Monday, October 13, 2014

The Marvels of Mycology

This weekend, we joined the North American Truffle Society on a mushroom foray. It was held at the HJ Andrews Experimental Forest, on the other side of the Cascade mountain range (the rainy side). It's less than 2 hours from Bend. 

part of the Blue River, which is very low this time of year.

Even though it's been raining up here, this is less rain than they normally get, and the Blue River Reservoir was dry, and the river was running super low. The drought's not just in California, unfortunately.

Big Willy! He's available for rental, just contact us.

We took Big Willy to camp in, instead of staying in the provided housing. He's just so comfortable, that we'd rather sleep in him and have the privacy - plus, it was only $5/night to camp, versus $50/night for a room with a shared bathroom. Major deal - a weekend away for $10!

We arrived Friday and met some of the other participants; everyone was super nice and mostly normal, with a shared love for 'shroomies. Us and one other couple were the only newbies, but it turns out, even the experienced people needed help from the 4 experts on identifying mushrooms. There are just so many types of mushrooms that it's impossible to know them all. Tons of mushrooms aren't even named or identified yet.

All day Saturday was spent hiking and foraging, and getting drenched.

Mike on the trail with our fellow mushroom hunters.

Me on the bridge.

the hike alone was worth it - it is beautiful here.

We were not well prepared for the rain (being from LA), but live and learn! Next time, we will bring rain gear and lots of extra clothes. Also, we had to borrow some neon tape to mark ourselves (you can see it tied around our arms in the above pictures). We were deep in the forest and it's hunting season (and Mike's wearing a hat with horns)...

a perfect example of Angel Wings (Pleurocybella porrigens).

The people on the foray were obsessive about mushrooms. Total mushroom geeks. In fact, some of them have PhDs in mycology and have written books. So, we learned more than we ever thought we would about mushrooms, including the latin names, and how they grow and reproduce. It was fun, being around people who are so passionate about something. That's what I'm searching for, for my life - one singular thing that I'm obsessively passionate about.

Shelf mushrooms, also known as conks. Beautiful, but you can't eat them.

Mike was a bit like Bigfoot with his Yeti hat on...

By the end of Saturday, Mike and I were able to positively identify 4 kinds of edible mushrooms - white and yellow chanterelles, winter chanterelles, and hedgehogs! I can't explain the feeling of accomplishment you get from foraging, and this type of learning. It just feels so useful. We can't wait to do this again.

Our haul - winter chanterelles in the basket, white and yellow chanterelles on the table.

After the foray, everyone gathered to clean and sort the mushrooms, and identify the weird ones. We cooked them up and had a potluck - mushrooms sautéed in wine, in butter, in bacon, over pasta, with pesto, with kale, in soup, with cream - and just plain with salt and pepper, so we could try every single type and taste the differences. Mike and I tried lobster mushrooms (they actually taste and look like lobster! see the red blob in the picture below), fried chicken mushrooms (which smell like fried chicken while they're cooking, but taste like nothing), all the various chanterelles, honey mushrooms (bleh, despite the name), angel wings, and oyster mushrooms. All those mushrooms were found on the foray, by various members of the group, and fed FIFTEEN people with tons of leftover mushrooms.

Random mushrooms everyone collected and identified.

It is amazing how much free food is out there, for the picking. And you get to hike in a gorgeous forest, too. I think I'm falling in love with Oregon!