Wild Mushroom Hunting Nobody got sick. And this started a love of the wild mushroom for
Good things are everywhere. Especially in the wild. But you miss them. Because you don’t know what you’re looking for. ate was seven when he told me
he wanted to find mushrooms that we could eat. Not from the
store. But in the woods. He’d read about them in a book his grandparents gave him. He showed me pictures. It seemed dangerous. But I wasn’t really concerned. I’d never seen any mushrooms like that. I was sure they didn’t grow around us.
Nate knew all about these. He
everyone in our family that has
rattled off the six distinguishing
grown more enthusiastic, and much
features that differentiate them
broader every season. It’s one of our
from their poisonous look-alike, the
favorite things to do all together.
jack-o-lantern (omphalotus illudens.)
Out into the woods, and fields, with
The dangerous ones were the same
all the risks and dangers, carefully
color but certain to make you sick
foraging where we’ve learned to
enough to never eat mushrooms
look. Now we know where the black
again. Growing in clumps, and not
trumpets grow. We know which trees
scattered. Attached to decaying
give chicken of the woods, and
wood, and not out of the soil. Hollow
sheep’s head. There are winter
stem instead of solid. With gills that
oysters growing right around the
are true, and not decurrent. Smelling
corner from the YMCA in Summit.
musty instead of like tangerines. And
Puffballs on that old tree beside the
actually glowing in the dark! (We
path by the post office. Morels in our
confirmed one night with a batch
friend’s front yard near the dying ash
that we found on the banks beside
trees. Gem studded puff balls on the
the Passaic river.)
sliver maple beside Valley View Ave.
He kept reading. And asking. So eventually we went out looking.
Back home with half a dozen golden chanterelles, and about twenty
In New Jersey there are thousands of varieties of wild mushrooms that grow. And they are everywhere. In the fields and woods behind your house. On the old oak that is slowly dying. In the wood chips around your boxwoods. Beside the trails you hike. But you only see them if your eyes are open.
walk after a rainy week in July. Into the South Mountain reserve. Our newest mushroom field guide in hand. And we just picked one of every kind we saw. I didn’t tell Nate or his sister, but I’d
smaller cinnabar chanterelles we got out the frying pan. Mom was out. I cleaned the mushrooms in cool water. Re-read the identification features for this variety in both of Nate’s field guides. (Always require two sources of verification. Preferably three!) Cut them up. Butter and olive oil. Drop in the
In 2016 we moved to Summit. We took a
And beautiful magical things
mushrooms. Salt as they begin to sizzle and pop. White wine. Not
YOU’VE JUST GOT TO GO OUT INTO THE WILD. AND KEEP YOUR EYES OPEN.
cooking wine. But the kind you’d like to drink on a hot July afternoon. Some crushed garlic. And onto the plate.
planned on throwing out the bag before we got back into the car. But then, beside a bend in the path, poking up between the leaf litter near a great big oak tree, Nate spotted the brilliant yellow orange of a patch of Chanterelles. (Cantharellus lateritius to be precise. And precision matters here!) Gorgeous. Like flowers showing off. And eerie like something from an alien film.
It was scary. And risky. But we ate them. Me more than Nate. They were so delicious. Good enough to give up steak for if I could have these every day! I know you won’t believe it. But that’s only because you’ve never tasted them. by:
Christian Andrews Pastor, Renaissance Church