Thursday, November 14, 2013

Mushroom Picking: The Unforeseen Discovery

It has been at least fourteen years since I last picked mushrooms in the forested strips that divide numerous fields of Russian agricultural land, and back then such outings signified nothing more than occasional opportunities to feed the local mosquitoes and exchange a few wicked pleasantries with my sister. 

At the time, unaware of the inherent beauty of whole ingredients, I rarely reflected on what has become of our ability to nourish ourselves by cultivating our own or gathering wild food. Over the recent years, however, the subject seems to have become engraved in my mind permanently, as I continue on the road of re-acquainting with nature and its brilliant designs. 

Edible or not? I wish I were a more knowledgeable forager to know!
Yesterday, the topic of nourishment was hard to avoid, as I found myself polishing the old skill of mushroom picking. Out on one of our usual strolls with Marcus and the stocky pug, who insisted on pulling ahead like the sled dog he otherwise possesses little resemblance with, I came across an undeveloped, treed section of land, full of handsome representatives of the fungi kingdom. 

Picking mushrooms in The Lakes in the middle of November was hardly anticipated, but inadvertently, I collected a few samples of what some of my Facebook friends later guesstimated to be yellow-gilled Russula. Elated, I arrived home with 72 grams of free mushrooms, which would otherwise have cost me anywhere in the neighbourhood of $2.20 (although I could be completely off in either direction), had I purchased them at a grocery store. And I only had a meager sample of what seemed like a great abundance of good-looking fungi.

Having come home, I cleaned and laid out my treasure on a cutting board. I photographed it and found myself fighting the temptation to incorporate them into the upcoming dinner. After all, I was unsure of what they were and whether ingesting them would require hospitalization several hours later. So instead, I prepared a large Cobb salad, garnished with pan seared prosciutto, a hard-boiled egg and freshly grated Parmesan cheese.  

Disappointed with my inability to taste an earlier find, I loaded up on the greens, which brought the total weight of the salad up to 480 grams or just over a pound. Satiated, although still a touch saddened, I resolved to prepare for next year's mushroom season. This time, I will fill my wicker basket with a complete understanding of its value and an immense sense of gratitude to nature for providing it.


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