Mushroom Season in Vermont
Friday, July 21, 2017
Written by Gerry Nooney
"My dog is more handsome than your dog." True enough in my case. I have a beautiful Samoyed and he's a former show dog. While Viper is beautiful for the first ten minutes he's back from the groomer, it fades pretty fast when he runs through the forest and streams. By now you must be wondering if I'm just going to ramble on about my dog. Rejoice, this is actually about mushrooms.
It's chanterelle season in Vermont and nothing is better than taking the dog for a walk in the woods and looking for these yellow masterpieces. My prize pooch likes to sit on them: he's such a genius. Typically they start popping around my birthday, which is June 24th in case you've forgotten. I've picked them as late as Columbus Day. At times I've found so many I've had to take off my shirt and tie the sleeves together because my bags are full. Excellent visuals for you there, me walking out of the woods with my dog, no shirt and piles of mushrooms, all punctuated by red mosquito bites.
I like to head out early before work while it's still cool enough and the woods are just waking up. I carry a knife and a heavy flat bag that won't flip over. I look for gentle sloping land, possibly dry spring riverbeds and hemlocks. Mushrooms can't read so they don't know what the mushroom guides say about their habitat. They grow in the strangest places, including on my lawn. The cut vs. pick debate is big on the interweb. I've chosen the cut side but don't judge. The debate is simple: which method leaves more baby mushrooms spores for future generations?
The best part about picking them is they are free, and you can eat them like candy or give them away to friends. I wash mine in warm water with a little lemon juice in it to chase away any bugs. I usually wash them twice, then bake them in a roasting pan in a single layer with a touch of salt. About 20 minutes in a 425 degree oven works for me. If there is any juice from them, I strain that off and boil it down to a couple of tablespoons. I add the juice back to the mushrooms and can hold them in my fridge for five days or a good nine months in the freezer.
I served a dish for years that I saw on the TV show McGyver. He was with some inner city kids when they got lost in the woods. He caught a trout, found some chanterelles and pine nuts, and cooked them over a wood fire. I called it "Trout McGyver", and sold it by the truckload. I'm also fond of mixing chanterelles in soft scrambled eggs with little bits of apricots. If someone you know gets wild turkey, make a white wine butter sauce with chanterelles and pan drippings.
Local Food Culture by Julia
Mushrooms, including Gerry's chanterelles, can be found all over starting in early May. Sugarbush lead snow reporter and photographer John Atkinson (and mushroom extraordinaire) has some tips for beginning foragers. He recommends using a reliable resource such as the National Audubon Society Field Guide to New England or Mushrooms of North Eastern North America. John's tips follow:
- Identify the mushroom: where it's located, what it's growing on, color, size, shape, gills vs. pores. (It's harder than it sounds.)
- Set up a four-point check system to ensure you know what you're eating: Inspect when you pick, upon the first cleaning, upon the second cleaning, and before you throw it in the pan.
- Keep your nose in the forest, not the book. Collect first, learn the woods, and ID later.
- Always check more than one source.
- If there is any question about identity, don't eat it. You want "110% clarity before it goes in the body."
- Know where you are picking. On the golf course or near the road? Be cautious of possible pesticide or chemical contamination.
- Narrow your vision. Limit your foraging to one to two species per outing.
- Only eat species that have poisonous look a-likes, NOT deadly look a-likes.
What You Can Find Locally: Puffballs (beware of their poisonous look a-like); King Bolete (Porcini); Chanterelles (also have a poisonous look a-like); Lion's Mane; Bear's Head; Chicken of the Woods; Hen of the Woods; Oyster mushrooms; and Morels.