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When I was a wee lad of five, the soles of my feet bore witness to my proclivity to run around without shoes anytime the weather and my parents allowed.  They were thick skinned.  I remember my Grandmother taking me on a drive to the area out in the country where my Grandfather worked for a local sawmill, in Southeastern Ohio, to harvest wild mushrooms.  She wouldn't allow me to help and, in fact, she admonished me to stay back on the logging road as she ventured into the woods to search for her quarry.  To make sure I took her warning to heart, she told me that there was quicksand in the area.  Even at the tender age of five, I had no doubt seen a Tarzan movie or two, or some Western, and knew what quicksand was, and how it could swallow you up.  So I stood there on a sandy logging road, obediently, for the half hour it took her to harvest a sackful of mushrooms...and peering intently into the woods instead of at the ground, I didn't notice that I had stepped onto a red ant hill. You can guess what happened.  Nobody said mushroom picking isn't without its risks, even for the innocent bystander it seems.

Here in Oregon, there was a story back in February of a couple and their adult son who went out to harvest wild mushrooms down by Gold Beach, in the coastal Siskyou range, and got lost for 6 days before a search team of more than 100 found them.  No mention was made od whether or not their hunt was otherwise successful.  The father hurt his back, the son sprained his ankle, and all three of them holed up in a hollow log at night to get out of the rain.  They really weren't all that far from their state campsite...but woodland skills, let's face it, aren't what they used to be.

Over the years I've read stories about recent Asian immigrants to the West Coast who venture out into the woods in search of wild mushrooms, as they were used to doing "in the old country", but failed to take along a good field guide that identifies the poisonous ones from the edible ones...to their detriment, unfortunately.  A poisonous mushroom can cause liver damage remarkably quickly and lead to a painful death.  There have been several instances of foreign born immigrants poisoning themselves by eating what looked like a perfectly edible mushroom from "back home."

Going into the wild to harvest wild mushrooms is an old, old activity...and it was almost among those things that we refer to as "lost folk wisdom."  My grandparents did it, but my parents did not...nor did any of their sibblings.  Neither my sister nor I did.  I'm 55...so I'm guessing that, for the most part, the folk knowledge, let alone the practice, of knowing where to find mushrooms in the forest and, more importantly, which ones were edible lay fallow.  

Somewhere along the line Green Giant stepped in and supplied us with vast quantities of relatively inexpensive and unquestionably tasteless white button mushrooms, commercially raised, to satisfy our craving for 'shrooms.  They no longer came from the woods...they came in styrene trays, wrapped in cellophane.  Presliced!

Then came the 80's...and YUPPIE gourmands, foodyism, and the collapse of Japan's native mushroom ecology, and a strong yen.  Many changes were wrought.  In the mid to late 90's prices for certain wild mushrooms skyrocketed to over $800 per lb.  The mushroom picking landscape changed...both physically, economically and demographically.

My Grandmother, the Mushroom Picker, was born in 1911 deep in the southeastern hollows of Kentucky.  She's really the only relative I have that was a regular and expert mushroom hunter.  Although...most of my aunts and uncles will readily tell you that they grew up eating wild mushrooms.  They are all in their 70's now...and some are even older.  So...even by the 50's, the folk tradition of harvesting wild mushrooms was well along upon its wane.  Urbanization and changing eating habits had almost sealed its fate to obscurity.

My own Hillbilly credentials are mostly in order...I regularly can produce from the garden, I've shot and dressed a few deer, skinned rabbits and squirrels, caught and scaled countless Bluegills, eaten turtle and wild greens.  But I will be the first to admit...when it comes to wild mushrooms, I'm just as clueless as the 18 year old who uses a skateboard as a primary mode of transportation, and who wouldn't know how to develop photographic film in a darkroom.  I can develop film...at least if I referred to a youtube primer to refresh my memory...but I couldn't tell you where to find wild mushrooms, or warn you against the ones that aren't safe to eat.  I just didn't acquire that knowledge growing up.

Neither did my parents.  That knowledge just seemed to skip, by the most part, a whole generation.  It mostly skipped my own, as well, though by the late 70's & early 80's there was a decidedly small number of mostly "Counter Culture" folks who had gone back to the forests to take up the trade.  In the time that bridged this, American agriculture had been trying since the late 1890's to find a productive and economical way to produce commercial mushrooms.  England had done so, but the "spawn", that is the genesis of a viable mushroom, that originated from England proved to be short lived and undependable when transplanted to the U.S.  

It wasn't until around 1903 that an American borne mushroom spawn was created by USDA scientists that proved to be dependable for commercial growers.  For unknown reasons, the industry began and quickly consolidated in the state of Pennsylvania...by 1930 the census showed that of 516 commercial mushroom growers in the U.S., 350 were located in Chester County, PA, alone.  Further developments with synthetic manure enabled commercial mushrooms to accelerate their progress into the American diet.  After WWII a trade organization was formed that availed itself of a major advertising blitz to sell Americans on the uses for, and the efficacy of, commercially grown mushrooms.  Really...prior to WWII, most people, to the extent that they ate mushrooms at all, ate them seasonally, and they were locally procured wild mushrooms.  They either harvested them themselves, or got them from someone they knew who harvested them.

My Grandmother, in 1961, was an outlier.  A throwback to earlier times that had already become outdated, and frankly smacked of a kind of regional poverty.  She still went out into the local woods to pick her own.  She wasn't alone...but there was little risk of running into another mushroom hunter at that time out in the woods.  Most Americans were already eating Swanson's frozen dinners, at worst, or vegetables from tin cans at best.  As a nation, by the early 60's, we had already been largely transformed from a people who raised their own food to a people who purchased their food from the grocery store.  The grasp of where that food came from was already beginning to lose it's strength.

By the end of the 70's, it started to change a little.  Thank the Hippies for that.  And those who never changed to begin with.  In certain pockets of the U.S. where wild mushrooms are common, this knowledge never, really, went extinct.  It just became less common, and less practiced.  Oregon and Northern California are blessed with a climate, forest cover and soil that promotes an immense population of wild mushrooms.  There have always been people here who were aware of the culinary treasure that awaits them in the woods, and who have gone out to seek it.  Their numbers have ebbed and surged over the years, but since around 1980 they have mostly grown.  And during periods of that 30 year span, they have exploded.

Those Boomers who resolutely decided to "go back to the Earth in the late 70's were buoyed by the other Boomers who resolutely did not.  Those who did not were, byt 1980, in the workforce, and fully ensconced in the belly of the Machine they had protested against not 10 years earlier.  Many of them were pleasantly surprised to find that they were being well paid.  Hence, the rise of the dreaded "YUPPIES".  They were pulling down regular paychecks, and a sizeable number were pulling down quite nice paychecks.  What, then, to do with this new found affluence?

EAT.

And not the shit our parents fed us, either.  REAL food.  Butter...not margarine.  Fresh vegetables...not Libby's canned veggies.  Donvier ice cream makers...not store bought ice cream.  Food became a new status symbol.  Restaurants were quick to respond, and a market for wild mushrooms, among many things, was born anew.  For a small cadre of counter culture folks, a nice supplemental income could be earned by hiking into the woods, which they enjoyed anyways, and harvesting Nature's Bounty.  

That was pretty much the market situation up until the early to mid 90's.  Then...three forces came into confluence.  Japan, already suffering an economic retrenchment but still rich, found that it's own homegrown mushroom ecology had collapsed due to over harvesting.  America had a burgeoning population of rural immigrants from Southeast Asia and Latin America who were unskilled but used to physical work.  Global trade had evolved to the point where a product that grows naturally in a forest in North America could be harvested and both transported and sold overseas at a marked profit.

By 1995 the wild mushroom harvesting scene was changing and changing fast...and not for the better.  Whereas before the odd picker would harvest carefully and selectively, either for his or her own use, local consumption or perhaps a small regional restaurant trade...now hordes of pickers descended upon the forests.  Chanterelles, Hedgehogs, Morels, Oysters, Boletes...all had a consistent market.  But another species...the Matsutake, which grows under the litter of coniferous tress indigenous to the Pacific Northwest, became the gold of the forest.  Japan's stock was nearly spent, and the demand was enormous.  Prices spiked to close to $800 per pound at their peak.  Some of these mushrooms, when mature, can weigh close to a pound each...just to give you a visual.

A literal army of commercial mushroom pickers fell upon the forests of the upper West Coast.  Many, if not most, of them were recent Asian immigrants...Hmong, Cambodians, Vietnamese, Laotians.  There were also Latinos who were lured to the trade from more traditional itinerant agricultural work.  Unsurprisingly, there was both a culture clash and an economic clash between the newcomers and the old timers.  It sort of recalls the tensions between Cajun shrimpers and Southeast Asian fisherman in the Gulf of Mexico.  Except for a period of time, this was even more hot.

See...there always used to be sort of a code of conduct, an ettiquette, among wild mushroom harvesters.  They were individuals, and hunted small scale.  Some did it for supplemental income, but even there it was on a relatively small scale.  There was an understanding with regards to how many 'shrooms you should harvest from a specific area, and how many you should leave behind to ensure the next year's crop.  There was an understanding as to how big was gig enough, and how samll was too small.  There was an understanding with regards to proper harvesting methods...rooting up the mature fungi carefully so as to leave the underlaying root system as undisturbed as possible, and leaving the overlaying leaf litter as undisturbed as possible.

But once the trade went global, and the price was high, and the harvesters were from outside the area...not to mention outside the country...all the rules fell to the wayside.
Picking crews worked en masse, not as individuals.  They started carrying guns...both to signal others when they found a good patch and to ward off competitors.  Not a few deaths have been chalked up over the years to competing mushroom pickers who come across one another in the woods...and one has a sackful of pricey mushrooms while the other has a gun.  Instead of using a screwdriver to gently pry the mushrooms out of the ground, gasoline powered air blowers were brought to bear to completely denude the area underneath likely trees.

Most of the lands that the mushrooms are harvested from are U.S. Forest Service lands.  The USFS is used to administering logging or small scale firewood harvest...the explosion in mushroom harvesting caught them sort of flatfooted.  They didn't see it coming until it was a fullblown event.  Many of these itinerant workers camp out on public lands for extended periods so as to be close to and safeguard their "good spots", and when they leave they leave behind two things.  A mess, and an area that's not likely to support a future mushroom harvest for many years to come.  They strip it bare.  The USFS has tried enforcing newly imposed regulations over the years, but faces a language barrier.  Warning signs, explaining approved and prohibited harvesting methods, must be published in a multitude of languages, even though they are miles away from the nearest city.  And that presumes both literacy and a sense of civics on the part of those who may take the time to heed the signs.

Some of the worst of this activity has subsided, I'm glad to say, over the past few years.  Japan found other foreign markets in Korea and China to supply its Jones for the Matsutake's, and so the prices have subsided.  The heyday is probably over.  But what with farmers markets, restaurants, and an unending desire among upscale diners for local fare and exotic flavors, wild mushrooms of all kinds are still quite popular and still fetch a good price on the market.  The last time I bought some chanterelles (last Spring) they were IIRC around $15/lb.  I won't even tell you what I paid for morels a few years ago...I'd never eaten them before and just wanted to know what the buzz was all about.

I bought 3 lbs as a splurge, and took them to my Sister's house for a dinner party.  My Mom was put in charge of cooking them, and she soaked them in a bowl of salted water first...you should have seen the critters that crawled out of all of those fins.  Unfortunately, she battered them in a rather thick and bland batter, and fried them.  They were very unremarkable.  My Grandmother was unsurpassed.  They didn't call it tempura back in Southeastern Ohio, but thats pretty much how she made them.  A thin batter with some herbs, and fried quickly in a deep pan of oil and drained.

Let me tell you....they were delicious.

Sat Apr 21, 2012 at 9:27 AM PT: Here's a nice resource on hunting for Morels if anyone is interested in having a go at it:

http://www.mushroommountain.com/...

Originally posted to Keith930 on Fri Apr 20, 2012 at 07:30 PM PDT.

Also republished by Appalachian Journal and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  nothing better (14+ / 0-)

    than a nice batch of morels.

    "The work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives and the dreams shall never die."

    by rscopes on Fri Apr 20, 2012 at 08:00:56 PM PDT

  •  glad you caught this, Foresterbob (9+ / 0-)

    I was hoping you might.

    "By your late thirties the ground has begun to grow hard. It grows harder and harder until the day that it admits you.” Thomas McGuane, Nobody's Angel

    by Keith930 on Fri Apr 20, 2012 at 08:08:20 PM PDT

  •  One of the side benefits (21+ / 0-)

    of spending part of the year in the Pacific Northwest is that I sometimes find myself at the right place at the right time: plentiful mushrooms and nobody else around.

    A few random observations.  I lived in Portland for a few years.  Right after I arrived, an entire extended family of Asian immigrants ate a batch of death cap mushrooms.  The lucky ones got new livers; the unlucky ones got new coffins.

    I've noticed the influx of migrant pickers.  The ones that I've personally met have been careful not to pick the forest clean, but I've seen areas where pickers did not exhibit such concern.  Some will hike long distances down gated logging roads to reach choice picking sites.

    And the litter.  On the Olympic Peninsula last year, I encountered a number of brush pickers and mushroom pickers.  It was a small sample, mind you, but virtually all of the Hispanic brush pickers were litterbugs.  They'd be right next to their vehicles sorting through their harvest, and all the bottles and food wrappers went onto the ground.

    Of course the American citizens aren't doing much better with litter.  Just today, in Georgia, the occupants of an SUV in front of me threw trash out their window.  I could break into an extended rant about littering, but I will save it for some other time.

    •  there is no word for litter in Spanish (13+ / 0-)

      there is basura...but that is trash.  Litter, in the sense we have in mind, has no equivalent word that I have ever found in Spanish.

      The highways in parts of Latin America have signs that read "To Tira Basura"..."Don't toss trash", but I've also seen signs in old public buses in off the beaten path parts of Latin America that say "don't drop your trash on the floor...throw it out the window"

      "By your late thirties the ground has begun to grow hard. It grows harder and harder until the day that it admits you.” Thomas McGuane, Nobody's Angel

      by Keith930 on Fri Apr 20, 2012 at 08:29:39 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  My experience is a little different, but in a (9+ / 0-)

      bit of an odd way.  In the Early Matsutake Madness Days, there didn't seem to be a lot of litter by anybody.  In later years, as the age and social makeup of pickers changed, it has become more common to see food packaging scattered in the woods.  What I found interesting over time was that it used to be that one might run across some garbage way out in the woods in tight little discrete stashes, whereas it has become more common to see it right off the shoulder of the road (where somebody obviously parked).  I used to pick up the garbage I found (since it didn't bear any resemblance to a meth lab dump) and pack it back to the rig so I could chuck it in the dumpster back in the office, but I've since decided that a future generation of Forest Archeologists should really have the thrill of exploring a true mystery trying to figure out how a bunch of cans and bottles with Laotian, Cambodian, or Vietnamese labels ended up out in the middle of nowhere...  

      "In a nation ruled by swine, all pigs are upward mobile..." - Dr. Hunter S. Thompson

      by Jack K on Fri Apr 20, 2012 at 08:41:37 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  We were lucky (0+ / 0-)

      My wife and I moved to Oregon after living in the Midwest for decades. I grew up in Indiana where we hunted for morels every spring. When we lived in Ohio and Iowa, we joined the mycology clubs there and learned a lot, especially about edibles.

      Strolling through a wildlife refuge near Salem a few weeks after we arrived, I spotted "morels" growing by the side of the path. In an hour I had gathered a nice mess for dinner, and my wife cooked them up. Disappointing. No flavor at all.

      Then we took a closer look at the remainder, and sure enough, they weren't morels but look-alikes. Fortunately, they weren't poisonous to any great extent, and we got only our feelings hurt.

      Even though we had looked forward to moving to Oregon because of its reputation for mushrooms, we never seemed to be at the right place at the right time, even when we joined forays organized by the experts.

      We liked Oregon, and when we had to move away it certainly didn't leave a bad taste in my mouth. Except for the verpa conica.

  •  Oh, the stories I could tell you.... (20+ / 0-)

    ...without going into any detail about what natural resource management agency I have toiled within the bowels of for the last few decades, I can say that the Matsutake Madness - which particularly inflicted South-Central Orygun - has been in precipitous decline over the last decade.  In the early 90's the Matsutake harvest just simply exploded, as you describe, and caught everybody flat-footed...

    ...it took a few years of trial and error to get things under control and eliminate the "wild west" aspect of the whole thing.  A combined permit system was instituted that required pickers getting harvest permits to stay in industrial camps that the USFS built and hired contractors to run.  Everybody seeking a permit had to sit through a lecture and video presentation that was presented in a couple of (primarily SE Asian) languages.  Interpreters were hired to work with agency employees to bridge the language barrier and extra Oregon State Police and USFS Law Enforcement Officers were brought into the area to help with various law enforcement issues.  Numerous employees were tasked with the responsibility of patrolling those areas where picking wasn't supposed to happen (mostly in old/late successional habitats that had management requirements based on President Clinton's Northwest Forest Plan) and to make sure that minimum mushroom size standards were being met...

    Anymore, it's pretty laid back during Matsutake season, compared to the good ol' days.  Used to be that the mandated industrial camps would have a few thousand people living in them, making those camps for a short while larger than half of the incorporated communities in Eastern Orygun.  Used to be that you had to get up earlier than usual for the first week or two after Labor Day (when the official picking season began) so you could find a place to park at work before the 'shroomers showed up to go through the process of acquiring picking/camping permits.  Used to be you had a chance of stumbling across a person out in the woods with whom you did not share a common language and who was very concerned that you were invading his/her 'patch' and only one of you (and not you) was carrying a firearm...

    There's way more than this that I won't go into, but I don't miss the good ol' days...

    "In a nation ruled by swine, all pigs are upward mobile..." - Dr. Hunter S. Thompson

    by Jack K on Fri Apr 20, 2012 at 08:21:05 PM PDT

    •  if it makes you feel any better (9+ / 0-)

      My Aunt and her 3rd husband once had asurly property owner drop a bead on them one Spring morning when they decided to go hunting for mushrooms in Ohio on what turned out to be private property.

      But I can only imagine how crazy it was back in the day here.  I was reading an OPB article that's only about 3 years old that said those camps are still fairly large, though.  Even though the prices have come way down.  I guess they go for 'shrooms, huckleberries...just gleaning anything that has a resale value.

      "By your late thirties the ground has begun to grow hard. It grows harder and harder until the day that it admits you.” Thomas McGuane, Nobody's Angel

      by Keith930 on Fri Apr 20, 2012 at 08:34:46 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Well, the camps are still impressive in size if (8+ / 0-)

        you look at them in the context of "why would anybody camp here".  The two camps I'm familiar with are not exactly the sort of place you would expect to find a Forest Service campground, so the fact that there are hundreds of people camped there can be notable - if you hadn't seen them 10 or 15 years ago when there were a couple of thousand people.  There are still lots of people who are in these camps, but the numbers look like way less than half of what they were in the past.  Another notable difference is the number of buyer's tents and how long they stay.  Various spots along Highway 58 near Willamette Pass used to look like the mining camp set of "Paint Your Wagon" that somebody forgot to take down when filming ended; these days there are only a handful of tents that tend to disappear quickly as the season draws to a close in late October...

        "In a nation ruled by swine, all pigs are upward mobile..." - Dr. Hunter S. Thompson

        by Jack K on Fri Apr 20, 2012 at 09:00:51 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  I will be content to buy mine in plastic at the (9+ / 0-)

    SaveMart. Seems every single spring out here in Northern CA there is a news story of an entire family getting poisioned. I guess it's one thing where somebody in the family knows the spots from generation to generation. And entirely another to just head out into the woods and go - hey! that looks good!

    Sig seen on Redstate: ABO Anybody But Obama. Sorry, I'm stealing that.... Another Barack Opportunity. Vote Obama/Biden 2012!

    by mrsgoo on Fri Apr 20, 2012 at 08:46:59 PM PDT

  •  Morels at a local grocery store that I shop (9+ / 0-)

    Were listed at $22/container. Unless they're cultivated, I find that very strange when people can go out and pick their own.

  •  My experience is that there's never been (19+ / 0-)

    a decline in mushroom gathering. Living in WI, people were always talking about hunting morels, even when I lived in the city.

    From 1984 to 1996 we lived on 20 acres of elm prairie that still had a lot of elms. By the time elms get to be 8 or 9 inches in diameter - which doesn't take a long time - elm bark beetles infect them with Dutch elm disease. But elm are prolific seed producers, so if an area is left to itself, it will continually produce new elm trees. (As an aside, it's also fortunate that they die at that size, since most of the tree is the right size for firewood without having to split it - elm is just about impossible to split with an axe or maul).

    Anyway, we had an accumulation of dead elms, and morels like nothing better than dead elms, and morel hunters know that. We'd harvest some, and if someone came to the door and asked, we were happy to let them hunt in our woods. If they didn't come to the door and ask, we chased them away - nobody likes bad manners. We also had puffballs the size of soccer balls, but usually dry and wormy by the time we'd find them. We had wild asparagus too, but that usually grows under utility wires (bird fertilizer) alongside the road, so you have to be quick to catch that before someone else does.

    We moved to E WA in 1996. We have an above-ground pool with a deck next to it, and a few years ago I was screening around the underside of the deck (fire safety), when I looked underneath and the entire area was covered with morels. They haven't come back since, although I sometimes find a few when out cutting brush or wood - only in areas that burned in the 1994 fire though.

    I have neighbors who regularly mushroom hunt, but they're also from WI, so maybe that doesn't count. But the guy who owns the local grocery store was talking to me about mushroom hunting - he's from Seattle originally and goes after morels.

    My wife is a fairly good mushroom hunter and knows good places for chanterelles and boletus here in WA, but it's a half-a-day boat trip and 3 mile hike (1000 ft vertical) one way. I like 'em, but not that much, and we always have some store bought in the 'fridge - but our store has 3 or 4 varieties. If you analyzed our diet, it would seem that it was organized around maximizing consumption of onions, garlic and mushrooms.

    It's never too late to have a happy childhood - Tom Robbins

    by badger on Fri Apr 20, 2012 at 09:21:30 PM PDT

  •  Great diary (6+ / 0-)

    I've never had morels, but I'd like to try them some time and I found your diary and the comments to be very interesting indeed.

    Thank you!

    Honesty pays, but it doesn't seem to pay enough to suit some people. Kin Hubbard

    by Mr Robert on Fri Apr 20, 2012 at 10:04:16 PM PDT

  •  There are YTs about (4+ / 0-)

    how to grow mushrooms in your backyard, and some of the spawn you can buy is for wild mushrooms.  I know there are some wild ones you can't use this method with, but IIRC, it works for chanterelles & oyster mushrooms.

    I call him Rick Scumtorum because he IS scum: pond scum, with the brain of an alga.

    by Youffraita on Fri Apr 20, 2012 at 10:11:47 PM PDT

  •  What I found in my front yard one (9+ / 0-)

    morning.  I didn't pick or eat any of them.  Just finding them was fun.

    People to Wall Street: "LET OUR MONEY GO"

    by hannah on Sat Apr 21, 2012 at 04:09:24 AM PDT

    •  I like finding fungi in my yard as well. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Aunt Pat, cotterperson, foresterbob

      I never know what they are but I like looking at them.  I currently have one alien like fungi that likes to come up in my front yard.  It is brown and about the size of a softball.  It doesn't emerge fully but appears like it is half buried.  AS it matures it opens up form the center - like slices of pie - and peels back to expose a center full of spore (i guess) that is the look and consistency of cocoa.  Very strange.

      "You have attributed conditions to villainy that simply result from stupidity"

      by newfie on Sat Apr 21, 2012 at 06:30:56 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Sounds like a puffball (4+ / 0-)

        Edibility unknown. So don't.

        The Buddha's teachings are not something to believe, they are something to do.

        by madame damnable on Sat Apr 21, 2012 at 08:49:16 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I don't think so (0+ / 0-)

          but what do I know.  I've actually never seen one "puff".  These guys don't seen to do anything to disburse spores.  The cocoa just sits inside.  And I thought puffballs are white - or at least start as white.  These are a dark brown with a relatively hard casing when the first emerge.  And they never emerge very much - I think 1/2 is a stretch - more like maybe 1/3 at best.  In fact, you wouldn't notice them unless you were right on top of them and looking down.  

          Oh and I don't eat any fungi I find.  Too scared and too ignorant.  I just like looking at them.  I treat them like the random flowers that pop up - I look and try not to mow them over.

          "You have attributed conditions to villainy that simply result from stupidity"

          by newfie on Sun Apr 22, 2012 at 06:04:05 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Around here, it's Morels, (4+ / 0-)

    and if someone told you their favorite spots, they'd have to kill you afterward.  I'm not a 'shroomie, so I don't actively look for them, but I have run across a few nice looking ones in my hikes through the woods.  Other than that, I wouldn't know a mushroom from a toadstool.  Certainly, none of them would pass my lips voluntarily.  Heck, I peel back the cheese on a pizza to remove the darned things.  :-)

    -7.62, -7.28 "Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly." -Langston Hughes

    by luckylizard on Sat Apr 21, 2012 at 06:57:29 AM PDT

  •  I've been a mushroom picker since I was a kid (9+ / 0-)

    Meadow mushrooms from my folks' pastures, yellow and white chanterelles before and during deer hunting, oyster mushrooms during elk season, morels during spring trout.

    Many times I've come home with a hat full of chanterelles, or maybe chanterelles and a couple trout or grouse.  Once a year the day would be oyster mushrooms and fresh venison.

    Today I pick at my brother's place.  We get shopping bags full of chanterelles in a half hour of picking.  I dry and freeze a lot of them.

    "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win". Mohandas K. Gandhi

    by DaveinBremerton on Sat Apr 21, 2012 at 08:15:18 AM PDT

    •  location, location, location (5+ / 0-)

      That is possibly the most mouth watering comment I've read all week.  It's not even 8:45 in the morning, and I'm jonesing already for some mushrooms and trout.

      Thanks a lot!

      "By your late thirties the ground has begun to grow hard. It grows harder and harder until the day that it admits you.” Thomas McGuane, Nobody's Angel

      by Keith930 on Sat Apr 21, 2012 at 08:43:11 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Location is right (7+ / 0-)

        I grew up outside Shelton, Washington on the Olympic Peninsula.  My favorites were the meadow mushrooms--they're the white one you find in the grocery store.  Starting in spring they'd pop up in our cow pastures.  On a Saturday I'd get up, grab a paring knife and a mixing bowl, and cut a couple pounds of mushrooms off their roots.

        On the way back to the house I'd stop by the garden and pick a few spring onions and a tomato, then raid the hen house for a couple eggs.  If I got lucky there would be some leftover ham or maybe some elk sausage.  I was pretty good at omelettes by the time I was 14.

        Did I mention we were poor?  I never really noticed until I was grown up.

        "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win". Mohandas K. Gandhi

        by DaveinBremerton on Sat Apr 21, 2012 at 09:58:39 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  card-carrying member of local Fungus Federation (8+ / 0-)

    for years because I was lucky enough to live in the same town as David Arora, the author of the witty and wonderful Mushrooms Demystified. He used to teach classes through the natural history museum, and over the years I took seven of them, plus went on multiple mushrooming excursions with him. (Because he's an expert among experts, he picked & served mushrooms few people would feel confident to pick. It was amazing to taste those rarities.) I still hunt for chanterelles but mostly end up buying a variety of local wild mushrooms in little markets (a lot of mushroom hunters here, so the selection can be good if we get the rain). David believed you can't go wrong simply frying mushrooms in butter, and I generally keep it just that simple.

    At the height of my class-taking, my son, who was four, fell in love with mushrooms too. (If you want to impress a kid, bring home huge Jack-o-Lantern mushrooms--they glow in the dark.) When I showed him how to sound out words, he taught himself to read using Mushrooms Demystified, constantly drew and colored pics of mushrooms & wrote their Latin names in big uneven letters on the page so I could staple the sheets to make his own field guides. He crossed out my name in my inscribed copy and wrote in his own. (He got mentioned in the David's next book on mushrooms!)

    I still consider fungi the most interesting nonhuman lifeform on Earth. I still get excited when I can try a new one (most recently huitlacoche, had to go all the way to El Paso for it). So nts, I loved this diary. Thanks, Keith930!

    "Nothing you can't spell will ever work." Will Rogers

    by scilicet on Sat Apr 21, 2012 at 09:01:05 AM PDT

  •  We hunt morels (7+ / 0-)

    There are so many edible and poisonous varieties of gilled mushrooms that determining edibility is risky, so we look for morels and Porcini, a type of bolete. They are easy to identify. We took off last weekend to look for morels but found none. I was able to buy some from our excellent wild mushroom vendor Louie, of Mushrooms All Year. (He has a website and sells fresh and dried wild mushrooms.) In the spring I make Morel and Asparagus Lasagna. Really good and both exotic and homey. We make Chicken Fried Morels too. Cut morels lengthwise. Rinse off soil and forest duff. Toss lightly in seasoned flour, it'll stick where there is moisture on the mushrooms. Fry in half butter/half olive oil. I also just toss morels in olive oil and roast at 350º for about 15 minutes until they are brown and sizzling. Salt.

    I used to hunt shaggy manes, another edible mushroom that doesn't look like anything else. But I haven't seen any in years.

    Thanks for the diary, Keith. It's great getting stories about mushroom hunting from all across the country.

    The Buddha's teachings are not something to believe, they are something to do.

    by madame damnable on Sat Apr 21, 2012 at 09:11:26 AM PDT

  •  believe it or not... (7+ / 0-)

    had some pop up in my backyard last year!!  

    after much research... and a little trepidation, I harvested and cooked them.  They were delicious!

    All the suffering of this world arises from a wrong attitude.The world is neither good or bad. It is only the relation to our ego that makes it seem the one or the other - Lama Anagorika Govinda

    by kishik on Sat Apr 21, 2012 at 10:00:54 AM PDT

  •  And not the shit our parents fed us, either (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Keith930

    Ah that was the shot that got the rec, my good man.

    I'm fifty light years ahead of my incredible parents in whatever they applied (it isn't hard), I'm happy to say and the world very relieved.

  •  Just finished a morel omelet with the first (4+ / 0-)

    two of the season.  We even have 2 morel festivals here in Michigan.  Quite early this year due to our global warming Spring and almost absent Winter.

    Never promote men who seek after a state-established religion; it is spiritual tyranny--the worst of despotism. It is turnpiking the way to heaven by human law, in order to establish ministerial gates to collect toll. John Leland

    by J Edward on Sat Apr 21, 2012 at 11:15:30 AM PDT

  •  Nick Evans, author of The Horse Whisperer (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DvCM, Odysseus

    had to have a kidney transplant, as well as his wife, for eating poison mushrooms. As he tells the story, they were absolutely certain they knew what they were doing. Dinner was great that night. Next day, their lives changed forever.

  •  One of the worst aspects of my disability (7+ / 0-)

    is the fact I can no longer hunt morel mushrooms in the woods where I grew up. No, seriously. Every spring, the dreams of morel hunting with my dad are bittersweet. They are so vivid, so realistic, so wonderful. But waking up from them--unable to fulfill my fantasies--just hurts.

    Of the four kids, I was the only one who caught my dad's mushroom bug. We spent hours tramping about the woods, crossing the little creek at the bottom of our ravine on a fallen tree trunk, hiking the well-worn paths to our mushroom "hot spots," lifting and peeking under may apple leaves in hopes of uncovering a treasure trove of morels. Some years yielded an embarrassment of riches, others we jealously guarded our tiny harvest, eating half and freezing half for a special occasion later in the year.

    After I got married, Mr. Tacos joined the spring ritual. We would stay in constant contact with my dad for the conditions on the ground in rural Illinois, doing our best to guess which late-April or early-May weekend would deliver a mushroom bonanza. We always started by heading to the base of a special tree, knowing that if we spotted a cluster of morels there, it was going to be a very good haul, and we would be spending every good sunlight hour in the woods.

    Once, my dad had a special surprise for Mr. Tacos. Dad led the way along the path to our indicator tree, then sent Mr. Tacos ahead to scout it out. Mr. Tacos, my city boy, proudly crept ahead, pushing the undergrowth aside and circling the tree. Dad held me back, a mischievous gleam in his eye. Suddenly, Mr. Tacos yelped and stumbled backward, nearly falling down the ravine. He had spotted one all right: a foot-and-a-half tall morel mushroom...lawn ornament.

    My dad died in those woods in 1996 at the far-too-young age of 61. Mr. Tacos and I continued the spring pilgrimage, alternately tearing up and laughing as we reminisced about mushroom treks with my dad. I felt so close to him there.

    I know this may sound more wistful than happy, but I'm glad to have read your diary and spent some time reminiscing. Thanks for stirring up some wonderful memories, Keith!

    "If you are neutral in situations of oppression, you have chosen the side of the oppressor." -- Archbishop Desmond Tutu

    by life is making tacos on Sat Apr 21, 2012 at 01:18:44 PM PDT

  •  Columbia County born and raised (0+ / 0-)

    My Tennesee Grandma and Bellingham mom taught us to pick at about 5. Boy howdy do I have some fungal fables to relate, including the back seat of a '67 Chevy filled with 150lbs of $9/lb Chanterelles for the fine palates of NW PDX. What a forest scented car that was.

    Just getting a handle on the knobs and dials.... Hey, don't touch that!

    by Old Lefty on Sat Apr 21, 2012 at 06:13:07 PM PDT

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