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Monday, February 4, 2013

43

Go Mushroom A-Hunting

"Photographer Eirik Johnson used to go hunting mushrooms as a kid. Ferreting about in the woods of the Pacific Northwest was a family day out — getting outdoors and getting hands filthy was the goal, and any mushroom finds, a bonus. But when Johnson moved back to his native Seattle a few years ago, and heard his forager friends talk about the significant commercial mushroom hunting in the surrounding national forests, he knew it was culture to be explored … and photographed."

43 Comments / Post A Comment

fondue with cheddar

But are any of them made of cake?

milenakent

is cool as hell@n

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

He sounds like a fun guy.

Probs

@I'm Right on Top of that, Rose makes one long to get out of the cramped, crowded, claustrophobic city, where there isn't mush room.

fondue with cheddar

@Probs When he's in the woods he really should wear a cap.

fondue with cheddar

@fondue with cheddar Mushroom puns are hard! I don't know what else I'm spores to say!

leonstj

@fondue with cheddar - to work or to pun? my daily morel dilemma.

fondue with cheddar

@leon s This is getting hard so I'll just button my lip.

evil melis

This must be included in any discussion of mushroom hunting.

aphrabean

@evil melis I have this book! I love this book, for every possible reason.

fondue with cheddar

Who first looked at a mushroom and said, "I want to eat that"?

EpWs

@fondue with cheddar Also, artichokes

aphrabean

@fondue with cheddar I assume it was somebody who was watching animals eat them, and was also very very hungry? I wonder who first watched someone eat some bad mushrooms and THEN give them another shot, after that. (Also, who figured out that a lot of mushrooms are edible only after being cooked?!) Or who figured this preparation out?

meetapossum

@fondue with cheddar I still don't get it. It's like eating a sponge.

fondue with cheddar

@The Everpresent Wordsnatcher EW, yes.

@aphrabean Animals...yeah, that makes a lot of sense.

NeenerNeener

@fondue with cheddar
I'm always wondering this about different foods. The other food thought: "How many people died before they figured out the right way to prepare this thing?" Ex: blowfish. Why did people so stubbornly want to eat things? Also, all things moldy, fermented, aged, etc.

fondue with cheddar

@meetapossum The only way you're going to get me to eat a mushroom is if it makes me feel funny for a few hours.

aphrabean

@meetapossum Oh, man, raw mushrooms are totally spongy and gross! But cooking them really makes all the difference. For your regular old button/crimini/portabello mushroom (they're totally the same species!), dry-sauteing releases that wonderful, earthy, meaty flavor and keeps them from getting all. . . slimy. Also, there is some evidence that eating cooked mushrooms with other foods can increase the bioavailability of nutrients! Please excuse my pro-fungus boosterism but I love those things, so dang much.

fondue with cheddar

@NeenerNeener Before refrigeration I guess stuff got moldy, fermented, and aged pretty easily. So if your choice is to eat the moldy thing or starve, I guess you're going to eat the moldy thing.

I have always been astonished at the blowfish thing.

NeenerNeener

(Yes, I know why people were desperate to eat different things (but blowfish?), and also I'm very tired and didn't do a great job reading comments. Back to my corner.)

NeenerNeener

@fondue with cheddar I'm seriously going back to my corner - I didn't hit refresh before posting, so that "yes, I know why..." wasn't directed towards you.

fondue with cheddar

@aphrabean I wish I loved them because they're good for you and add an interesting dimension to dishes, but I just can't. They're still gross even when they're cooked.

@NeenerNeener It's okay, I'm still tired, too. Monday.

leonstj

@aphrabean - The one that blows my mind is nixtamalization of maize.

Like...ancient american peoples somehow had a diet with no niacin, and badly needed it. And somebody figured out that you could dry out maize, cook it in limestone (which, by itself, can cause chemical burns), soak that in potash (which is caustic), and THEN it becomes not only edible, but supplies nutrient they needed to not-die.

Like, what on earth would possess ancient people to go through all of those steps? It boggles my mind.

aphrabean

@leon s Right?! RIGHT! I am thinking: desperation. But it is truly boggling, how many generations it must have taken to develop these methods.

EpWs

@leon s hwhaaaaaaaat

fondue with cheddar

@leon s How many people died during the trial-and-error of figuring that out?

aphrabean

My love of fungus is great, powerful, and unironic, so I am fighting really hard not to inundate this comment section with mushroom based triva/all caps. BUT. IF SOMEONE ELSE WANTS TO TALK ABOUT THEM, I AM RIGHT HERE.

ms. alex

@aphrabean Do you also have suggestions about branching out from the boring white ones that I always end up buying?

aphrabean

@ms. alex Oh, boy, I surely do! It can be very difficult to find a wide variety of fresh mushrooms, depending on where you live, but here are some more common/delicious ones:

Shiitake are probably the most easily accessible "exotic" mushroom around. You can slice them thinly and roast them with olive oil and salt, and they taste like bacon! Really. Like little crunchy bacon bits, without all the chemicals.

Porcini are wonderful and beefy - I've never found them fresh in my area, but you can usually find them dried in stores or online fairly easily. Dried porcini powder adds a wonderful depth and richness to stews and sauces! Also, know that if you ever find dried porcinis for under $18/lb, they probably aren't true porcinis, but a similar fungus called "slippery jack." Slippery jacks are just fine, though I do think their marketing in the U.S. points to some issues with the FDA but that is for another, nerdier discussion.

Chanterelles are a delicate and mild mushroom and are very nice with cream sauces or anything that won't overwhelm their flavor. Don't use the stems though - save those for your stockpot.

Morels are a divine and wonderful treat, but you must make sure to cook them thoroughly. Again, hard to find in your regular old grocery store, and if you do, they will cost many, many dollars, but check and see if there are any morel festivals in your area, come spring!

Maitake, or hen-of-the-woods: these are my favorite, even more so than the morel. I have never found these fresh in my area, but if you see them on a menu somewhere, you should totally order them, for they are delicious and savory and delicately textured.

And here are some mushroom preparation tips: when rehydrating dried mushrooms, always save the soaking liquid - it's a great addition to stocks. However, you'll always want to strain it through a coffee filter to get all the dirt out. Mushrooms store a lot of dirt.

You also want to make sure, always, to very thoroughly cook your mushrooms. This makes their full range of nutrients available to you, as mushrooms are comprised primarily of chitin, and raw, can be quite indigestible to humans. (Raw morels will actually make you very sick.) And always (of course) make sure your mushrooms have been purchased from a reputable source.

Thank you for giving me a space to talk about mushrooms!

SarcasticFringehead

@aphrabean Okay, so Paul Stamets spoke at my school a couple years ago, and according to him, mushrooms are going to save the world (remediating toxic soils, boosting immune systems, etc.). I would like to believe this, but it sounds like it could also be...a little optimistic. Thoughts?

ms. alex

@aphrabean Thanks! I really want to eat lots of mushrooms now.(Yet another way I'm totally disappointing my inner ten year old.)

I've done the dried mushrooms thing before, and you're right, the soaking liquid is terrific.

EpWs

@aphrabean Why do we need to be careful to cook morels thoroughly? Will they kill us?
<3, a mushroom lover

aphrabean

@SarcasticFringehead OK! SO. The thing about Paul Stamets is that (1)he makes me squeal like a teenager so I am not unbiased (2)He is a big ole hippie who has written book(s) about psilocybin mushrooms, and (3)he is truly a legitimate researcher who adheres to stringent methodology, and possesses many approved patents. I was talking with a member of my local fungus club recently, and discussing my initial skepticism when faced with Stamets' optimistic, hippie-dippie tone, and these doctorate-level mycologists were like, "Yeah, but the science is there, and real."

I think that Stamets is also the first to note that many of the things he talks about - mycoremediation, for one - are a long ways off from being implementable solutions. My impression (as a highly enthusiastic amateur) is that he is looking to expand the possibilities of what fungus can do for us, and interest people in expanding and continuing his research. I highly recommend his book Mycelium Running!

aphrabean

@The Everpresent Wordsnatcher They will definitely make you sick if you eat them raw! I'm not sure what is the exact illness-causing compound in the case of morels, but it's probably best practice to cook ANY mushroom that you're going to eat.

SarcasticFringehead

@aphrabean Excellent! It's the kind of thing I really want to believe, but there is definitely that skepticism you were describing when you're faced with something that's so optimistic.

Even beyond that, too, the talk was fascinating, especially when he started talking about the giant fungi that can almost communicate through their [tendril...things? I don't remember what they're called], which reminded me of the giant sentient mushroom from the x-files. They really are incredibly fascinating.

MilesofMountains

@aphrabean Hen-of-the-woods! That was one of the two wild mushrooms that showed up in my CSA box and were so so good, but I forgot the names of both of them. In my head that one was "the chicken one".

aphrabean

@MilesofMountains Where do you LIVE?!! HEAVEN?!!

aphrabean

@MilesofMountains For reals, though, I would consider moving there.

MilesofMountains

@aphrabean It's a bit colder than heaven. I'm in north-western Canada so mushrooms are kind of big around here. One of the locals sells wild mushrooms (mostly morels) at the farmer's market, and sometimes through the CSA. I really wish there was some sort of mushroom hunting class up here, because I want to go pick mushrooms, but I'm worried I'll kill myself if I just wander around with a book eating random fungus.

aphrabean

@MilesofMountains I think your instincts are good - I myself would not hunt unless in the company of an expert. However, I would check out any local mycological associations. They probably hold forays in your neck of the woods, if mushrooms are so plentiful! They are a weird and nerdy bunch (as a nerdy weirdo I can totally say this), but they'd probably be delighted to let you go out with them and learn-by-watching.

(Also, I'm headed to the Kootenays this fall, it looks like - maybe the mushroom hunting extends that far south!)

frigwiggin

When I still lived in Santa Cruz there was someone offering a class (at the free school, I think?) on foraging for mushrooms in the area. I'm depressed that I didn't attend, even though I was in school and working and really busy. Such a Santa Cruz thing it almost hurts. (I also remember students going down to the Meadow on campus to forage for magic mushrooms after the rains, which is ALSO so Santa Cruz it hurts. Oh, that town.)

Bootsandcats

Some of the pictures make me start shuffling my feet backwards on the floor and rehearse my "don't murder me" stories. Is that just me?

I always wondered what was up with those house frames.

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