Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Food Foraging - Oyster Mushrooms

I've been completely preoccupied by having my house painted, both by hired contractors and by myself. I got so obsessed with it that I've decided not to work on the house at all this week (the contractors finally finished their part) and to try from here on out to limit myself to three hours of house labor per day. Hopefully all this will make it possible for me to get back to blogging more regularly.
Anyway, I was up in New Hampshire this past weekend, helping to organize a big family yard sale. At the yard sale, I ran into a woman I've known for years but who I recently learned is interested in mushroom hunting. We chatted and she told me that Oyster Mushrooms can be found on dead or dying maple trees. As I was driving home yesterday, about 1/2 an hour from my family home, I drove by two large decaying maples with Oyster mushrooms running up it in straight lines, from 2 to 20 feet off the ground. I promptly turned around, parked in front of the house with the maples and knocked on the door. Before I could even finish asking if I could take the mushrooms, the woman at the door said "help yourself". (This gave me even more confidence that these mushrooms were Oysters, because it was clear that I wasn't the first person who had asked to take the mushrooms.) I didn't take all of them (being without a ladder, for one thing), but I did end up with several pounds of beautiful mushrooms. When I got home, I gave some to my neighbors who have taken me mushroom hunting before. I sauteed some up with butter and onions and ate them with some local potatoes - they were absolutely delicious! Then, overwhelmed with how many I had and perplexed by how best to preserve them, I called my friend Frank who has a food dehydrator. I took him a big bag of the mushrooms and got the dehydrator in exchange. Here is what the mushrooms look like: And here is the small cooler I filled: I sliced them up and filled the trays of the dehydrator: they really shrink up when they dry out: I ended up with more than two quart jars of lovely dried mushrooms: We are entering into serious mushroom season around here, where we've had rain and cool weather. I'm really looking forward to harvesting more of what the earth offers up. I love the efficiency of feeding myself with nothing more than the labor it takes to harvest the mushrooms and apples I can find. Hopefully I'll also find the time to pick some wild grapes and make jelly!