Some folks have a list of things they want to do, places they want to go, experiences they want to, well, "experience". One of the items that has been on my list for some time now, is going "into the wild"... in search of exotic mushrooms. When a friend with subject knowledge and deep woods experience extended the invitation to do just this, I was in!
I know, there are some who would suggest that adrenaline and mushroom picking are an unlikely combination. Oh, I suppose it could be argued that hiking through a deep, damp, mossy, west coast forest in search of edible fungus might not compare in excitement to, say, BASE jumping. Now lest any reader roll their eyes in response to the suggestion that searching for mushrooms would bring "excitement", let me assure you, I know the nature of "excitement". I've paddled off Ucluelet and watched Joan's kayak disappear in the trough of a west coast swell, only to rise above mine as she rode the next crest. In a previous "life", I've strapped into the "back seat" of fast jets and watched the mach meter
indicate that the aircraft has left all sound in the
"wake" of its twin F404 turbofan engines. So mushroom picking...excitement and adrenaline? You bet!
The woods on either side of the logging road, on the way to Nitinat, were Frost-like - "lovely, dark and deep". After putting on rain gear followed by the mandatory compass check, we entered the forest and within minutes, the first find - a golden Chanterelle, truly a prize in the kitchens of chefs around the world! Our bags soon began to fill up with these wonderful wild treats. My own level of excitement and anticipation (of dinner) was already high and then my friend found and introduced a "Lobster" and then a "Hedgehog" and then some "Angel Wings" (all mushrooms!) - it just kept getting better! This day was working out really well, and then...a most unusual specimen caught my eye, growing out of an old growth stump - looking more like an "explosion" of wild pasta! It was as delicate and as clean as could be - as if just rinsed by a rain shower. Surely this was not a mushroom?! When the "eyes of experience" lit up and a broad smile prefaced his exclamation of joy, I knew we had found a treasure of the woods. It was a "Cauliflower" mushroom (Sparassis crispa for those in the know) - truly a "prize"! It's delicate taste and crispy texture was extraordinary, this was most assuredly the icing on the cake - and yes, now the adrenaline was really flowing!
On the two hour drive home, I reflected on the day's adventure...and its reminder of the amazing bounty that exists outside the supermarkets and corner stores. Food in the "raw", sustenance for those who find opportunity to discover and taste the wonder-filled source of what all too often finds itself in boxes and cans, prepared and processed...and a distant relative to what it was really meant to be. "Survivorman", Les Stroud, would have been very pleased!
'Till next time.
PS Important: Remember all wild mushrooms must be carefully identified before eating!