If you know me, you know I’m a pretty big fan of food. Real food. Not packaged, processed food. This also means I am a pretty big fan of wild food. In the Spring, we lucked into morels a couple of times. Two years ago, under our oak tree, we had a mushroom the size of a football. It was a hen of the woods mushroom, also known as a maitake mushroom. This mushroom is considered one heck of a delicacy and commands a good price at farmers’ markets. Some of the fancier restaurants in town like to get a hold of them when they are in season. Which is now. Unfortunately, two years ago, we weren’t able to confidently identify the thing until it was past being edible.
Earlier this week, I went out to put the vegetable trimmings and eggshells in the compost. Under the oak tree, I found this:
That is a picture of it on September 29th. Yesterday, October 2nd, I went out again to get rid of vegetable trimmings. The mushroom, well, it had mushroomed in the course of two days.
Today, I went out to pick it since I could take it to the guy at the farmers’ market, who my meat vendor tells me is a mycologist. That’s great, but I already had confidence that he knew his mushrooms and we had bought some of this from him a couple of weeks ago. From what I knew, everything was right. The mushroom was growing at the base of an oak tree, the season is right, the mushroom looked right, but I wanted the expert to weigh in. I was also hoping to buy some chicken of the woods mushroom, which is more colorful and has a different flavor to have with it. I picked the mushroom and we put it in a big paper grocery sack. Then I weighed it. It was over 3 pounds of mushroom.
At the market, I did a double take when we got to the stand because the guy had a few mushrooms, but none of these and no chicken of the woods either. A man was taking pictures of some of the mushrooms he did have. I approached furtively with my sack and said I had something that I’d like him to have a look at. He confirmed that it was what I thought it was and that it was still good. While we were talking about the mushroom, another couple of guys came up to the stand. One of them said to the vendor, “Do you have what I need?” He said, “I don’t, but she does.” I was willing to show them my mushroom, but said it wasn’t for sale. He asked where I found it, I think hoping to go there and have some luck himself, but since it came from my yard, regrettably that won’t work for him. I had the impulse to share some, but since I hadn’t actually eaten any of the mushroom yet and and was reticent about being responsible for someone else consuming it.
We then found ourselves in line at the meat stand behind the same couple. They asked what we were going to do with the mushroom. I said some of it was going in an omelette with kale, a carmen sweet pepper, onion, bacon and white cheddar cheese. One of them said I should buy some cream and make a reduction sauce and serve it over just about anything. I think we’ll be doing that tomorrow. Today, I am also thinking about putting it on pizza.
We finished our shopping and got home. I sliced off a big hunk of mushroom, much bigger than I would have it I had paid for it and started cleaning it up. Then I sliced off a tiny piece and tried it raw. It didn’t taste that impressive. I prepped all the other stuff and D. got to cooking. I then snared a small piece of the cooked mushroom. Definitely improved by cooking, but probably needed some salt. Some more time elapsed and then we had this:
This omelette is positively bursting with fresh vegetables, all from Primrose Community Farm with the exception of the mushroom. I don’t think I’ll need to eat anything else for a while.
I did leave a little of the mushroom growing under the tree. I also put a chunk around the other side of the tree. Hopefully the spores and the growing conditions will be such that we’ll get another one of these some subsequent year.