Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Visit from the Mushroom Fairy

Although she reports that it is a dismal mushroom year, Arena keeps bringing us more delights. Today she delivered 5 different mushrooms to cook up and 1 to make into tea.

We feel a bit like cheaters when it comes to mushrooms. I can’t even fathom how one would go about classifying these mysteries. Thag, our family identification expert, is almost as far off as I am. But I suppose that’s how we learn everything. As a kindergarten teacher, I show my kids how to hold a book, “read” the pictures, and flip through the pages from left to right, well before they can put together the letters into words. Pretend reading puts them on the path to real reading. But they need a guide, and so do we. (Thank you, Arena, for guiding us.)

So today, with mushrooms covering our kitchen table, we read through guidebooks and wrote down Latin names and listed Arena’s experiences. And tonight, we cooked them up and had a mushroom taste test.

Chicken of the woods: Laetiporus sulphureus: A mushroom we knew of and Thag thinks he’s seen before. Our housemate has eaten them. Bright orange. And…delicious. Actually tastes like chicken. Clear 5.

Lacaria ochropurpurea—a lovely purple mushroom—(yes, purple!)—mild, but not nearly as good as the chicken of the woods—3

Lacterius hygrophoroides—Arena calls the Lacterius mushroom milkies and they are also called milk caps because they exude a milky liquid when picked—this mushroom had wide spaced gills. Arena reports it as a favorite. Thag and I didn’t it love it. It had a true mushroom taste to it, and I expect that if you love mushrooms this mushroom would very much appeal to you. It is very pretty when cooked—fluffy and light brown—3

Lacterius vulemus—a cousin to the mushroom above, this one was darker in color and had a fishy odor. The flavor was nutty and, oddly, dark. Neither Thag nor I cared for it—2

Slippery caps—Suillius granulatus—a mushroom known for its slimy texture—Arena reports it being soft and slimy when cooked and recommended peeling off the slimy film on the mushroom cap and removing the soft underside if possible which I did—apparently these mushrooms are often used in broth or for flavoring food—I fully expected to dislike these mushrooms, especially after peeling off the slimy skin, but they were surprisingly pleasant. Of course, it is entirely possible that I used too much butter. Not only am I a novice at mushroom ID, but I also have weak mushroom cooking skills—they rate a 4 with lots of butter, but I reserve the right to change all ratings upon tasting edibles when prepared by someone with more experience!


  1. I had this intuition to go take a short work in the woods today. I presumably thought I was looking for mushrooms. But instead I walked right into a stand of beaked hazelnut trees. How’s that for some fast manifestation? (I had just seen my first hazelnut tree last night at Thag and Ooga’s.) I counted a dozen nuts. I picked and ate two of them and left the rest. There’s a good chance that there are more nuts than what I saw. I didn’t venture off of the trail as there was lots of poison ivy and I was wearing sandals. Also the nuts weren’t fully ripe. However, my books advise not waiting for them to fully ripen as the birds and squirrels will get them. Do you want to go with me to harvest the rest?

    Interesting to hear your mushroom ratings. The Suillus granulatus were especially small and fresh. Maybe that’s why they were especially good. Or maybe like your road, it depends on your expectations. From the little I’ve tasted of your cooking, you have excellent culinary skills. Perhaps you cooked them exceptionally well!

    Hoping that Thag has great success with the wild rice!

  2. I can't believe you found those hazelnuts! We would love to harvest them with you, however, seeing as there are only 12, you may want to keep them for youself. Still, seeing the trees would be enough for us!

  3. I’d be happy to split them with you. I wouldn’t have found them if it hadn’t been for seeing your tree. Plus I was just so thrilled to find them. I want to share the excitement and we might find more. They were delicious. I rate them a 5+! I suspect that the trees are more abundant than I thought. I’m hoping to find them in a lot more places, now that I’m clued into them.