Mushroom Hunting

Family Foray

Plump hedgehog mushrooms are fruiting at the forest’s edge, but there’s no time to stop for these gourmet edibles – Eliana has already scurried up the rocky path far ahead of us. “Pa! Waxy caps!”

While not edible, these brilliant, diminutive red mushrooms that evoke the realm of woodland sprites are a favorite find for our mycophilic daughter. But this is no time to slow down. By the time I’ve reached the waxy caps, Eliana is already on to the next find, which she confidently identifies – “Pigskin poison puffballs!”

It doesn’t take much to excite the kid, yet she keenly understands the stakes of our hunt and keeps her eyes on the prized culinary gems: “Pa, do you know what my favorite mushrooms are?” I don’t have time to wager a guess, for she has swiftly answered her own question. “Chanterelles, black trumpets, lobsters, and lion’s mane. Can we find some of those?”

Our party of three resumes the hunt, feeling poised and purposeful in the wet September woods, and soon we have found each of Eliana’s favorites except for lobsters. That’s quite all right, since a hearty catch of lobsters already awaits us in a paper bag back home in our refrigerator.

One find stands out – a pristine golden chanterelle beside a bubbling brook, that Eliana carefully plucked and affectionately coddled as we traipsed through the woods. When we got home Jenna cooked a medley of our finds in a light cream sauce with tortellini, and Eliana devoured the morsels of black trumpet, yellow foot, and lion’s mane before noticing she had not yet tasted that lone golden chanterelle. “Mama! Is my gold chanterelle in here?” she demanded.

Sure enough, it was right there on Papa’s plate, the false, forking gills and golden hue still visible. Relieved, Eliana grabbed her fork, reached across the table and dug in, claiming the mushroom that was rightfully hers – that she had harvested from the cool earth just hours before.  There is nobody who would have appreciated that forest-to-table chanterelle more, or with whom I would have preferred to share it.

Early September may be my favorite time to hunt mushrooms in New England, with stunning diversity and no shortage of surprises. There are still a few more weeks to get out and enjoy the fruits of fall, as each crisp night finds new species joining the autumn entourage. We hope you are savoring the season.

By |September 4th, 2018|Foraging Philosophy, Mushroom Hunting, Wildcrafting|Comments Off on Family Foray|

Morel Revelation

No matter how many morels one has found, the first find of the season is always a revelation. I’m making a pilgrimage to an old favorite ramp patch, following a trickling streambed up a craggy hillside of hickory, yellow birch, ash and beech. It still feels early for morels in northern Vermont’s hills and I’ve learned to pace myself, saving the epic hunts for peak conditions. But with the sweet smell of springtime in the air and the temperature pushing 80, I can’t help but slow down beneath a hefty ash tree that somehow feels just right for Morchella.

My instincts do not let me down. The familiar feeling of disbelief and awe hits me as I spot an unmistakable black, honeycombed pattern just barely poking up above the leaf litter. I bend down to find a pristine pair of black morels, humble creatures of the earth that somehow never fail to capture a certain timeless reverie and glee.

I am alone in the woods, pondering what would have been the 60th birthday of my mother, who passed away in 2013. The early morel find cuts through everything, and suddenly every inch of the forest floor bursts open with potential and wild richness, a transformed interior and exterior landscape. It’s an ineffable feeling every seasoned hunter knows, and any new mycophile can experience for themselves with enough patience and prudence. When the morels find you, all you can do is graciously accept the gift, harvesting humbly and returning the delight in an act of reciprocity.

That is what I did, picking one and sharing it among the three of us that evening. By sharing, I mean our almost four-year-old Eliana pretty much ate the whole thing, Jenna got a tiny bite, and this papa was left to soak up the morel-infused butter in the cast iron pan!

Now that my eyes are on, morels are everywhere. I even spotted two yellows curbside in Montpelier today as I walked over to pick up my car from an oil change. I prefer my morels to be growing in a forest rather than along a freeway, but these coveted mushrooms can be found just about anywhere. Of course, that does not mean finding them will be easy. Morel hunting is hard work – more than any other species, it can demand profound patience and practice, and an intuitive sense of ecological patterns and landscape that can take thousands of hours in the woods to develop.

Still, even for new hunters, there’s always the chance of a serendipitous surprise. With the temperature, timing and moisture finally just right throughout New England, now is the time to try your luck!

Northeastern ForageCast for the month of May

By |May 16th, 2018|ForageCast, Morels, Mushroom Hunting, Wildcrafting|Comments Off on Morel Revelation|

The Loss of a Legend: A Tribute to Gary Lincoff

Gary Lincoff, legendary mushroom expert, naturalist, writer, teacher, and radiant spirit, passed away on Friday morning. He will be deeply missed. I never had the chance to meet Gary, but his work left a lasting impression on me and instilled an enduring sense of wonder for the mycological world. When I was all of ten, his Audubon guide caught my eye in a bookstore display, and I begged my mom to buy it for me. She reluctantly obliged, and that became the bible that I took on countless hunts and used to identify my first hen of the woods as a child.

Lincoff’s later work The Complete Mushroom Hunter is even more accessible and full of colorful, candid stories. But my wrinkled, field-tested Audubon guide will forever be the book that sparked my passion and awakened me to the vast, enigmatic world of wild mushrooms. Thank you, Gary, for your prodigious contributions to the wild world of mushroom hunting, and for sharing your knowledge so graciously with the next generation. It is work like yours, finding the pulse and abundance of the wild even in the heart of New York City, that breaks down boundaries and brings us closer to nature.

By |March 17th, 2018|Mushroom Hunting, Wildcrafting|Comments Off on The Loss of a Legend: A Tribute to Gary Lincoff|

Forest to Highchair Cuisine

Eliana + Judah

My daughter, at two-years-old, already understands where her favorite food comes from. “Papa, hunt mauk-mee,” (mushrooms) she says. “Hike.”

How can I resist? I take her in one arm, paper bag and mushroom knife in the other, and we hit the trails behind our house just before sunset.

She has the first find, a blood-red Boletus frostii, nestled beneath a dying beech tree. “Papa, mauk-mee, mauk-mee!”  This edible species is among the most brilliantly colored of all boletes, but its sour flavor and mushy texture can leave something to be desired.

“Nice find,” I tell her, “but we are looking for porcini.”

“Chee-nee!” she exclaims, not missing a beat, and for the first time it is clear to me that she understands the difference between a gourmet edible and the legions of bland, bitter, poisonous, or otherwise inedible species.

We march on, my eyes scanning the uphill side of the trail looking for the light-brown cap and swollen stem of Boletus atkinsonii, a member of the porcini group with an affinity for oaks and other hardwoods. But once again, Eliana proves her forager’s eyes are the freshest.

“Chee-nee! Papa, Chee-nee!” Call it beginner’s luck, but she had spotted a plump pair of kings by an old oak on the downhill side of the trail, where I was not even looking. The maggots had gotten them first, but that did little to sully the magic of the moment.

Eliana’s kings were flags, and soon the two of us were following an impressive fruiting of Boletus atkinsonii, climbing along ledges and pulling back leaf litter to reveal their pudgy caps. My daughter was finding as many porcini as I was, her appetite for the hunt as insatiable as my own. Each time we found another, she would yelp out in delight – “Chee-nee! Pick!”; then, “Papa, more!”, as we continued pursuing woodland royalty.  She ignored the more pedestrian fare – old man of the woods boletes, rotting milk-caps – in a single-minded quest for chubby, regal piglets.

For this devoted father and forager, it was a revelation, the richest find of the season.

As the sun went down and our bag filled up, I coaxed Eliana out of the woods. She knew exactly what the next step would be in this forest to highchair foraging adventure – “Papa, chee-nee! Eat! Papa, eat!”

When we arrived home, my little forager burst through the door with big pride – “Mama, chee-nee! Hunt, mauk-mee!”

We brushed and rinsed the mushrooms together, then let our porcini sweat off the moisture in a dry cast iron pan before adding a teaspoon of butter and, finally, a dash of heavy cream.

I did not even have time to throw a bib on Eliana. The pile of cooked mushrooms disappeared (with an audible “Mmmm”) as fast as I could spoon them into a bowl. I had to be assertive just to get a few bites, but porcini had never tasted so sweet.

Content Protected Using Blog Protector By: PcDrome.