I received a happy email regarding mushrooms this morning from a new friend, who predicted they would be popping up near us in the Colorado High Country within the week. She herself has already found a bolete and some oyster mushrooms and was newly back from foraging giant puffballs in Golden yesterday—all of which of course make me quite envious.
“You should have great access to Boletus edulis,” she wrote, because “they like it high,” followed by this happy rant: “Omg, I can’t even contain my excitement over mushroom season this year. I want soooo badly to collect enough to dry for the winter, so that I can continue to eat mostly wild then. I’ve been canning and freezing all along the way, but darn it, mushrooms! Yummy savory mushrooms for stew and sauce and gravy! Can you imagine that during January! Holy heck.”
Mushroom Prediction Inspires Yarn
I told Gregg about Butterpoweredbike’s prediction while we were in the back yard this morning, though honestly I remained doubtful, thinking the ground was too dry. “No it’s kind of damp,” Gregg said, pressing on the dry dirt to the sponginess below, before re-embarking on his oft-repeated tale of how, last summer while I was away, he found “so many” mushrooms in the forest by the house, including quite possibly a Boletus edulis, and that he has the pictures to prove it. But then—and here’s the exciting finale—“The animals stole them!”
Round One: Discovery
Gregg reiterated his tale this morning as we wandered amidst the conifers, me stealing his coffee and acting distracted about plants, when suddenly he exclaims, “I found one!” and it’s a brown-topped mushroom baby pushing its way up through the needle-carpeted ground. I lay my head next to it, turning slightly to peer up under the mushroom’s skirt, only to find pores (as opposed to gills) underneath, which is a sign of several types of edible mushrooms, we learned last year during the dawn of our interest in edible mycology.
“I think it’s a bolete,” Gregg says.
A bolete? On our land? For that is the mushroom I have only dreamt of finding but have never found.
“I found it,” asserts Gregg, who is a bit sour that I have been attributing edible finds to many people lately but not him.
(In fact, he’s out there right now taking pictures of the little guy while I get busy on the laptop, inspired as I am by the young mushroom and also my new wild-food-blogger friends. Is this blog, by the way, starting to sound like a gossipy forager club, or what?)
Desensitized by TMI
Have I mentioned that I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed of late by some new, exciting, albeit time-consuming work? Well, I am, and when we walked into the forest just now, I became overwhelmed by the plants too. “There’s just too much information,” I said, kicking the ground.
Coinciding with the sudden onslaught of less time on my hands, I’ve also been learning lots of new stuff about wild edible plants due to the aforementioned foragers’ blogging club, the latest subjects of my interest being Butterpoweredbike’s Hunger & Thirst for Life and Cauldrons and Crockpots by her friend Bek in Los Angeles (a place I called home for many years, incidentally).
I mean really, spruce tip jelly? I can’t even begin to imagine…
Round Two: Squirrel-Eating Denied
Back in the forest Gregg tells me more of his tale from last summer—that he harvested the mushroom he thought was a king bolete and it was sitting on the railing of the deck when he saw the squirrel come up and grab one of the halves and start dragging it away, whereupon he ran outside yelling “Drop it, Mr. Squirrel!” before rescuing the mushroom.
The damn squirrels, if I may interject—stealing our insulation, making it fall off the concrete walls of the basement that I cannot fix with a hammer and nail, putting it in their nests high up in the tree, from which it falls to the ground in tiny pieces, littering the forest, then the squirrel chattering angrily and incessantly at me from far above if I dare to wander under the tree to complain about the situation. I keep thinking I should take a page from Euell Gibbons’ book and cook those guys up in a wild edible soup that has PROTEIN in it, which of course is required for existence. But Gregg says no, “at our house, squirrels are considered our friends and we do not eat them.” Too bad. I can imagine my feast: wild-foraged vegetables served with insulation-stuffed squirrel.
“I’m very excited about mushrooms,” Gregg says, interrupting my reverie while leading me farther into the forest and away from the house and things I need very badly at the moment like water and writing and shoes. “I might even like them better than wild edible plants,” he says.
“You don’t just make grand declarations about wild edible plants like that!” I scold, stomping my foot, before announcing that I’m headed back in, the squirrel hollering at me all the while. “I don’t really like nature anyway,” I say. “I much prefer technology.”
Watering the Mushroom
Back inside, Gregg shows me a close-up photograph of the mushroom’s stem (the one pictured at top in this entry) and explains that he doesn’t think it’s a Leccinum because it doesn’t have shaggy brown marks on its stem, or a slippery jack (Suillus brevipes) that has yellower pores, although it could be, because we can’t see much of the cap’s underside. There are other characteristics to look for of course and I will need to do a careful review of my mushroom literature again before considering eating anything, but in the meantime Gregg hypothesizes that it’s a baby Boletus edulis.
“I want to leave it growing but protect it from the animals,” he says thoughtfully. “Maybe I should put some kind of protective plastic sheath around it—and do you mind if I water it?” he asks. “Just make sure it gets a little rain shower every night?”
“Do what you want with that mushroom,” I say. It’s not that I don’t want to eat it, or that I don’t fear its accidental destruction by animals or even well-meaning human hands. I just know it will not be the only mushroom. Our little guest is but a harbinger of many, many wonderful wild mushrooms to come.
UPDATE: 11 hours later, Gregg checked on the mushroom, which had grown big enough so he could see under the cap, which is bright yellow. So now we’re leaning towards Suillus brevipes, the slippery jack, also edible if we’re right about it.
That’s too bad. Squirrel is one of my favorite meats, and I have a nice little .22
Btw, I’m totally gonna add “mushroom prophet” to my resume skills. I don’t think the wider job force realizes how valuable this ability is.
So happy, I’ve always wanted to be a part of a gossipy foragers club. When I was a kid, our clubs always had membership cards, complete with scratch ‘n’ sniff stickers. Do you think there are boletus edulis scratch ‘n’ sniffs?