Foraging for food: Learning about wild, edible mushrooms
By Hope S. Philbrick
Forget what your mama said: You can eat what you find on the ground. At least when it’s an edible wild mushroom. With his new book, “Chanterelle Dreams, Amanita Nightmares,” mushroom expert Greg Marley hopes to convert people from mycophobes (mushroom fearing) to mychophiles (mushroom loving). In addition to authoring two books, Marley works as a mushroom identification consultant for the Northern New England Poison Control Center and owns Mushrooms for Health, a company that provides education and products made with Maine medicinal mushrooms. His new book explores the historical, cultural and ecological role of mushrooms, offers practical advice for mushroom foraging and shares recipes.
When did you get interested in mushrooms?
The year I turned 16, we moved to upstate New York from New Mexico, so I went from the desert to a beautiful, lush Eastern forest. It was the first time I’d been east of El Paso. Among other things, I was fascinated by the colors and beautiful varieties of mushrooms. Two years later, I bought my first mushroom book and never looked back. Initially, I was just interested in mushrooms for foraging, but not from a gourmet standpoint. I worked some as a cook in my younger years and became interested in more complex gourmet food, and mushrooms went hand-in-hand. What edible wild mushrooms can be found in Georgia? Common mushrooms available in fall in Georgia include the meadow mushroom—also called pink bottoms, which are typically found in grass lawns and fields—also oyster and puff balls, which are totally globular, roundish and white: If you cut them open and they’re pure white, they’re edible. They’re the first wild mushroom that many people eat, including myself in 1975. In Georgia forests, you can find chanterelles, one of the world-class edibles, and porcini. In the spring, you can find morels in Georgia’s mountainous areas. How do you recommend getting started as a mushroom forager? The best thing you can do is find someone you know who already collects mushrooms and convince them to take you out—buy them lunch or some other gentle, friendly bribe. You might also take a class at a continuing education center or nature preserve. At the back of my book, there’s a list with recommended guides and Internet sites including the Mushroom Club of Georgia. [www.gamushroomclub.org] Is there an advantage to foraging versus buying mushrooms at a store? Wild mushrooms are much fresher, with deeper flavor and more variety. It’s like the difference between a supermarket tomato and one that’s fresh out of your garden. What’s your favorite mushroom? One of my favorites is hen of the woods, which grow beside oak trees. I love it very simply chopped into bite-sized pieces and sautéed with butter, olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper. Secondarily, nothing compares to a fresh morel omelet. Read the full, original article at The Sunday Paper. Greg Marley is the author of Chanterelle Dreams and Amanita Nightmares: The Love, Lore, and Mystique of Mushrooms, available now.