All About Mushrooms – Foraging with Alan Muskat, The Mushroom Man
It’s the largest living organism in the world and lurks in the shadows. It provides the network that permits communication across all things deep in the forest. It can bring fear to the uninitiated and a smile to the face of those who know its secrets. It goes by many Latin names to distinguish its membership in the gang. Some have taken names that describe their personal character like “Puffball” or “Stinkhorn.” There’s a fungus among us and the Bunkycooks recently took to the road to uncover this wild mystery.
The mushroom is often misunderstood, especially when it is growing wild in the forest. This year has been especially rainy and ideal for growing certain varieties of mushrooms. If you are not familiar with wild mushrooms, you may profile them against white button mushrooms that are purchased in styrofoam boxes at your local supermarket. Most of us assume that wild mushrooms will make us sick, kill us, or take us on a psychedelic journey from whence there’s no return.
There are over 10,000 different types of mushrooms and while most (96%) are not typically eaten, 50% are not edible (too tough, woody, or indigestible), 20% are “edible but regrettable” and can make you sick, and finally, 25% are “edible but forgettable,” meaning they just don’t taste good but are not poisonous. One percent can kill you, which means that only 4% of the mushroom varieties are sought after for food.
We traveled to Asheville, North Carolina a few weeks ago to meet with William Dissen, Executive Chef and Owner of The Market Place Restaurant, and The Mushroom Man, Alan Muskat (a fun guy with fungi ;-)) and Alan’s friend, Greer, to learn more about mushrooms. Alan is a local mushroom expert in the Western North Carolina mountains and hosts many classes and foraging trips to teach his students about mushrooms and other edible plants. With Chanterelle season in full swing, we joined William, Greer, and Alan in the forest to meet their friends in low places.
Note – All videos are shot in High Definition (HD). Be sure to set your You Tube player to 720p to watch in HD.
The South has been drenched with daily rains this summer, often heavy, that have taken a toll on many crops. However, to the mushroom, it has been a Chamber of Commerce summer. This spring was spectacular for morels in North Georgia while summer brings Chanterelles to the South and fall is prime mushroom season with the greatest variety of edible treasures.
During our mushroom expedition, Chef William Dissen provided an education on mushroom basics while Alan Muskat provided colorful commentary and expert knowledge.