I love mushrooms. Like, a lot. I mean, I really, really love them. This is ironic because I never used to. When I was younger, I wouldn’t touch the things. Not in a million years! Then, one day (or so it seemed), I suddenly craved them. I remember being at the salad bar in college, eyeing them. Should I or shouldn’t I? It’d been a while since I tried them and I was feeling brave. Plus, I wanted to eat healthier (hence, the salad). Sure, why not?
Okay, so they weren’t amazing. But I actually didn’t mind them. The next day I tried more. And then I started looking forward to eating them (yes, I’m one of those weird types of people that gets excited about food and wakes up thinking, Yay! Breakfast time!). Then I suddenly wanted them on everything – salads and burgers and steaks, oh my! And in every which way – raw and cooked and in piles of onions.
Long story short, I really, really like mushrooms now. So much so, that I get a little sentimental when someone brings me pizza or salad that has mushrooms on it. I tend to profess my undying love to said person in situations like these. (And no, I’m not exaggerating here. This really does happen.)
So, what do you think my answer was when I found out that we had a mushroom society and that they were going on a foray in mid-May?
I answered that question with three of my own: when, where, and CAN WE EAT THEM???
I found out that it was on May 19, that it was about 20 minutes away, and that YES, WE CAN EAT THEM!!!
I was sold.
So, my dad and I piled into the car and drove into the sunrise (okay, it wasn’t that early, but I hate mornings) and toward the Susquehanna Valley Mycological Society’s meeting place. When we got there, I was a little intimidated. It seemed like a lot of people already knew each other, and we were newbies. Luckily, someone nice (who was also a newbie) came over and started talking to us. Yay, friends!
When the ball finally got rolling, we got a lesson in what we were looking for: morels. They were the biggies, the diamonds in the rough, the oasis in the middle of the desert, the…well, you get the idea.
(ALL pictures come from SVMS’s website and ALL credit goes to them! Also, these are all from previous years.)
Morels look like this:
Weird, right? These things are hard to find. We found them under ash trees and apple trees, but there are some other spots where they pop up. In all the places we found them, there was typically only a group of two or three. We spent a couple of hours in the woods and only came back with 16 of them. It was worth it though! (Even if I didn’t find any myself .)
Next up, we have Dryad’s Saddle.
These are typically found on dying elms. (Note to self: learn different kinds of trees, will make finding edible mushrooms easier.) They can get HUGE. They are edible, but you really only want to eat the smaller ones, as they’re much more tender than the big ones. We could just barely tear off a chunk on a big one, so imagine what it’d be like to try to eat it – yuck! (And I found a group of these all by myself, whoo!!)
Oh – and we found a few oyster mushrooms too. They threw them in with the Dryad’s Saddle.
The last main type that we stumbled across were called rubber cups. I found some of these too! Dad picked one and handed it to me to hold onto for a minute. And then I threw it. On purpose. In my defense, there was a nice sized spider sitting on my hand and I wasn’t thinking clearly. Luckily, there were enough that we could pick another one.
These are generally considered inedible around here, but apparently they eat them pretty regularly in Malaysia.
So, I had tons of fun! The people were all fantastic – very welcoming and knowledgeable. I doubted anyone felt out of place once we all bonded over the hunting process. Looking for mushrooms in the forest is like going on a treasure hunt, and I can tell that this is quickly going to become an obsession for me. Also, the food there was incredible. This isn’t your typical get-together. These people can cook. And of course pretty much everyone made something with mushrooms in it. (I brought chocolate chip cookies – lame.)
But I know what you’re thinking right – what about those mushrooms? Those mushrooms that you pulled from the forest and ate. What did they taste like? Well…nothing, really. They weren’t slimy or chewy or weird in consistency (and more so than your typical mushroom). They had a slight taste to them, but it wasn’t anything overwhelming. They would be better suited for putting into other dishes than just eating them on their own. Either that or they could’ve used some serious seasoning. But, in the end, I liked them and I would definitely keep trying new varieties.
Here are some lessons I learned:
- I know nothing about mushrooms, except that I like them.
- Bring a basket. Plastic bags aren’t good (they don’t spread the spores so more mushrooms can grow).
- I definitely ate a wider array of mushrooms on this day than I have in my entire life.
- Wearing my Hunger Games t-shirt made me feel invincible, even if no one knew what it was.
- Plan all other events around the weekends of the forays, because this is going to become a regular thing.
So, there you have it! That’s what a mushroom foray is like. Next time – oh, there will be a next time – I’ll be more prepared. And I’ll take my own pictures. And I’ll have another post for you guys.
Do you like mushrooms? If not, how come? If you do, what’s the weirdest looking one you’ve eaten?
(P.S. Please do your civic duty and add one more page view to their website. It’s totally worth it. Check out all the pictures, and the great commentary the photographer has on just about every single one. You’ll get a good laugh, I promise.)