When I was a child, my dad would take us all out mushroom hunting in the early spring. I live in southern Illinois, and these babies were the big prize. Called Morels, or Sponge Mushrooms, they are a culinary delight. Rich and meaty and beautiful. And seriously plentiful. They have a small window of availability, which makes them all the more desired...the thrill of the hunt. And people can get pretty whacked out by the arrival of these--word spreads like wildfire when the first ones are found. There are towns which have big mushroom festivals and people will flock there for a monster hunting celebration. Most serious 'shroomers though have their own private hunts, tell NO ONE where they go or find their bounty.
For years, anytime anyone said "wild mushrooms" this is the only thing that came to mind. Morels. The darlings of the mushroom world. Easy to identify and no worries about poisoning yourself make for happy hunting and eating.
And then...one day my son came in with a huge 7 pound piece of hen of the woods mushrooms. That boy is a natural born forager of all things wild. I said "What is that?" and he commenced to school me on the culinary delights of the hen of the woods. He sauteed some and fed it to me, and I was an immediate devotee. Mild and meaty and rich. And did I mention HUGE ?? I ate a lot, and dehydrated a lot. Used the dehydrated in soups and stews all winter. I cut it up and put it in scrambled eggs and quiches and casseroles. I cut big slabs of it and made sandwiches. It was delicious. I only recently learned that this is also called Maitake Mushroom, which I had heard of (and probably eaten) but didn't make the connection.
It's that time of year again for hen of the woods. They grow (usually) around the bottoms of oak trees, although he found some this year on a black locust. He brought me about 15 pounds a week ago and I dehydrated most of it and ate some too.
Aren't they beautiful ? This morning he brought these in--this is all one mushroom that he had to break into 3 parts to get it in the bag.
It weighed in at about 8.5 pounds. Guess we know what I'll be doing today, lol.
There are all kinds of wild guys (edibles) that live around here, and he will often come back from a fishing trip or a hike with stuff. He's a good son--usually brings some in for his old ma. lol One day it was this:
Beautiful chantrelles...I had no idea they grew around here. Only knew they were really expensive to buy. I've never had enough of them to have to worry about preserving--we just eat those babies. lol I made a potluck dish for our end of the discussion vegetarian potluck that was cheesy polenta topped with braised kale and chantrelles--it was a hit.
This beauty is called Chicken of the Woods--my all time favorite. Doesn't it look like a fighting Red Dragon ? lol Or a fancy Dancing Chicken ? These should be showing up soon, late October/early November, I think. I can't wait to have more of these.
And these beauties are called Old Man of the Woods. Not yet one of my favorites because they turn all black when you cook them and that turns me off. The boy thinks I'm nuts, as they are one of his favorites.
Mushrooms are a low-calorie food eaten cooked, raw or as a garnish to a meal. In a 100 g (3.5 ounce) serving, mushrooms are an excellent source (higher than 20% of the Daily Value, DV) of B vitamins, such as riboflavin, niacin and pantothenic acid, an excellent source of the essential minerals, selenium (37% DV) and copper (25% DV), and a good source (10-19% DV) of phosphorus and potassium. Fat, carbohydrate and calorie content are low, with absence of vitamin C and sodium. There are 27 calories in a typical serving of fresh mushrooms (table). (Courtesy of Wikipedia)
So...good for you. Tasty. Fun to find.
What more could a girl ask for ?? lol
Okay--I have a huge mushroom to work on in there. I'd better get started.
Bon Apetit !