For our inaugural post, I thought I'd fill you all in on our supercool mushroom-hunting adventures. For those of you who don't know, the two of us joined the Snohomish County Mycological Society last fall, and we've had a great time traipsing around the woods out here, seeing what we could see. There's a lot to learn, but we are excited by just how much more experience we've gained over the past year!
Last weekend we found a huge cluster of Chicken of the Woods (Laetiporus sulphureus) that weighed 15.8 pounds! It's taking up a huge amount of space in our freezer right now. Anyway, it's a spongy, shelf-like fungus of shocking neon orange and yellow hues. Apparently it's known as one of the "Foolproof Four" mushrooms, since it's nearly impossible to misidentify, and it's tasty and edible. (More on the "four" in a bit).
It has a firm texture that really makes it a great substitute for chicken in recipes. I've made a chicken parmesan with it with great success, and Joe's aunt Mary Kay put some in a King Casserole that she said was excellent.
Next, by the roadside, we found some Lycoperdon perlatum, or Gem-studded Puffballs. Number two of the Foolproof Four!
Mature puffballs are really fun to find, since they emit clouds of green spores when stomped upon.
However, they're only edible when they're really young and the inside is still pure white. I added them to the chicken of the woods parmesan and they tasted ok, not terrific, but not bad, either.
We've been looking forward to the fall season in order to find one of the Northwest's most famous tasty mushrooms: the chanterelle. Although it's supposedly another of the foolproofs, it's consistently shaken us off its trail for the past year. They're supposed to be easy to identify by their vaselike shape and "false gills": instead of having little flaps for gills, they just have ridges that run on their undersides. They are known to have a really delicious flavor, sometimes described as floral or reminiscent of apricots, so I've really been eager to find some.
Finally we came across these guys. Vaselike shape? Check. Ridges instead of gills? Check! I was so excited, I went out and bought all sorts of ingredients to cook them up.
Sadly, after bringing them home, we figured out that while they ARE chanterelles, they are Scaly Chanterelles (Gomphus floccosus) which, according to Wikipedia, "though mild tasting, cause gastrointestinal symptoms of nausea, vomiting and diarrhea when consumed." Great.
Undeterred, this weekend made another excursion to a different part of the mountains near Verlot. We kept finding all of these weird, rubbery, yellow-orange buttons (baby mushrooms) in the path; we dug some up, hoping to id them later. Under a stump, I saw more of the same color. After a tiny bit of digging, I shrieked! Just like the pictures in the guidebooks, Cantharellus cibarius, or A GOLDEN CHANTERELLE! There was no mistaking it; it was foolproof!
I don't have any pictures of the "chanties," sadly, but I do have a picture of what we did with them!
A delicious cream-based pasta with green beans from the garden and the long-sought-after chanterelles.
To sum up our last two weeks: three out of four ain't bad!