All About Mushrooms – Foraging with Alan Muskat, The Mushroom Man
While on our hunt, we found many different types of mushrooms; most edible and the majority forgettable in that they may not make you sick, but they just didn’t taste good. We discovered mushrooms that looked like opaque jelly, others that were a beautiful blue, some that lactated when cut, and others that turned blue when bruised. Some were spongy and others firm. It was like observing fish on a coral reef; each with colors and properties unique to themselves. Some were beautiful, some colorful, some tasty, and others unpleasant. And, like a coral reef, we were cautious of the potential dangers.
We worked our way through the forest floor until we struck the mother load of Chanterelles on a runoff slope in Pisgah National Forest. Chanterelles are prized for their almond-like aroma and meaty texture. They cost upwards of $30.00 per pound (if they are even available) at the market. Most are orange in color and a conical flower in shape, with no gills. Those that have gills are called faux Chanterelles and are best left alone. Some are red in color and are prized for their flavor and texture.
As we began to harvest the mushrooms, Alan told us how each mushroom is a blossom of the fungus that extends under the soil. That fungus can stretch great distances (in Oregon, a fungus three miles wide has been found) through the Mycelium. These tiny fibers, 1/7th the size of a hair, can wrap and extend for miles and provide information to all living plant life in the forest.
A morning of mushroom foraging yielded a few pounds of Chanterelles and a ton of mushroom knowledge. If you are interested in learning more about mushrooms, be sure to refer to Alan Muskat’s website and if you’re in Asheville, take part in one of his mushroom classes or foraging adventures. If you’re interested in eating mushrooms, then take a trip to Asheville and join Chef Dissen at his restaurant, The Market Place.
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