20 May 2016

23. Wild Mushrooms

A forest with no wild mushrooms is like a pond with no fish. It has no magic and is pretty useless if you’re hungry. I presume the term “wild mushroom” suggests interest in the edibility of the thing whereas if I were more scientifically interested, I would have used the title “Mycology”. We have both kinds, edible and inedible, in abundance, in fairy rings around twisted old trees, brackets climbing up pines and colonizing tree stumps, small toadstools squashing underfoot in grassy clearings … but only for short seasons.

I have three favourites. The first two, the dotted stalk bolete (suillus granulatus) and the saffron milk cap (lactarius deliciosus), appear in autumn after the october rains. The first, if harvested young, has a marvelous taste. I have found it is better if you take the trouble to remove the damp skin of the cap and the tubes under the cap. The saffron milk cap is my wife’s choice with its nutty taste and served with meat. Both of these are found in the wet grass in clearings in the pine forest. My third favourite is the morel (morchella esculenta) which grows in the evergreen forest after the spring rain in March or April.

Field mushrooms of different sorts grow in the evergreen forest. But I have learnt to be careful and I no longer eat them unless I am very sure. There is one sort that is only distinguishable from the really edible ones by its stalk which is thinner. When you fry it, it has a slightly inky smell and can upset your stomach. I have found really nice field mushrooms high up in the grazing fields of Nisdafe in late autumn.  Another type of field mushroom sometimes fruits at a lower altitude and I collect them on our property.

There must be many edible mushrooms for the taking but I don’t know them. I have seen presumable parasol mushrooms, several different russules and pleasantly perfumed little puffballs. Luckily most of the local people don’t even have my limited knowledge of the matter! The only one they seem to be enthusiastic about is a sort of cross between a truffle and a puffball, white and smooth like a new potato and of that size, too. They call it “nacida” – the new-born one. I find them somewhat tasteless but we have sometimes used them together with potatoes in a stew where they add an interesting texture.

Morels collected yesterday, cleaned and cut in half. We'll have some with pasta for lunch and freeze the rest. The grandchildren who come in summer love them!

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