Monday, November 30, 2015

Fall Mushroom Hunting

I have always wanted to learn more about mushrooms and do my own foraging. I'm out tromping around in the woods most autumn weekends anyway, so I figure if I can find some delicious wild food, all the better. This year, that dream started to materialize when I hiked with a knowledgeable buddy and then took a class.

It started in the North Cascades. We were on a long, rainy hike when we stumbled upon a lion's mane mushroom-- huge, toothy, firm, and heavy from the downpour. It smelled like a mix of sweet cream and the forest floor. It was the size of my head and just finding one felt like a jackpot. But then we started seeing more, and couldn't resist hauling out several.
That night we cooked some of the lion's mane with dinner, adding it to lamb carnitas. The rest of the week I was on a serious mission to use them up: sautéed with bacon, added into lasagna, folded into a frittata, and simmered in Tom Kha soup.
A couple weeks later, in the central Cascades on another hike, we found chanterelles and hedgehogs. The hedgehogs don't have gills but rather little teeth under the cap. It might not come as a surprise that they are in the same family as the lion's mane with all their glorious toothiness.
And what better way to round out October than to go to a Halloween party and find a couple dressed as mushrooms? My ID skills are limited, but between my burgeoning familiarity and their meticulous costuming, I had no doubt: "You guys are chanterelles!"
In November I took my mushroom studies indoors to an all-day class offered by the Puget Sound Mycological Society. Their Mushroom Hunting 101 class covered ID skills, foraging best practices, toxicology, cooking with mushrooms, and non-edible mushroom uses. It was a really comprehensive course that I would recommend to anyone. Of course, there is so much to learn that we barely scratched the surface, but I think it gave me a good foundation.

Huge array of local mushrooms
brought in by the students
In the recent NY Time article Sex, Death and Mushrooms, the author talks about finding the elusive Cauliflower mushroom. Right around the same time, my friend found one locally and shared the bounty. It looks similar in size to the lion's mane, but with thicker waves that make it resemble egg noodles or coral.
Cauliflower mushroom. Image from here.
I had no idea what to do with it, but a quick Google search revealed that it could indeed be treated just like egg noodles. So I followed this chili garlic egg noodles recipe, sautéing the mushroom instead of boiling noodles, and ate the whole mushroom in one tasty sitting.