Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Scribbles and Scrambles ~ A Mushroom Hunter Reports ~ Part 1

I posted a picture of a teeny-tiny mushroom yesterday and said I'd be back with a story.

Here it is. Well, part one anyway.

24 is volunteering at an organic farm in our rural-metro area. This in and of itself is pretty cool. She helped plant heirloom tomatoes in a high tunnel and onions in a 75 foot row. Some of the tomatoes will be striped and colors beyond the traditional red. She has brought a bit of useful information to us regarding our own garden. Did you know that you should rotate tomato sites, eggplants and potatoes? Different crops affect the ground so you shouldn't plant the same old, in the same place year after year or it will affect your yield. So. We have decided to change some things up placement wise. So already it's been a great benefit.

But she was also given the invitation, which included her family, to come hunt mushrooms.

If you are unfamiliar with Morel mushrooms, here is a fan/information page. I'll just say the few times I've eaten one over the years have been pretty magical. To say they are delicious is an understatement.

I've hunted for mushrooms before and have had some luck. There is a very short season (2 to 3 weeks) and the mushrooms like a perfect mix of shade and sun. Some people find pounds and pounds (or should I say hundreds and hundreds...because, as you can see in the picture, it would take a lot of tiny mushrooms to make up a pound). And, like in the days of prohibition and hidden moonshine stills, mushroom sites are a carefully protected secret. (Never heard of a mushroom murder...but...some shroomers are scary passionate about this little fungus. )

That said, being invited to canvas acres of woods for mushrooms was an adventure I couldn't pass up.

We arrived as one team was finishing up. They had found thirty-something mushrooms and one was literally the size of an orange. We had high hopes. Our area was a burned out (this valley, that is just 15 miles from us, is made up of several organic growers and they are slowly -- I say slowly because it will take a hundred years -- reverting the land back to prairie. That takes ridding the land of plants and trees that did not naturally belong there two hundred years ago) section that went straight up the bluff, down, through the garden valley and the into woods on the other side.

An hour into our search one of the owners came to check on our progress. Nada. She suggested we'd find paydirt (literally -- wonder if that's where that word came from) in the other woods. At this point we asked her how she'd done, she said we didn't want to know but she was carrying two plastic grocery bags that were bulgy and swayed with a bit of heft....I'm guessing a couple hundred or dozens of HUGE ones.

To be continued.