It’s been a dry month, with hardly any of the afternoon storms that usually punctuate June. Which is great. The garden has enjoyed the abundant heat and sunshine. But it’s not so great for picking mushrooms. Every time we’ve been mushroom hunting this season the woods have been too dry.
Finally, we had a whole weekend of heavy rains (right when we’d planned to spend the weekend weeding – oh well). So we waited a few days, then went into the woods to snaffle about.
And we struck gold, finding lots of porcini mushrooms (ceps/penny buns) and even a few chanterelles.
Now, we’re cautious mushroom pickers. We steer clear of anything white. We don’t pick anything with a traditional cap and gills because they all bloody look alike to me, and I can’t tell the edibles from the dead-ibles. You really don’t want to fuck with some of the poisonous mushrooms, so I steer clear of anything that has dangerous lookalikes.
Which basically leaves us with just a few mushrooms that we’re genuinely confident picking. Porcini is one of them. They’re easy to spot, fairly common in our local woodland, and they don’t have any deadly lookalikes.
We’ve also started picking chanterelles, albeit only very recently. Chanterelles do have a poisonous lookalike, the false chanterelle, but we’ve been learning to tell the difference and it’s (mostly) pretty clear-cut. Besides, it won’t kill you, the false chanterelle, which is reassuring. (It’ll make you chunder your guts up and possibly hallucinate, so it’s still a no-no, but at least we won’t die if we eat them by mistake.)
I’d also be pretty comfortable identifying a chicken of the woods, just because they’re so unusual looking and don’t really have any lookalikes. But I’ve never actually seen one in the wild. I live in hope. A few years ago a friend cooked us some KFC-style fried chicken of the woods and I still fantasise about that meal. *drools onto keyboard*
The thing with mushrooms is, the field guides aren’t totally reliable. There are two photos of each mushroom if you’re lucky (often only one pic) and, in my experience, they rarely look exactly like the mushroom I’m holding in my hand. The book we have mostly shows mature specimens, but they can look quite different when they’re younger. The chanterelles we picked – and yes, they were definitely chanterelles, no chundering for us – looked different from the typical chanterelle picture you’d see, purely because they were still quite young and hadn’t fully developed their frilly edges.
It’s a shame because we saw so many beautiful mushrooms in the woods, and I’d love to be able to confidently identify them. Maybe I should get one of those identification apps? Does anyone have any recommendations?
For now, we’ll stick to the porcini and chanterelles that we’re comfortable with, and keep dreaming of finding a chicken of the woods. *drools again*
Anyway, what did we do with our mushroom haul? We had them for breakfast, sauteed with lots of garlic and herbs and served on sourdough toast. Totally worth all the mosquito bites we acquired while in the woods! Speaking of which, it rained yesterday morning, so we’ll be off into the woods again this weekend. I’m already praying to the mushrooms gods for a decent haul.
Do you pick any mushrooms? If not, what else are you picking off the floor and eating this summer? Do tell.