September 2014: Foraging for Mushrooms
In the first weekend of September, I was invited to forage for mushrooms, on the strict condition that I was not to reveal the location. This was readily accepted.
I enjoy being out in the countryside and despite owning several books describing fungi, I have not had the confidence to gather them myself. So many varieties appear from photographs to be similar to inedible, or poisonous, relations. Fortunately, my three companions are experienced foragers and were keen to offer assistance.
The particular variety sought was Boletus Edulis, commonly known as porcini or, more familiarly, Penny Bun. They are widely distributed in the Northern Hemisphere and grow in deciduous and coniferous forests. I was directed to look beneath oak and birch trees, in particular in areas with some exposure to sun. During several unsuccessful attempts, resulting in misidentification, I was instructed with an accumulation of identifying characteristics. These included: a domed cap (no dimple at the tip), a thick stalk, suede appearance and texture, sponge-like and not gills beneath, no lacy ring on the stalk and no red in the stalk or cap.
This proved most helpful, allowing speedy rejection of unsuitable species. Soon found my first specimen.
I was assured that the evidence of other creatures having begun to eat it first was unimportant. I was to brush off and then forget any insects or slugs. This is quite normal, as is some, but not too much, discolouration of the spongey material on the underside of the cap. It is this that provides the darker colour seen in the dried product.
Here are some close ups of the historic mushroom.
After a couple of hours we had gathered an impressive collection. All that remained was to take them home, and clean them with a dry cloth.
The final task was to slice them, arrange on a tray and dry them slowly over a warm heat source.
Well, not quite the final task. They have a rich, concentrated, earthy smell, which will, no doubt, transfer to whatever dish they grace.