Mo(nth of)fo(od): Wild Mushroom Week

Great success!

It will be a challenge to blog 5 times a week. Don’t get me wrong, I have plenty of material, but making time to blog this often is a hurdle. It is good for me. I don’t blog enough and luckily there are others out there taking on this challenge with me. Many bloggers are doing themes, so I thought this week I’d introduce a theme I could blog on for weeks (but don’t hold me to it!). This week I will blog about mushrooms and how wonderful they are.

Let’s start today off with my introduction into foraging. I’ve always enjoyed strange textures (converting to tofu was not a challenge) and flavor combinations and grew up around normal, store mushrooms. My introduction into foraging was in college through my brother, who took me out for chanterelles. Walking through the woods in Vermont is a pleasure in itself, but returning with a bag full of mushrooms to fry up, well, that’s heaven.

Honey mushroom heaven

It seems like everyone I know that forages learned from someone else and I couldn’t find any “classes” or “workshops” anywhere to expand my knowledge and desire to forage more. Most foragers are secretive and don’t want to share their “spots,” for good reason. Who wants to find a great mushroom patch and then have it over-picked and none for you? Plus some foragers make their living selling their treasures. Regardless, I’ve been determined throughout the years to learn, but not motivated enough to read up on it. I’m very hands-on and visual oriented and reading about it will not make me feel confident to just go out in the woods alone and pick something.

The “Wildman”

I don’t remember how I stumbled upon him, but a few years ago while externing at a restaurant in NYC, there was a foraging trip offered by the Wildman. Steve Brill, also known as the “Wildman,” lives in New York and has a website with recipes, photo identification and a lot of information. He has a very thick cookbook with recipes I am dying to try, all based off wild edibles. He knows his stuff and it was fun to share his geeking out on edibles…sound like someone familiar? He is best known for getting arrested in Central Park leading a foraging field trip. Apparently it’s illegal to eat the dandelion greens in Central Park. I was excited to join the group for a day, even if it was pretty tame. I think I was the closest botany nerd, but Steve won hands-down in that category. It was a small group, varied ages and interest. Everyone was nice and wanted to learn, which is an ideal setting to be in. I tried to keep close and learn as much as I could. We were in Queens Park that day, a beautiful park where at points you don’t even know that you are in the city. We found a lot of stuff. I had a big bag at the end of the day, but didn’t feel any wiser for my ability to i.d. I guess that comes with time. I picked burdock (gobo!), sassafrass root (to make homemade root beer the next day) and a variety of mushrooms: shaggy mane, honey mushrooms, giant puffball and probably a few others I can’t remember. People were timid to pick the mushrooms, which worked out in my favor. I gathered quite a bit and the dishes I consumed with no stomach anger were: puffball parmesan, a cream sauce using the inky caps to put over chik’n and sauteed honey ‘shrooms with garlic. It was all delicious and in time, I’ll be able to find them on my own, confidently. I’ve reminisced enough today. Tomorrow I will share the puffball recipe!

5 Responses to “Mo(nth of)fo(od): Wild Mushroom Week”

  1. Robin Maria Pedrero Says:

    I do not have the knowledge about picking the right mushrooms so I think it is pretty exciting that you did this

  2. Al Says:

    That’s so cool that you got to forage with the Wildman. I heard an interview with him on Vegan Freaks a while back. Sounds like an interesting guy.

  3. Jennifer Says:

    Is it possible that the wildman was featured in a documentary at some point? I feel like I’ve seen him before. Regardless, foraging sounds like a super fun experience and you made out like a bandit with all the awesome items you took home.

  4. kimmykokonut Says:

    Robin: If you want to learn, there is no time like right now. Get some books, find a local mycology group. I’ve been exposed to it for over 6 years on and off and it takes time to get comfortable identifying mushrooms alone. I try to take it one mushroom at a time.

    Al: I’d like to hear the interview. Is it on a podcast?

    Jennifer: It’s possible, he’s got a reputation. I think he might be vegan. Definitely vegetarian. He shared some homemade vegan ice cream during our lunch break and I was very impressed.

  5. "Wildman" Steve Brill Says:

    Glad you liked my tour, and you’re still alive. And I appreciate the kind comments. And it was sassafras you used for root beer, not sarsaparilla. For people interested in the subject, please check out my site. I’ve written a number of user-friendly, informative, entertaining books too. If you get signed copies from me, the publisher and book seller won’t get nearly all your money. Thanks again!

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