It's August, and the forest floor is quite dry here at our 800 feet elevation on the reserve. Closer to ground level, the persistent fog has provided the moisture for an emerging crop of summer chanterelles, as the locals call them. Typically smaller and paler than the usual fall golden chanterelles, these early jewels are a welcome discovery wherever they are growing.
This afternoon, while Steven was using the chainsaw to remove an oak leaning across the gravel road leading up to our home, I wandered in the woods. Imagine my surprise and delight to be greeted by a handful of summer chanterelles along with a generous collection of lobsters that were growing nearby.
The commercial lobster business continues to be in full swing, with a number of buyers operating in the Coos Bay area.
The commercial pickers are also encountering and selling the summer chanterelles to the numerous commercial buyers up north. On our last trip to Bandon, we even found summer chanterelles for sale at a blueberry stand south of town, carrying a price tag of $5.00 for 1/3 pound. To my way of thinking, chanterelles in August are really priceless.
Just leave it to the WSJ to come up with a head-shaking tale about fungal life in Japan.
It appears that there's a new sensation in the Japanese gaming world... at least, it's new to us! And would you believe that it's a small mushroom with yellowish flesh, amber-brown gills, and a slightly gelatinous coating (reminiscent of okra) that is frequently used as an ingredient in miso soup and stir-fried dishes? Yes, this entirely pedestrian mushroom, one of Japan's most popular cultivated mushrooms, appreciated for its slightly nutty, somewhat cashewy flavor, is the star of an addictively simple game.
Ordinary, Nameko is not; certainly not any more. It's been elevated to the status of rock star, featured in a trilogy of smartphone games called 'Nameko Saibai kit.' In the gaming world, this mushroom has become a sensation with more than 32 million downloads since its debut in June of 2011.
But, wait, there's more. WSJ reports that "The nameko song—which begins with the bulb-shaped mushrooms dancing
under what appears to be Vincent Van Gogh's Starry Night—has been
watched on YouTube over 10 million times in less than a year. A
promotional video for the game cracked YouTube's top 10 most-watched
videos in Japan for 2012. An illustrated encyclopedia of the different
nameko characters—of which there are more than 200—was Japan's second
best-selling book in the last week of April, trailing only acclaimed
author Haruki Murakami's latest novel." Wow, nameko has made the big time!
Who would have thought that Pholiota nameko, or the butterscotch
mushroom, as it's sometimes called here in the states, would become the
character of a wildly popular game?
Thanks in no small part to the alternating rainy and sunny weather that we've been experiencing over the past month or so, there are nice collections of lobster mushrooms to be found on the south coast. What a surprise! We've always thought of them as an early fall mushroom here in this area, but apparently that's not the case this year.
In fact, when we drove through Bandon yesterday, we stopped and talked to a young mushroom buyer who had stationed himself in the parking lot near Ray's Market. He stated that he represented a mushroom outfit located in North Bend and had been buying lobsters for the last couple of hours. During this time he'd acquired a substantial quantity of young, firm lobsters (enough to fill at least 6 large totes) to take back up north at the end of his shift. Not a bad day's outing!
Lobsters come in different shades of red and shapes!
Guess you know what we'll be doing tomorrow! What a great way to celebrate the 4th of July: foraging for lobsters!
There is simply no other way to describe our May 30th mushrooming foray on Mt. Hood!
Late Thursday morning we decided to drive to one of our favorite morel locations on Mt. Hood. Although we always try to think positive, we weren't really anticipating a very notable collection of mushrooms. After all, it had been raining for days, and this was the first break in the weather for some time.
When we spied morels growing along the road, we were delighted. When we quickly gathered over a hundred morels, we stopped counting!
We'd never seen so many morels in this location or any other location on Mt. Hood before. There were both black and blond versions, both tall and short. And, all of them absolutely perfect! What a great gift from the forest floor!
Steven has a saying, "Even a blind hog gets an acorn every once in a while." On this day, we got acorns!
For more details, you'll need to contact Philip Ross of San Francisco or visit his website, www.philross.org. But, in the meantime, here's some basic information to stimulate your curiosity and sense of design.
Mr. Ross incorporates mycelium, often reiche, grown on red oak sawdust from Northern California mills, into his hand-crafted furniture. Sure, it sounds a little wacky, but he explains that "it's a versatile building material with many attractive qualities." For example, he claims that mycelium is fire-retardant, compostable, plastic, a good insulator, healthy for humans to be around, and as strong, structurally, as concrete, adding that "I've shot a handgun at one of these and the network was strong enough to block the bullet - it only went in about 5 inches." Now, let's hope that there won't be guns being fired anywhere near the mycelium furniture that you may acquire but, just in case, you now know what will happen.
Philip favors Ganoderma lucidum, commonly known as reishi, for furniture making. Notice how this specimen has grown around a stick that was in its path.
Our first mushrooms of the year tend to be Giant Puffballs, which also happen to be one of our favorite mushrooms to eat. These jewels are a delightful discovery, often nesting as bright, white globes in freshly sprung grasses and greenery. Typically ranging in size from a tennis ball to a baseball (and occasionally much larger, to basketball size on rarer occasions), they are easily gathered. They have no apparent stem and can simply be lifted off the ground. They're usually clean, with no leaf debris or dirt.
We've found that these early fungal treats frequent warmer and dryer climates than Port Orford, and we typically dedicate a day or so looking for them on Mt. Hood late in April. If successful (and we almost always find at least a few!), the Giant Puffballs are particularly delicious when sliced or diced and sauteed in butter. They're wonderful with meats, and make a great addition to egg dishes as well as sauces and soups, quickly soaking up the flavors of the ingredients around them. They're prime candidates for dehydrating, and willingly sit on the pantry shelf in a sealed, air-tight container for years.
It's a wonderful time of year to be wandering the woodlands of Mt. Hood, an ancient volcano that was named Wy'east by the Multnomah tribe. Rarely do we encounter another human being or are we deafened by the sound of off-road racing engines in April. It seems this time of year is just a little too early for the campers and bikers that frequent the trails and tracks. Get much into May, of course, and it's a very different story. This is the time to head for higher ground, if you're still seeking puffballs.
This year's April was no exception, and our peaceful hunting grounds rewarded us with a nice collection of Giant Puffballs in an area dominated by ponderosa pines. Steven gently placed them in a brown paper bag and then sauteed them later in the day as a special treat for the cooks who were preparing the dishes for the annual Hilaire's Wild Game Banquet at the Monarch Hotel, a charity event benefiting several Portland area children's services.
We never cease to be amazed by the mushrooms and majesty of Mt. Hood.
Daniel Newberry's excellent article in the May 2013 Jefferson Monthly (The Members' Magazine of The Jefferson Public Radio Listeners Guild) entitled "Biodiversity on the Frontier" offered information on truffle discoveries in one of the world's most biodiverse areas: the Klamath-Siskiyou region.
Scott Loring, an Ashland-based botany consultant, recently discovered a new genus of truffle and assisted a colleague in the identification of a second previously unknown truffle. Both findings are expected to be published this spring. At its most basic level, a truffle is an underground mushroom, with spores dispersed by the animals that eat them and disturb the soil, unlike the windblown spores of mushrooms. Fungi, says Loring, are on the cutting edge of biodiversity. "With truffles it's a relatively easy thing to find new species because nobody ever sees these things, they're all underground, so you actually have to get out and look for them, rake the ground." You'll know a truffle, he adds, because they look "A bit like little potatoes, that at first look like a rock or a clump of dirt, and come in a whole rainbow of colors."
Poet Gary Snyder's "The Wild Mushroom" was carefully clipped from a newspaper many years ago by our dear friend, Paula, and tucked away in a trusted location for future reading. Now that Paula's leaving town, we inherited the clipping and have decided to share its delightful lines with you.
"The Wild Mushroom" was included in Mr. Snyder's 1974 Pulitzer Prize-winning volume of poetry, Turtle Island, and we believe it reflects both his Buddhist spirituality and his love of nature.
In an essay published in A Controversy of Poets, an anthology of contemporary American poetry, Mr. Snyder offered this commentary on his art:
As a poet, I hold the most
archaic values on earth. They go back to the late Paleolithic: the
fertility of the soil, the magic of animals, the power-vision in
solitude, the terrifying initiation and rebirth; the love and ecstasy of the dance, the common work of the tribe. I try to hold both history and
wilderness in mind, that my poems may approach the true measure of
things and stand against the unbalance and ignorance of our times.
I'm convinced that we mushroomers embrace Gary Snyder's values and hold them as truths in our own lives. Wouldn't you agree?
Only a few chanterelles have greeted us over the last couple of days as we prowled the forest lands in the refuge. We encountered a handful of golden and white chanterelles along with a lovely cluster of the tan and lavender colored pigs' ears, see photograph below. We also noticed a wide assortment of non-choice and/or non-desirable mushrooms, predominately russula and amanita.
Hearty pigs' ears are particularly nice in beef dishes.