After yesterday’s torrential rain, our forest floor erupted with mushrooms, of all shape, size, name and color, like twinkling jewels amidst the undergrowth and quite an extraordinary sight to behold.
Beautiful, ethereal Ghostpipe (or Indian Pipe, pictured above) has proliferated like never before seen in our forest. To see a venerable plant that is ordinarily quite rare, this seems magical. Not technically a mushroom, it’s rather a plant that doesn’t photosynthesize, devoid of chlorophyll and taking its nutrients from a delicate balance of conditions: decaying deciduous leaf matter, conifer trees and an underground fungus network, in perfect measure. It’s pretty much impossible to cultivate because it’s so sensitive and venerated because it’s an analgesic, for physical and emotional pain, that is over harvested. To be presented with such a plant in abundance feels like a gift, so I’ll be harvesting a small amount this year to make a tincture. Continue reading →
A bit of homework: this handy beginner’s guide to mushrooms of the North East teaches the beginner how to take the first step in making positive identifications. It can’t hurt to swot up early: last year, I found a small crop of Bolete on my property and made a mushroom gravy with them. I had no idea at the time that they were King Bolete, forming a symbiotic relationship under a conifer tree and a coveted mushroom in the foraging world, up there with chanterelles, black trumpet and oyster mushrooms. The Bolete were as big as my foot and tasty. A neighbor down the hill found some huge puffballs at the time.
Authors Walt Sturgeon and Teresa Marrone take pains to state that their simple guide is only the beginning of your foraging career. The book is very easy to read because the mushrooms are sorted by appearance with very good, clear photographs. Some of the mushrooms appear with their poisonous look-a-likes and color-coded references. For example, Chanterelles can easily be mistaken for poisonous Jack-o-Lanterns. There’s a great deal to learn about mushrooms but this tiny guide is an excellent teacher.
2 cups of chopped mushrooms
1 medium onion
2 large cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
1 tablespoon of ground celery
2 tablespoons of local butter
2 tablespoons of whole milk
2 cups of boiling water
1 teaspoon of dried thyme
1 teaspoon of sage
1 sprig of rosemary
1 tablespoon of all purpose flour
This recipe calls for chopped mushrooms, but if you like your mushroom gravy lump-free, then you will either need to use minced mushrooms instead of chopped, whizz them in the blender or you will have to purée the gravy with a hand blender once it’s cooked.
Due to the heavy rainfall, the mossy forest floor has sprung a vast city of fungus of all shapes, colors and sizes. We have purple, orange, yellow, red, brown, tall, short, tiny, thin, spindly, hand-sized and completely round like dense soap bubbles. All this has sprung up en masse within the space of about 24 hours in totally unprecedented quantities. Well – quantities not seen since the city girl went country. After just a half-hour walk with the dog, I’ll be lighting up Instagram for the rest of the afternoon. I believe the flat, white mushroom growing on the log is chicken mushroom, but would not dare eat it. Thanks to the humble acorn for it’s modeling stint.