Fabulous fungus findsThere’s gold in your back yard. There’s also lobster, chicken and other delights just waiting to be harvested and eaten. Wild mushrooms are everywhere.
By: Tammy Francois, Lake County News Chronicle
There’s gold in your back yard. There’s also lobster, chicken and other delights just waiting to be harvested and eaten. Wild mushrooms are everywhere.
This time of year, under the boughs of pine and beneath the low ground cover, chanterelles are beginning to appear. Favored for their mild flavor and delicate texture, they are easily found in damp wooded areas of northern Minnesota. Chanterelles, golden-orange mushrooms, have a ruffled edge and forked or fold-like gills on the underside. They have no bulb on the bottom and their cap forms a shallow cup.
Amateur mycologist and self- described mycophile or mushroom devotee, Gene Kramer has been studying mushrooms for many years around the region and is currently attending a mushroom workshop in Maine.
“I want to emphasize the importance of going out with someone who knows mushrooms before they pick or eat anything they find,” he cautions.
Chanterelles are, however, among varieties of mushrooms referred to as the “safe six” because they are easy to identify. Once identified, they can be safely gather and eaten without being mistaken for a toxic variety. Among others of the safe six are familiar names like porcini, which can also be found in our region this time of year along with chicken of the woods and morels in the spring. Chicken of the woods have a taste that remind many of its namesake, but others describe the flavor as tasting like seafood with notes of lemon. Kramer cautions that the as this variety ages, some consumers may experience stomach upset after eating older parts of the mushroom.
Another variety of fungus is known as lobster mushroom. While many varieties of mushroom grow on trees or up and out of the ground, lobster mushrooms grow parasitically on other mushrooms. The parasite invades the host and turns the surface of the fungus a bright lobster red color. The flesh is firm and dense and some people describe it as tasting a bit like seafood.
In September, those interested in learning more about wild edibles can sign up for a workshop with Duluth Budgeteer nature columnist Larry Weber, a local teacher and author who will be sharing his knowledge at a mushroom workshop at Boulder Lake Nature Center on Boulder Lake Rd., off of Rice Lake Rd. just past Island Lake in Duluth. The workshop takes place from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. on Sept. 8 and pre-registration is required. Space is limited to 20 participants and the cost is $20.
Kramer has been trying to organize a group of mushroom enthusiasts to explore and gather the fungi around the region. It’s been slow going, but his enthusiasm is evident.
“I’m retired, but my background is in biology and chemistry,” said Kramer, whose career path led him to work in the rehabilitation field for a number of years. “When I found my land, I was fascinated by the wonderful diversity of species of mushrooms.”
Since then, he has been getting back to the roots of his interest in the sciences.
Amateur mycologists talk animatedly about searching for mushrooms, share information about where they may be, but joke that once a spot is found where edible mushrooms are growing, it’s every man or woman for him or herself. People go to their graves and take their knowledge of where they have found morels with them.
“People are very protective about their spots,” Kramer says. Still, there is much to learn about the varieties of mushrooms and fungi in the area.
In addition to their appeal as a food and a protein source (by dry weight, mushrooms have as much as protein as meat) there are several varieties of mushrooms and fungi with medicinal qualities.
To learn more about wild mushrooms contact Gene Kramer and find out about the next foray at firstname.lastname@example.org