Sunday, October 2, 2011

A Wild Mushroom Weekend

Wild mushrooms have taken center stage as of late. These delightful fungi appeared in great numbers over a long period of time, thanks no doubt, to our recent weather pattern of rain-dry-rain-dry.

My weekend was spent in Brunswick, Maine, doing book signings and giving talks on foraging. And because they now appear in such numbers, my seminars concentrated primarily upon wild mushrooms. And, of course, people have a great and growing interest in this topic.

Still, mushrooms are where you find them and when someone asks me to come to their place and identify the wild mushrooms there, I always say that I cannot guarantee finding one, single mushroom.

So it was to my great pleasure when Emily Equerin, a journalist from The Forecaster, asked me to take time between seminars and accompany her on a mushroom walk in some nearby woods.

We were counting minutes, since I needed to be back in town at a certain time for my next seminar. Nonetheless, we were less than 15 minutes into our walk when I saw some familiar orange mushrooms in the distance. These were chanterelles and my newfound friend and I immediately left the path and strolled over for a closer look. They were, of course, chanterelles.

So we took some time going over the look, feel and even smell of these common woodland mushrooms. After that, my journalist companion became so adept at spotting chanterelles that she often beat me to the punch in noting a distant mushroom or mushrooms.

Lacking a basket or other container, the young writer removed her jacket, placed it on the ground and loaded it to the brim with mushrooms. This, too, was something that I have done numerous times... used whatever was at hand to fashion an ersatz “basket.”

With time running out, we headed back to the car. On the way, I spotted some coral mushrooms and we took some extra time to go over them. All in all, it was a rewarding walk for the both of us.

My seminar went well. People were seriously interested in the topic and I fielded some well-thought questions.

Back home, a couple in my church mentioned that they had some large mushrooms growing on their lawn and would I be interested in them. By their description, I concluded that these had to be giant puffballs. And sure thing, I was interested.

On my way home I stopped at their place and found a number of these colossal fungi, one of them nearly as big around as a basketball. My friends declined the mushrooms, perhaps out of a distaste for wild foods and maybe because they were just too busy. I was busy too, but took the mushrooms anyway. Now my refrigerator brims with gallon bags of peeled and sliced puffball mushrooms.

I plan on freezing what I can, eating as many as possible and giving away the remainder. That’s how wild mushrooms are, too. These things wait upon no one and when they are ripe, that’s when we must pick them.

It has certainly been a productive and enjoyable year for mushrooms for me and perhaps, it is not over yet. But if it is, that’s okay too.

I do plan upon digging some Jerusalem artichoke tubers to keep in the fridge. These, when sliced, rolled in a rub or other spicy coating, are a fine breakfast treat, something interesting in place of home-fried potatoes.

And so it goes. The foraging life always holds surprises. Who knows what wonders will next present themselves?


  1. Thanks for the mushroom walk, Tom! The chanterelles made a delicious risotto.

    - Emily

    P.S. The name of the paper is "The Forecaster."

  2. Love those puff balls. Great picture.