Monday, July 06, 2009

Where are those mushrooms?

My brother has been an avid mushroom gatherer for some time now, and he's been telling me stories of bringing home baskets of tasty edibles. At times he collects more than he and his wife can eat, so he dries them in a dehydrator to use during the winter in soups and stews.

When Tuffy P and I expressed interest in learning about mushrooms, Salvelinas offered to show us some good mushroom spots and teach us a little bit. This was Canada Day. The forests were still damp after a recent rain, and Salvelinas expected to see a good selection of summer mushrooms, but nada, nothing, zip. Not a bit discouraged, I wanted to go again yesterday. Tuffy P. couldn't come this time, and Salvelinas wasn't sure he wanted to go as conditions were not as good, but we went anyway.

Well, again there were very few mushrooms around. We tried to identify some weird kind of slime and found a small number little brown mushrooms that might have been fairy ring mushrooms. We even went to a forest that stays damp even in fairly dry conditions, but nothing. Salvelinas isn't sure why, since last year at this time, he was gathering a selection of summer edibles. Maybe it's the cool nights we've been having. Still, it was a learning opportunity for me. I got a chance to wander about in some forests I haven't been in before. Salvelinas helped me with some tree identification as well. Some mushrooms are associated with certain kinds of trees.

I'm now equipped with pocket knife, gathering basket, walking stick (which my friend Chuck made for me some time ago) and field guide. Salvelinas suggested that I need to be able to confidently identify the edibles myself, without having to depend on (trust) anybody else's judgment. I've learned that you need to look at a number of different things to identify a mushroom, and that some mushrooms are much harder to identify than others. One of the key ways to identify a variety is to take a spore print after bringing the mushrooms home. The field guide describes the spore print for each variety.

I've learned that you have to be very sure of your identification, since we do have some deadly mushrooms in Ontario as well as quite a lot of varieties that will make you sick if you eat them. There are also some varieties that make some people sick but which other people can eat with apparent impunity.

I'm not dissuaded by the lack of mushrooms so far. I like the fact that it is not fully predictable, and as well, I like the fact that the activity requires knowledge gained with experience and study over time. The reward-tasty edibles-is pretty attractive as well. I'm looking forward to making up a wild mushroom omelette.

The added benefit of hunting mushrooms is that it is a great opportunity to give Memphis a chance to romp through a forest. Yesterday, we came across a large spring-fed pond. This pond was dug out by the forestry people, and has a pump-house so it can be used for irrigation. One spring tumbles down the hillside into the pond. Memphis and Scout has a great time there, along with another dog, a lab that came down with his human. This is where Memphis learned about swimming!

Yesterday, we were in forests not far from Barrie. This made it challenging to get home, as there was a serious incident on Bayfield St. yesterday in which two policemen were stabbed before shooting the stabber. A section of Bayfield St. was blocked off along with the ramp to highway 400. I had to detour around quite a way to get out of town.


Candy Minx said...

You're just a tad early.

Probably one of the things I miss most about this time of year and being here in Chicago is being so far from the forest and going mushroom picking. You can actually start to feel when the mushrooms are ready. They pull at your soul from the forest...and after a few years of getting mushrooms you start to have a powerful feeling of where to find them.

The prime time will be in about two weeks. We've found some of the best mushrooms in August as well.

Every mushroom is good once.

Anonymous said...

Heh Candy your last line is correct. An expansion of that would go like this... There are old mushroom eaters, and there are bold mushroom eaters, but there are no old bold mushroom eaters. The cool nights are holding them back I think but it wont be long before the omelettes start. Actually it is a bit late for this area, the good boletes like porcini normally start here at the end of the 3rd week of June. ... salvelinas

Candy Minx said...

Hee hee...Oh're making me hungry. I can see the chanterelles in the morning forest now and taste them pickled or sauteed with butter and garlic. YUM! I pick them about two hours away from you so that explains the difference in growth times. I can just imagine the porcini in my basket now...ahhhh...