[caption id="attachment_2753" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="(We didn't eat this one. It was poisonous.)"]
[/caption] I was giddy with glee to have renowned naturalists
lead me on my first-ever mushroom hunt last weekend. It was a tour put together by
Long Point Eco Adventures
in Norfolk County, ON, which also included a 5-course gourmet mushroom lunch paired with
wines from across the road when we came back from the forest.
The day was 100% locavore heaven.
[caption id="attachment_2756" align="aligncenter" width="400" caption="Bob Bowles shows his mushroom reference guide he's personally illustrated, as photographed guide books tend to show less detail."]
[/caption] Bowles shared that North Americans have a "funny attitude" about mushrooms - essentially we're kind of afraid of them. Maybe it's all
fault. Regardless, our culture is losing all knowledge an entire edible ecosystem.
How to hunt for mushrooms
Bowles recommends the following:
- Use a basket so your mushrooms don't get crowded or squished.
- Separate your edibles by placing them in a paper bag, or use a different basket altogether.
- Brush your mushrooms to clean off any debris.
- Bring a good knife to cut the mushroom away from its growing medium. It's important to see if there's a bulb at the bottom of the mushroom stem (the volva).
- Always bring a field guide. Bowles recommends the National Audubahn series, the Peterson guide or the University of Guelph Mushroom Guide.
[caption id="attachment_2760" align="aligncenter" width="400" caption="Bowles is looking at the gill attachment, the spore colour, the shape of the cap, the annulus ring (the ring around the stem) and the base of the stem (the volva) to help determine what kind of mushroom this is. This one was poisonous too. "]
How to identify mushrooms
Your field guide will explain better, but here are the basics:
- Look at the gill pattern (under the cap), and use your guide to determine if they're attached to the stem, free, etc.
- Look at the spore colour - seen in the gills.
- Look at the shape of the mushroom cap.
- Look to see if there's a ring around the stem, called an annulus ring.
- Look at the base of the stem - the volva.
These 5 identifiers above help narrow down which species of mushroom you have. It's really not that hard when you have a book to consult, and an expert mycologist with you helps tremendously.
There are many great mushrooms to eat, but a lot of poisonous ones are out there too. One innocent-looking mushroom in our forests will cause you to bleed internally for 3 days to your demise. Do not eat any mushroom you can't identify, and Bowles stresses to ALWAYS KEEP A SAMPLE of a mushroom you do eat. It will help if you're suddenly rushed to hospital. [caption id="attachment_2762" align="aligncenter" width="400" caption="Bowles told me this is called Turkey Tail. Easy to remember! Also poisonous. "]
[/caption] We ended up gathering lots and lots of Honey Mushrooms to eat for lunch, seen here: [caption id="attachment_2763" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Honey Mushrooms. Edible! "]
[/caption] Robin Tapely went out early and gathered up this basket of Puffballs for lunch as well. See how they resemble the human skull? [caption id="attachment_2764" align="aligncenter" width="400" caption="Puffballs. Edible! "]
[/caption] Back at Long Point Eco Adventures, we all sipped wine while Chef Heather Pond of
prepared our mushrooms for a 5-course gourmet meal. [caption id="attachment_2765" align="aligncenter" width="400" caption="Chef Heather Pond cuts up the Puffballs and Honey Mushrooms, to be cooked in a ton of butter. oh yeah. "]
[/caption] We started with the Honey Mushrooms in a phyllo cup garnished with sautéed Puffballs and store-bought morels (morels are a spring mushroom), paired with 2010 Burning Kiln Chardonnay: [caption id="attachment_2766" align="aligncenter" width="400" caption="Honey Mushroom phyllo cups, morels, and a slice of fresh Puffball is in behind."]
[/caption] Then a steaming bowl of warm store-bought shiitake & oyster mushrooms with pine nuts, paired with 2010 Burning Kiln Riesling: [caption id="attachment_2767" align="aligncenter" width="400" caption="Warm shiitake & oyster mushroom salad. "]
[/caption] I must have forgotten to take a photo of the cream of porcini & cremini soup, paired with 2010 Cureman's Chardonnay. It was that good. But then we had a mixed forest mushroom, spinach & ricotta strudel with morel herb cream sauce, paired with 2010 Burning Kiln Strip Room (a merlot and cabernet franc blend). [caption id="attachment_2768" align="aligncenter" width="400" caption="Wild mushroom, spinach & ricotta strudel with morel herb cream sauce."]
[/caption] What a wonderful inaugural mushroom hunt experience - just my style. Long Point Eco Adventures will be holding their next guided fall mushroom foray late September 2012. [caption id="attachment_2769" align="aligncenter" width="400" caption="Our inedible loot Bob Bowles identified for us. "]
My thanks to Long Point Eco Adventures and Burning Kiln Winery for hosting myself and my husband on this trip, and to my husband for sharing his "good" photos of the mushrooms above.
Are you an adventurous mushroom eater, or do you stick to the white button variety found in the grocery store?