This was a day of firsts. I sat in the back of Michael’s car—4 of us heading toward the coast with no less than 5 Apple devices and 3 DSLR cameras ready to capture and communicate the day—when it occurred to me that I’ve never looked out over the Pacific Ocean.
San Francisco Bay doesn’t really count, and unless there is a time I’m forgetting, I managed to go 30 years without experiencing the lower 48’s western-most boarder. I mentioned this and the itinerary was immediately altered, but I will save those pictures for another post. This one is mushrooms-only.
Technically, we were hunting Chanterelles, but anything without ‘death’ or ‘destroying’ in the name was fair game. Scouting mushrooms is an art form: unless I happened upon the exact varieties we found and I managed to recognize them, I fear I still have little concept of where to go and what to look for. My ability to continually point out the same worthless mushrooms [convinced of their uniqueness] is concerning. I do know that wet is good, dry is bad, and Chanterelles prefer second growth forests over old growth forests… for a reason I do not know.
Our first find of the day, just off a trial, was an old mossy log covered with Chicken of the Woods. Basically, it’s big, bright, meaty and beautiful. You trim off about an inch and a half of the outer edge, remember the spot and come back a year later for more bounty—because they will be back. We combed the surrounding area and found nothing but skunk cabbage.
Guess what that smells like? Yup: like butt.
Further up the trail we experienced a rare treat: Dan, our guide and expert, pointed out a cluster of small orange bumps breaking through the moss, something I’d already walked right past. Shrumps, I believe. Like a cross between stump and mushroom, pertaining to a largely hidden fungi in the moments before an escape from the forest floor. I could be totally wrong about that, so don’t just throw that word around haphazardly.
Mushrooms and pickers converged back at Michael’s for a feast worth remembering. Beef Stroganoff, frittatas, and crab cakes made entirely from lobster mushrooms—we consumed our booty in various ways. I was more of a kitchen bystander/cat petter/beer and wine pourer, so the details of the recipes do not reside in my noggin but the results were, however, stunning.
I do know that there was doubtful a place more worthy of being in the Pacific Northwest on this night.
[Crab cakes, sans crab, made with lobster mushrooms. Lobster mushrooms are not really mushrooms, but actually a parasitic ascomycete that grows around and engulfs other mushrooms proper.]
Catus mushroomus. Grows on or in cardboard boxes—in this case, on Michael’s Genius Loci Pinot Gris and Gewurtztraminer blend, Cuvee Desiree, named after his lovely wife:
[I thought it would be good to focus my camera on the basket in the background. Sorry!]
Thank you to all involved for showing me the coast and the ways of the shrump. A truly unrepeatable day—-but I hope we try!