife and dry the last batch of winter chanterelles. It was not a bad year, not a great year, but an average year.  There were lots of pine mushrooms this year, in places I had never seen them before. And of course there is now the anticipation of what we may find in the burn site in West Sechelt.  Visions of morels dancing in our heads.

Hope to see you sometimes on the trails and maybe in the burn site next spring.

Coastalshroomer.

 

 

Advertisements

Recipes From the Festival

What a great festival we had this year!!! I always find that there is something new to learn as well as meeting new and old friends at the festival.  It never ceases to amaze me that there is such interest in mushrooms in the general population, especially for that fact of the myco-phobia that is so prevalent in western culture.

Just a few of the misconceptions and myths about mushrooms are as follows…

  1. You can be poisoned by just touching a mushroom
  2. You can tell a mushroom is poisonous just by the intensity of it’s colour

Actually you can’t be poisoned by just touching a mushroom…you have to ingest the mushroom…eat it and usually a bit more than a mere taste. I was quite surprised  on one of  my first forays with one of the mushroom “gurus”, Larry Evans, while identifying the mushrooms, took a bite out of a mushroom.

He explained that one of the ways to properly ID certain Russulas, is to taste it…I said “But what if it is poisonous?”…he said, “you taste to see if it is peppery but you spit after the taste and don’t swallow”.

Out here on the west coast there is only one plant, not a mushroom,  that is poisonous to touch…That plant is the water Hemlock.  many of you, I think from personal experience, already know that some plants have developed protective chemicals to ward off pest, a good example being stinging nettle.

As for colour being an indicator of virulence…there may be some truth to that, such as the beautiful Amanita Muscaria, but many of the most poisonous have very little colour, such as the Smith’s Amanita (Amanita smithiana) which is pure white, and is often mistaken for the white matsutaki.  If consumed, this mushroom can cause kidney failure.

There is also the fairly bland coloured Death Cap, ( Amanita phalloides) where a single specimen can kill a human being, and 90% of all fatal mushroom poisoning incidents in Europe have been attributed to this mushroom.

A similar species, the Destroying Angel ( Amanita virosa) is an all-white species that is common in the Pacific North West. Emperor Claudius, who ruled Rome 2000 years ago, was the earliest known victim of this species’ poison.

Enough about mushrooms that can poison you, I want to talk about those that are edible and choice.

This year at the festival we once again had the public foray and cook-up on the last day of the festival. Even though this year started slow and picking wasn’t always at it’s best, we still had enough variety for our display tables and for the food table.

I think that our “cook-up” this year was the best so far, and from the reviews of those that went on the foray and then sampled the dishes prepared, it was a great success.

Many thanks to all the “cooks” and “cooks’ helpers” for making the event such a success. Also many thanks to all the members that donated their edibles to the cooks to allow them to prepare the great dishes that were prepared.

Many have asked for the recipes for the dishes prepared so rather than drone on, I will post them here.

As a final note, I want to thank Ginette Carter, Michan Padovani, Nicole Rossi, Dorothy Gonzalez and Dave Beauchesne for their recipes and their delicious dishes they prepared. I too was one of the cooks at the event.

So without too much fan fair and in no particular order, here are the recipes:

Lemon Crepes

¾ cup Flour
2   tsps. Grated Lemon Rind
3   Eggs,  beaten well
½  cup Lemon Juice – freshly squeezed
½  cup Milk
pinch of Saffron  or. Turmeric
2-3 Tbsps.  melted Butter
Follow your favourite way of making the crepes.  I have a Crepe Grill.  I love it!

(Very lemony but when filled with a favourite filling, it is a good balance). Courtesy of Dorothy Gonzalez

Pizza on the BBQ

For 6 pizza shells

We used some form of thin she’ll, to your taste. About 10″ in diameter

Lightly olive oil spray the shells and briefly toast each  over a Bbq

Sautéing:
Have 1 cup of diced shallots,  2 crushed garlic cloves,  thyme, salt,  pepper to taste and Virgin olive oil

4 seasons:

Spring: soak 50g of  dried morels in warm water for about 30 min. Strain, filter liquid and reserve.
Take each morel and rinse it through the aperture to remove any potential grit or dirt lodged inside the morels.

Shake each,  to remove excess water or use a salad spinner. Slice in 1/4 to 1/2 inch across the morels to produce pretty little pin wheels. Stand aside.

Summer: 1.5 cups of diced lobster mushrooms,  sautéed with shallots, and garlic (or from a frozen lobster sauce log made in same manner –  fresh chopped, always reheated from frozen log in a frying pan.  Do NOT let it thaw on its own = rubbery mess and liquids separated.)

Fall: 2 cups of fresh chopped (or torn) chanterelles

Sautéing chanterelles: in warm large frying pan,  in olive oil and a nut of butter add rehydrate winter chanterelles or fresh ones,  Sauter until liquids are removed. Add add shallots and a dash of thyme. Salt and pepper.  Then add a splash of white wine, reduce again,  reserve.

Fall: add other types,  whatever you just harvested.  For porcini on the Coast….. Sauté in thicker slabs quite hot,  season then chop and quickly sauter again (they can be easily oiled and broiled,  the. Choped). Caution: Fresh porcini can get quite soggy if not sautéed hot,  or broiled with seasonning, the chopped.

Winter: 2-3 cups of winter chanterelles fresh.
If you can,  add 250ml of dried winter chanterelles for texture,  colour and deeper taste. (rehydration process like for morels).  Keep saved liquids,  reduce them to add a mushroom jus, and depth to mushrooms during sautéing.

Sautez each mushroom batch in 1 tbsp of olive oil, and a dot of butter. Add 1/4 to 1/3 cup shallot,  a portion of a garlic clove. Season,. Reserve each.

Thinly paint the slightly toasted pizza crusts with Alfredo sauce (4 cups).  Decorate each quarter  with its sautéed seasonal mushroom, sprinkle a little bit of mozzarella over the whole (less than 1/4 cup mozzarella per pizza,… less is best). Salt and pepper.

Drizzle Virgine Olive oil.  Heat pizzas just long enough (on Bbq pan or in oven) ,  to melt cheese.
Sprinkle with arugula

Ready to serve!   Thanks to Michan Padovani and Ginette Carter

Matsutake / Broccoli Stir Fry – 

I tried to come up with a dish that incorporated as many Japanese elements in it as possible, but still paid homage to the wonderful Matsutake mushroom. Japanese cuisine is as much about color, texture and presentation as it is about taste – this recipe hopefully captures that theme. Dave Beauchesne

Prep time – 10 minutes
Cook time – 7-8 minutes

2 cups finely sliced Matsutake ( Pine ) mushrooms
4 cups Broccoli flowerettes ( bite sized pieces )
1/2 cup chopped Tamari almonds ( regular almonds would be OK as well )
1 clove garlic – diced
1 diced shallot
S&B ( Japanese 5 spice ) – to taste – the real stuff is pretty hot so be careful – substitute some black pepper
soya sauce – to taste – a couple tablespoons
Mirin – 2-3  tablespoons – substitute a teaspoon of brown sugar
Sake – 6-8  tablespoons – some white wine would work as well
Canola oil or coconut oil

In a large skillet, cook the garlic, onion and oil to slightly tender. Toss in the matsutake and on medium high heat, cook till they start to get brown on the edges and the water is mostly gone in the pan.

Add the broccoli, and toss with the soya sauce, almonds and sake. Cook till the broccoli are just turning a darker green and still crunchy – add the Mirin and S&B, fry and toss another 30 seconds – ( the Mirin is a slightly sweet Japanese condiment and the sugar in it will burn if added too soon ) .

Serve piping hot  – Thank you David Beauchense

Polenta:

Buy Polenta with porcini in a packet from an Italian store. This is “Instant” polenta that takes 4-5 min to cook when you add it to boiling water with a little olive oil or butter in it, stirring constantly until it thickens up. Add fresh grated parmesan at the end just before serving.

Mushrooms goodness to add on top of crostini or side/on top of polenta:

Fresh Garlic chopped finely

Shallots chopped finely (can also use leeks or small red onions finely chopped)

Few Chilli flakes

Fresh Italian Parsley

Fresh Thyme

Fresh Wild mushrooms

Creme Fraiche or cream like equivalent (whipping cream, sour cream)

Salt n Pepper

Olive Oil

Heat some extra virgin olive oil in a pan

Fry garlic and shallots gently with small amount of fresh herbs

Add wild mushrooms chopped or torn

Add salt n pepper

Fry and stir for 15 min or more till all liquid is gone

Roast mushrooms with ingredients for another few minutes in the pan to add flavour

(Can add wine at this stage if you like and cook it all off – i prefer to omit wine when cooking with mushrooms as it changes and overtakes the flavour in my opinion)

Add some cream

Cook a few minutes more till you get the consistency you wish

Serve on bread, crostini, use in recipes, on polenta etc.  Wonderful dishes Nicole Rossi

Grilled Pine Mushrooms

Pine mushrooms are really difficult to cook I find, as they can sometimes be very tough, especially the stems. This recipe was inspired by discussions with Langdon Cook who was the guest speaker at the 2015 shroom festival.

 

Ingredients:

Pine mushrooms – 2 or three medium sized, cleaned and sliced very thinly, not more than 1/8 of an inch thick.

¼ cup of Tamari Soy sauce or any kind you have on hand

¼ cup of Saki

¼ cup of water

3 or 4 cloves of garlic, crushed

1 tablespoon of grated fresh ginger

A few drops of roasted sesame oil

1 teaspoon of sugar

Put the sliced pine mushrooms in a bowl and mix all the other ingredients together then pour over the mushrooms.  Reserve a ¼ cup of the marinade for later. Let marinate for 1 to 2 hours.

Heat a barbeque up and then grill the pine mushrooms until they start to get a nice grill marks.

Serve with plain white steamed rice using some of the marinade saved earlier as a dipping sauce.

Wild Mushroom Soup

This is a basic recipe that can be adapted to use with whatever mushrooms you have on hand, and if all you have are some commercial button mushrooms, they will work too.

Ingredients:

  1. 1-2 pounds of mushrooms cleaned and chopped : they can be all one kind or a mixture of any of the following -golden chanterelles, honey mushrooms, winter chanterelles, porcini, shaggy parasols, cauliflower mushrooms. I don’t use pines, as they tend to overpower the other flavours, but is you have an abundance of pines, use just them.
  2. 1 large onion chapped
  3. 3 cloves garlic, peeled and whole
  4. 2 cups of russet potatoes, peeled and diced
  5. 1L chicken  broth
  6. 2 L water
  7. Salt and pepper to taste
  8. 1 tsp of smoked paprika, or plain sweet paprika
  9. 3 ounces dry white wine (optional ) or juice of one lemon
  10. Two or three sprigs of fresh thyme
  11. ¼ cup chopped parsley
  12. 2-3 tablespoons of the fat of your choice-butter, olive oil; bacon drippings or a combination of all the above

Method:

Put a heavy soup pan on the heat and add fat

Add onions and whole garlic and start to sauté until they begin to brown. Add paprika -1/2 tsp salt and ½ tsp cracked black pepper.

Add chopped mushrooms and sauté 5 minutes then add  in the potatoes and thyme cooking for another 5 minutes .

Now add the chicken soup, the water and either the wine or lemon juice at this time.  Bring to a boil then turn down and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes.

I now use an immersion blender to liquefy the soup, but if you don’t have one you can use either a regular blender or food processor to do the same. Taste and adjust seasoning adding more salt or pepper.

One optional step here is if you want a richer soup, you can add a half pint of heavy cream.

I also like to add a few drops of truffle oil and garnish with chopped parsley

Mushroom and Sausage Stuffed Dumpling

You have two choices when making these dumplings….you can either make your own dough or use wonton wrappers. If you want to make your own dough, they more resemble pot stickers or perogies. If you chose the wonton wrappers they are more like a tortellini.

Dumpling Dough: This is my perogie dough and is the best I have been able to find.  It can be scaled up or down for more or less dumplings.  The ratio is always 2 parts flour to 1 part hot water. You can also fill this dough with traditional filling like potatoes and cheese; sauerkraut; fruit etc.

For about 100 small or 50 medium sized dumplings.

4 cups white flour

2  tablespoons olive

1 ½ teaspoons salt

2 cups of boiled water (still hot)

Put flour, salt and oil in a bowl then measure out the boiled water and pour over the ingredients in the bowl. Mix with a wooden spoon and as it comes together start to knead it. I will be a bit hot to touch but cools down quickly.  If it is sticky while you working the dough, dust with flower but you shouldn’t need too much. Knead the dough until it is nice and elastic, about 5 minutes. Then put it back in the clean bowl, rub with a bit of oil and cover with cling wrap and let it rest while you prepare filling.

Filling:

1 pound of wild mushrooms (chanterelles and honeys work good)

1 medium onion diced very finely

1 pound sweet Italian sausage (removed from casings)

2 tbsp olive oil

½ teaspoon ground fennel seed

Method:

Chop mushrooms finely and add to cold pan and turn on medium heat. Slowly dry fry the mushrooms until most of the water has evaporated and they star to stick to the pan. Remove and set aside.

Add oil to pan and then onions. Cook the onions until they just start to brown, then add the sausage meat, breaking it up with a fork. Cook until starting to brown and render out the fat.

Drain the fat from the pan and the return 1 tablespoon, and the reserved mushrooms and ground fennel.

Cook another 5 minutes until everything is fragrant and well browned.

Drain again and place mixture on a dinner plate spread out to cool.

Assembly:

Once cooled, divide the dough into 3 or 4 pieces and roll one at a time to about 1/8th of an inch thick. Using a cookie or biscuit cutter, about 1 ½ to 2 inches in diameter, cut out rounds. Pick up a round and add some of the cooled filling, bending up the sides to form a pocket, pinching the edge shut. Once sealed, place on a tea towel and continue until all the rounds are used.

Take the cut off pieces of dough and set aside until you have rolled out all the dough. Combine all the cut offs into a ball as this will become your “second” rolls which will be a bit tougher than your first roll outs.  They may need a little longer cooking time.

If using wonton wrappers, do the same thing, only use either a bit of water or one beaten egg to seal the edges together.

Cooking:

Bring a large pan of water to the boil and add the dumplings, about a dozen at a time. Once they rise to the top, lower the heat a bit and boil 3-4 minutes, stirring with a slotted spoon. Take one out and test for doneness.  I they need another minute or two, let them cook.

Remove with a slotted spoon to a warm bowl and toss with a bit of olive oil.

Serve them like they are with  S&P or in a nice broth or brodo as the Italians call it.

The dumplings can also be frozen uncooked on a cookie  sheet then stored in a zip-lock bag in the freezer. When you want to cook them, go right from the freezer to the boiling water.

These last three recipes are mine.  I hope you enjoy some of these.DSCN0906

See you on the trails sometimes – coastalshroomer

What have the Pickins be like for you?

I have seen a couple of posts from some of you, saying that the pickings have been mixed.  Some have had success and brought home pounds of Chanterelles, while others have said just the opposite.

I was visiting in the the Vernon-Enderby area last week and found it still is very dry in that area. I was out hiking east of Enderby, and found the fungi sightings to be pretty scarce. There was a lot of Paper Birch along the creek bed we were hiking up so I was hopeful we might stumble on some Chaga….no luck finding any of that.

What we did find was  lots of the Birch Polypore…Piptoporus bitulinus – also know as the razor strop fungus.

Here is a link to more information on this interesting fungi… http://whisperingearth.co.uk/2015/02/15/birch-polypore-medicine-ancient-and-modern/.Paper Birch is not very common out here on the coast. so you don’t find this species of fungi out here very often.

Now back on the coast and getting itchy to check out some of my regular spots, I decided to do a solo foray yesterday. Even though we have had enough rain to move us back from a level 4 to a level 2 water restriction, I was surprised  at how dry it still is in the deep forest.

Some areas seem to have gotten little moisture, which I can tell just by feeling the moss and seeing very dry areas under fallen logs. Where the canopy is a bit more open, the forest floor is damper, but not as wet as it should be. Even the creek and stream beds are dry in many areas.

Consequently, I am not yet seeing the abundance of fruiting bodies, just a few here and there.

It wasn’t a complete bust, in that I saw my first ever earth stars – Gaestrum saccatum – WP_20150917_13_12_41_Pro

I went to my “spot” where for the last few years I have always found Gomphus clavatus or Pig’s ear clavatus….and yes there they were, just starting to poke through the duff..WP_20150917_13_34_42_Pro

I find these very meaty and quite taste, pairing very well with rich meat dishes. The problem is that they very quickly get infested with fly larva, so you are doing a lot of paring away. There are some who are not bothered by the “extra protein”….me, I like my mushrooms worm free, so I take just the youngest ones.

When I got to my “patch” where  I can usually find enough Chanterelles for a meal, the picking was slim.  It looked like someone else had beat me to the patch.  There were lots of stumps, but not many Chantees.

I did find some, hidden under fallen branches and just showing a hint of gold through the moss, but not a lot.  Some were still very dry and dense, but a few were nice a moist.  Those that looked the best I found in little hollows where the rain had maybe pooled and saturated the soil and moss.WP_20150917_14_01_21_ProThis is a nice example.

While seeking Chantees I  found several very large and fresh Ganoderma Tsugae – our local version of the Reishi.WP_20150917_14_07_42_Pro If any of you would like them for making tinctures or medicinal teas, drop me a line and the next time I head to my patch, I will harvest them for you.  I found quite a number last year, which I dried and have in stock so I am not in need of more just now.

On my way back to the truck I spotted what at first I thought were Agaricus Augustus or the Prince…but upon closure examination, determined they were not…WP_20150917_14_31_52_ProWP_20150917_14_31_59_Pro

They are very likely Western Flat Top Agarius or Agaricus praeclaresquamous.  What told me that these were not the Prince  was the aroma of the flesh…phenolic, chemical or as one expert described the odour as “farinaceous” . I don’t know why he used that term, but he described it as having the smell of rancid grain….maybe.

The aroma of a prince however is very different…having the sweet smell of almonds or of anise…very distinctive and pleasant.

In the end I did get enough for a couple of mealsWP_20150917_15_27_10_Pro

They went very well in a sauce I made to go over my meatloaf and mashed potatoes….comfort food from my childhood paired beautifully with a new favorite…wild mushroom gravy.

The season is just beginning, so I am ever hopeful more rain will come,  bringing once again  bounty to the forest floor.

Hope to see you on the trails sometimes soon….Coastalshroomer.

Life Returns

The drought has ended

The once parched land and brown lawns eagerly drink in the rain

Trees, bone dry and limbs brittle, leaves browned and dropping, some that seemed to have given up

Now more erect and greener; more alive

We had more rain in three days than we did in total between May and the end of August

So the MAN says…

There was a price that was paid for the coming of the rain…..

Trees, weakened by the heat and the lack of rain, face the wind….

Winds, that the MAN who every morning and every evening stares out from the TV

Sometimes looking at you, sometimes looking to the left and then to the right

Standing in front of a map with large L’s and H’s rotating, arrows that move in sinuous curves

The MAN tells us that the winds at peak of the storm were  equivalent to wind speed of a tropical storm…..strong, fierce, sustained…

The price for life was also death; many trees came down or lost limbs

Falling on cars, on houses but mostly on power lines ….lights flickering off, then on then off again

For some, only minutes, for others days…..frustration and anger

With the bad there was also good

The bad, the death of trees, shattered by the winds; roofs smashed; cars crushed, people injured

Was the rain enough to stir the life that lives beneath the moss, mingling intimately with the roots of trees

A contract made of water and nutrients in exchange for sugars and life

I visited “my spot” where if Chanterelles are to be found, between July and December

They were there….hidden beneath a piece of bark

I had covered them three weeks or more ago after the touch of rain we had

They were tiny and dense…too dry to grow, so I left them to see what would become of them

WP_20150901_13_49_05_Pro

There were others…black and green who also sought their sweet arroma

But they lacked fingers and hands so could not move the gate aside

WP_20150901_13_49_32_Pro

There they were…grown. clean, firm and fragrant….a lovely gift from Gaia

Many more I found and many more just beginning….

More rain has fallen, the air is cooler….heavy due coats the reviving grass this morning

Time to commune again with the green which has returned

On the trails…to see you soon… hope do I ( Yoda channeling through coastalshhroomer)

Late in August Searching the woods

I decided to take a walk in the woods yesterday, to see what the forest floor was doing.  I was not overly optimistic, but a few of my fellow mycophiles have reported sightings both in woods and in one of the local grocery stores.

The sightings in the woods were of Chanterelles and a few boletes.  In one of our local grocery stores, Claytons, one of my friends called and texted me about local Pine mushrooms for sale.  I said “what?” seems awfully early for pine’s (masutaki’s) as they usually come later in the fall, usually between October to December. I said they must be coming from somewhere off the coast or further north where there has been some rain.

M friend checked with the produce manager and she informed her that yes they were in fact local.

Sounded interesting and promising so that is what prompted me to head up Dakota Ridge way to check out a couple of areas where I have found pines before. I have to say, I am convinced that those pines must have come from some other area of the coast.  The reason is the extreme dryness in the woods…the moss is bone dry and even dusty, it sounds like you are walking on rice krispies.

However, I did have a couple of sightings that did sunrise me.  On one old stump right beside the road I found two species.

One beautiful admiral boleteWP_20150819_15_39_20_Proor Boletus mirablis

I was sure it would have been buggy, but I harvested it to seeWP_20150819_15_39_56_Pro

The second picture shows it size and the under side and the porous sponge.  When I sliced into the cap it was full of worms….sigh…too bad.

This beautiful example was growing on a stump and being  obviously a good substrate, I decide to check the other side. Sure enough there was a couple of very nice examples of Wooly Pine spikes (Chroogomphus tomentosus.WP_20150819_15_46_35_ProWP_20150819_15_47_02_Pro

one of the two look-a-likes of the much sought after Chanterelles.

I keep searching and saw signs that there were other searchers too who had left their mark in the woods…WP_20150819_15_42_46_ProYou know that old saying “does a bear s–t in the woods?”

Well, we now have proof!! But I wondered “What the hell is there to eat here in the woods? I saw no berries, very little vegetation, and I was two thirds of the way up to the top of Dakota Ridge?

Finally on my way down I stopped at one other spot that I always have success at, but usually much later in the season.

Again…very dry, dusty and crunchy….but I did find a very young Califlower Mushroom (Sparassis crispa) …and very appropriately named as it it was very dry and struggling.WP_20150819_16_02_49_Pro

Also the picture it’s self is less than crisp….my shutter speed was off a bit me thinks…so much for auto-pilot.

So there you have it, IMHOP, still need lots of rain but the fungi world is trying.

Hope to see you sometimes on the trails-coastalshroomer.

We are not alone….they are out there

Wasn’t that a great bit of rain we had this weekend? A bit of rain on Friday and then a really nice soaking on Sunday morning.

The garden and our shrubs just perked right up, but the only thing was we could have used a couple of more days of that to really get down deep into the soil.

Ever optimistic, I decided to take a stroll out in the woods to see how much rain made it to the fortes floor.  To be totally honest, I wanted to see if there may be something from the Kingdom Fungi , other than polypores, poking their heads up.

Off I went to one of my Favorited foray areas, and sure enough the trail was damp, the moss had plumped up and didn’t crackle like rice crispies,   I was not more than 5 minutes on the trail when in a low spot, under a ridge over a small trickle of a stream I saw it.  A lovely Russula WP_20150726_13_29_00_Pro

This I said to myself was a good sign. Even in the drought, give the forest floor a bit of moisture and things start to happen.. On I continued, my eyes ever scanning the forest floor to the left and to the right, to the left and the right, like one of those Cylones from that TV series Battlestar Galactica.

Sure enough, I see something on my left, buff in colour, just poking up through the fir needles…I bend down closer and touch the small bump.  It is firm and not a leaf.  I kneel down next to it and brush away the duff and see a white stem…I lean in and give it a sniff and catch that sweet, fruity, apricot aroma. I take my knife out of it’s sheath and gently push it down beside the stem, going an inch or more below the cap and press it into the stem and slice through.  I raise it slowly to my nose and sniff the freshly cut stem while also looking at the underside of the cap.  No pores, no gills just folds.  It’s my first Chanterelle of the season! Lovely!WP_20150726_13_51_12_Pro

Its the earliest I have ever found some, but it wasn’t to be my last either.

A bit further down the trail, I came upon a cavity where it looked like a rock had been removed or someone had excavated the area for gravel to add to the trail.  I saw a while stump with a bit of a cap still attached.  I crouched down and took a closer look and sure enough it was what I thought it was….a hedge hog, mostly consumed by either a slug or squirrel.WP_20150726_13_40_09_Pro

On I trekked, wondering what else I would find.

I came across more chanterells,and then a tree loaded with oyster mushrooms.  Now the oyster mushrooms where a few days beyond anyone except flies and slugs. Had I been on the trail 3 or 4 days earlier  I would have found them in prime condition.WP_20150726_14_02_27_Pro WP_20150726_14_04_10_Pro

So there you have it….in the middle of one of the driest spring and summers on record, after one reasonably good rain and up pop the mushrooms.

I didn’t get pounds and pounds of Chanterelles, but enough for a bit on toast…WP_20150726_15_08_01_Pro

Oh, and for those of you who may know where I go-a-wandering, stay out of my patch!!!

This time I hope not to see you on the trails ( at least not where I go) sometimes,

Coastalshroomer.

In the Middle of a Long Hot Drought

Yes, we are in the middle of a long hot drought…not much snow this winter, very little precipitation this spring and summer, but also not many ideas working their way onto the page from me.  Maybe my ideas are tied to the rains….for example today we had a bit of rain and here I am pecking away at the laptop. Also when I look back over the last year, it seems that many of my posts spontaneously spring from my fingers like mushrooms after the rains. Could that mean that maybe I too respond to rain in the same way as the objects of my desire do? Am I a new subspecies of human…homo-fungi-sapiens?

Or could it just be that when it rains, I can take a break from watering the garden, cutting the grass, pulling weeds, painting the fence or just  being outside, down on the beach, enjoying the sun?

What ever the reason, its good to be back here on the page, pouring out my thoughts and ideas.

All joking aside, it has been a very dry year and we are at stage three water restrictions that may soon be at stage four, if we don’t get a signification rain event soon.  The experts tell us we need at least 3 consecutive days of 30-40 millimeters of rain to refill the reservoir. Lets hope we get that soon.

For those of you who don’t live in BC, so far this has been one the worst wildfire seasons ever with more fires reported every day.We had a fire up here just a couple of kilometers out of Sechelt that burned up 400 to 500 hectares of forest.  There was also one fatality during the fire fighting.  A local faller who was helping to fight the fire died when a fire weakened tree fell and crushed him. Our community was very saddened by his untimely and unfortunate death. There was a great tribute to him last weekend in Gibson, with over 800 mourners attending the celebration of his life.

The fire is now out, but it was a very scary and smoky period of a couple of weeks. One Sunday morning I woke about 6 am, I was dreaming about having a smoke ( which I haven’t had in more than 15 years) and as I opened my eyes, my room was bathed in this incredible red glow  It was like I was on an alien world, under a hot and oppressive red sun. I got out of bed and looked through the blinds to an incredible red sunrise, smoke hanging low in the sky and ash drifting down like snow. Some one described it as apocalyptic.  I think that was a very appropriate metaphor.

This picture is close but doesn’t do justice to the realityWP_20150706_09_04_01_Pro

On my walks in the area this summer, I have seen nary a fungal flower anywhere.  It is the height of summer and usually we don’t see very much, but the trees do look dry and thirsty and some are even dying as a result of these repeated droughts.  There are predictions that this will be the trend for the next several years here on the coast.

Other areas of the province are getting rain, so I may need to expand my search area to interior regions. On a positive note, the burn area just west of Sechelt should have a good potential for morels next spring!.

After this little bit of rain who knows what may pop up, so it’s off into the woods I go, hi ho, hi ho.

Hope to see you on the trails some time Coastal Shroomer.

OK…it’s about time!!!

Finally, even with this very dry spring, I found some spring oyster mushrooms. They weren’t old and dry or only  little pins just beginning to show their tiny heads.

We have a guest here on the coast this weekend, ethnographer, adventurer and mycologist, Lawrence Millman.  He has traveled extensively in Siberia, Alaska, Canada, Iceland and Norway. He is also an author of 16 books, with his most recent book, Giant Polypores and Stoned Reindeer….Rambles in Kingdom Fungi.

He spoke last night at the Sechelt Public Library. He gave a very interesting presentation and plans on accompanying SCSHROOM members on a few forays while here on the coast.

I learned a few new things from Lawrence’s talk….for example, why we seem to always have such an abundance of mushrooms in the fall.  His explanation is that in the spring and summer, the trees are sending a lot of their nutrients and energy into making new limbs, leaves, bark and stems.  In the late summer and fall that shifts to sending all those nutrients and energy into their roots. We know there is a very intricate and essential relationship between trees and fungi. Consequently, the myceillium are getting a jolt of food and energy and it’s their time to send out those fruiting bodies we so often love to pick and eat.

The other thing I learned was that most traditional peoples who lived in the north rarely used mushrooms as a food source, even during times of starvation. Many in fact had a fear or aversion to mushrooms. The Inuit in the western arctic believed that mushrooms were shooting star shit!  When they saw a shooting star in the night, the next day they would often find meteoric debris on the tundra and some days later, often mushrooms would be found.  Meteor shit…why would you eat that???

They did however use fungi for shamanistic practices and for medicinal purposes. They also got quite a buzz off of the Horse’s hoof fungus,or tinder bracket.  They would burn the fungus to a powder and then wrap the powder in tobacco and then stuff it in a cheek, much like the use of snuff.

It wasn’t until after contact that they got tobacco, but before then, they used willow  bark.  I gather from his talk that it was and still is a concern to some health care providers as it can be addictive. It is still used today by first nations people in Alaska. Many users attribute longevity and a happy, convivial outlook on life from its daily use.  Less violence among the youth and calmer, happier people.  Can that be worst that the affects of alcohol and other street drugs on humans?

I also bought and have begun reading Lawrence’s book, Giant Polypores and Stoned Reindeer. I will share some of his observations and thoughts in future posts.

I was not able to be out in the woods with him today as I have family visiting, however i was still able to get out with my guests and had a very productive foray in the Hidden Grove Area.

This is what we found..

WP_20150517_12_17_35_Pro (1) WP_20150517_12_41_35_Pro (1)

Some beautiful spring oyster mushrooms which will make a nice addition to tonight’s barbecued sockeye salmon. Not a fresh Sockeye, just my last one in the freezer from last summer.

We also found something I had not seen before.  It was a bright gold mass that looked like a cross between cauliflower and scrambled eggs. It was growing on some salal and the area it was growing looked wet and shiny, where the rest of the moss and salal around it was dry.  I am thinking some kind of slime mold…or dog vomit fungus, or maybe even feces?

Needless to say , I didn’t touch it.  This is the picture, but it is a bit blurry

WP_20150517_12_45_13_Pro

Any thoughts out there as to what this may be?

Also saw some more common lacaria

WP_20150517_12_37_46_Pro

Saw, but took no pictures of some Panther Amanita (Amanita pantherina), some very far gone, ie. mushy and one that was kicked over and smashed.

There is rain in the forecast, so I am forever hopeful.

See you on the trails sometimes. Coastalshroomer

First weekend of May and not too much happening.

Have you been out and searching in the low damp areas with lots of Alder?  I have, but it hasn’t been so damp and the picking sparse.

I was out this afternoon, for a walk up Hidden Grove area.  The picking wasn’t very productive. I saw a few oysters that were way past their ” best before date “..old oysters

and also some very small pins just starting.oyster pins

However, the pins felt very hard and dry, like they have been waiting to start for some time.   The woods themselves were very dry, kind of what it’s like mid to late June, and its only the 3rd of May.

Here are some shots I tool last May…quite a different story…DSCN1456 DSCN1461

Even though the harvest was slim, it was nice to be out and to find a new trail  the green in springwith  some really promising terrain to explore this fall.  Looks like a potentially good area for chanterelles and pines, as I have found both in the same genreral area

I did find a couple of Panther Aminita ( Amanita pantherina) that something had taken a few bites out of, as well as one Russulla.Amanita P Amanita Panther

But most interesting is that I found a small patch of laccaria…Laccaria C Laccrialikely the Common Laccaria ( Laccaria laccata) or Western Amethyst Laccaria ( LAccaria amethysteo-occidentlist) These usually don’t come up until August or September, so may seems a bit early.

Duane Sept, in his book” Common Mushrooms of the Pacific Northwest”,  says that the Common Laccaria season is June to November, and the Amethyst, August to October.  Could just be another sign that the climate getting warmer and spring earlier….

The other thing I ponder while strolling in the woods was  “what would it be like if Dinosaurs still existed and  you were to encounter one in the woods?” Yes, I know, dinosaurs are still with us, in the form of birds.. what I am talking about is those large, three toed monsters found in the movie “Jurassic Park”.

How, you may ask, did this thought pop into my head? Well, as |I walking along the trail, I came upon this three-toed cedar tree…Three toes

Doesn’t it look like a big  T-Rex foot, with the other leg and body just looming above you, just out of the frame? And I had not been drinking or smoking anything at the time….just saying……

As of this week, the District of Sechelt has started Stage 1 water restrictions.  I guess they are anticipating a hot and dry summer, like we seem to have been having the last few years.  Snow pack is pretty well non-existent , so I think it is a good idea to start conserving water.

But who knows, we could have another cold and wet June-uary.  I would like a nice mix of rain and sun over the summer, with a really nice hard rain in the end of August and early September.  Good for the garden, good for the forests,good for the reservoir, good for the kids to go to the beach and good for our fungi friends.

Keep that image in your mind…positive visualization..and maybe we will have another bumper year.

See you on the trails sometime

Coastalshroomer

On the trail for Oysters mushrooms and if I am lucky, maybe morels!

Took a stroll Sunday afternoon up Chapman Creek to see if the oysters are out yet.  If you have been following me this spring you will remember I found a huge flush about three weeks ago.

I thought that the season had begun, but no such luck since that early find.  I was just wondering today if it was in fact a very late winter flush rather than an early flush? Either way it was a good find a Chris made a wonderful pasta dish with them.

So far, I have only seen some very young oysters and they were not very numerous. This is a rather poor shot of what was to be found yesterday

WP_20150412_13_48_20_Pro

It has also been rather dry this spring.  We have had a  couple of rain events, but the woods are still pretty dry.  Usually most trals this time of year are wet and muddy, but not so much this year.

Today I saw only two trees that had some very young oyster mushroom pins on them, but the a area looks like it could be a potentially very good area.

What I saw quite a lot of were ganoderma applanatum, or the artist’s conk.  If anyone is looking for young, fresh medicinal polypores , then head down this trail.  It is the lower Chapman Creek trail, that starts just off the highway, on the west side of the bridge that crosses Chapman Creek.

What I did find was a nice patch of currants.WP_20150412_14_49_03_Pro

I have a copy of Duane Sept’s book….“Wild Berries of the North West“. I found a patch of Red Flowering Currants last summer, but in his book he describes them as “edible, but far from incredible”.  There are however, several varieties and until they blossom and bear fruit, I will not be able to do a positive ID.  I will let yo know later what they were.

I also found two patches of what could be wild ginger, or maybe not. When I plucked one up and scraped at the root, it didn’t smell or taste like the ones we found earlier in February when Chris and I went out with one of our wild forager friends, Sarah.

Here they are side by side

WP_20150210_10_11_35_ProWP_20150412_14_39_07_Pro

The first picture is of the wild ginger, the second one looks similar…but I am not 100% sure.  I guess I will have to take Sarah out to this patch and ask her what she thinks.

That’s it for now, just waiting on the spring rains and the weather to warm up some.  I know that some of my friends have had luck this spring finding morels, so if you have had any luck send me a post and a couple of pictures and I will put them in my next post.

Hope to see you on the trails some times Coastalshroomer.