Monday, February 22, 2010

Lessons for a Locavore


Last week I told you about the gift my neighbor gave us of locally found wild mushrooms. This weekend, after reading about them online, I wondered if I could spot some in the spring landscape.

I know what you're thinking - red flags going up! No, I'm not going to eat anything I find myself without being absolutely certain.

But I thought I would look. See, for me, mushrooms are one of those things like birds. You can be looking right at them and not see them - until something about your vision changes. So there I was walking through the oak leaves in my very own back yard, seeing nothing - and suddenly seeing there were dozens of mushrooms beneath my own feet.

It was like suddenly having goggles on - Mushroom goggles - I could magically see lots and lots of mushrooms.

Like this one.

And this one! They were everywhere! Wow!

They sure looked like the chanterelles my neighbor gave me, but I don't trust my own judgment. I gave him a call and asked him to take a look at them.

They're NOT chanterelles.


Remember what I'd read about gills and ridges? Here's an example of gills. They're thin, papery membranes that radiate out from the mushroom's stem, under the cap. Take a look at a mushroom in the store - a portobello or a mature button mushroom. They have gills like these.

My neighbor identified these mushrooms as something called "milky-caps." I looked them up - the Genus name is Lactarius and there are several species that grow in Southern California. My neighbor says they shouldn't be considered edible - some species are, others cause unpleasant but not severe reactions, and other just simply don't taste good. I'm not sure what species of lactarius this one is, but I'm taking no chances.

Still - it's easy to see how someone could mistake this large specimen for a chanterelle - if stupid enough to try. Doesn't it look somewhat like one?

This is NOT a chanterelle. The tell-tale difference is the gills - even aged like this one above, the gills are obvious - thin papery membranes.

Milky-caps also exude sap when cut - white at first, hence the common name, and then changing color as it ages - different colors for different species. You can see the milky white sap on the first picture above.

Wearing my new "mushroom goggles" I found many, many more specimens on my morning walk. But they were all milky-caps, not chanterelles.

Later that day, our neighbor brought us another chanterelle he found.

Can you see the difference? These are not papery membranes, they are thicker, curved ridges. And they run down along the fleshy stem of the mushroom.

The color of the flesh is different, too. The chanterelles have a pretty, tender peachy color.

I put this mushroom on the scale. It was 10.5 ounces. Chanterlles go for around $20 a pound in high-end food markets like Whole Foods and Bristol Farms. Here's a website where you can buy them online for about $25 a pound.

We felt blessed. He left us a half dozen fresh eggs, too from his chickens. Aren't they beautiful together?

My neighbor found some chanterelles growing beneath a tree next to his driveway. Can you imagine such a bounty in your own yard? But it's clear that you have to know what you're doing - don't eat anything you're not sure about, and make sure you consult someone who's an expert.

"Locavore" is a word that describes people who try to eat food that's grown where they live.

What could be more local than mushrooms plucked from your yard, and eggs from your own chickens?

What about an omelette?

13 comments:

MAYBELLINE said...

Did you eat them?

Here's another wasted bounty: citrus. Do you find that so much of it is just wasted on the ground? That's how it is my many neighborhoods up my way.

Cheri @ Blog This Mom!® said...

"I could magically see lots and lots of mushrooms."

Not the same as seeing lots and lots of magic mushrooms, is it?

;-)

g said...

We ate the chanterelle - for sure!! Not the other mushrooms.

My lemons often spoil, although I try to use them. Our red plums usually feed the birds.

mo.stoneskin said...

Amazing photos but I'll be honest with you, while I like to eat mushrooms, the damn things freak me out. Remind me of horrible creatures like jellyfish. As do the inside of melons, the ones with all the gooey pips. Gross.

Anyway Mrs G, I need your creative buzz. Come on over.

Gilly said...

Mushrooms growing in February? You must live in a really magical place!

I've never eaten chanterelles, think they are a rather rare here, but you can buy them dried. At a price!

I do like the idea of "mushroom eyes"!

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

"Locavore" is a word that describes people who try to eat food that's grown where they live.

Ah HAH! Here I thought this post would have locust recipes.

And it's been a long time since I had my mushroom goggles on...
~

Tristan Robin Blakeman said...

an omelette with fresh chanterelles?!?

set me a place!

Lisa Paul said...

YOu are brave, brave indeed to eat wild mushrooms. Unless you really trust your neighbor. Every year there are several people who die from eating wild mushrooms they've gathered in Sonoma County. Keeps me from trusting anyone but the supermarket.

Sue (Someone's Mom) said...

When I see them in my yard, which isn't often, I call them toadstools and I won't touch them. You are brave to investigate!

MAYBELLINE said...

g- Your comments today in the Colony were the most civil. And extending your hand in friendship to farmgirl showed the type of stellar character you have. You're the real deal.

kcinnova said...

I'm happy to be a "Locavore" when the asparagus comes up in our garden. It was a nice surprise the first spring we lived here.
I'll continue to admire your delicious mushrooms, but I won't be searching any out over here. The deer probably eat all the good ones first!

Elisa, Croatia said...

Locavore..new word to me, I like it. I'm with you, I wouldn't eat wild mushrooms without double and triple checking. they do make a good combo though, mushrooms and eggs.


Saludos

the cottage child said...

Oh my gosh - the sight of the mushrooms and eggs makes my mouth water. My Eagle Scout husband knows the ways of the fungi, so we have been blessed with the bounty of the wild. Which is good, because I can't seem to grow anything. Even my Farm in a Box in high school was a failure. It must be my attitude!

Wonderful photos, thanks for sharing. And what Maybelline said, about you. Thank you.