Friday, October 08, 2004

Fungus Fever

Don't ever go mushrooming with Dan and me.

We could, of course, wander dreamily through the woodland glades, stopping now and again to worship in sacred vaults of hemlock branches with soft spaghnum moss underfoot. We could point out fens and stand listening to the cry of the raven and the un-identified ululating owl. We could observe light poking through the canopy to gild softly rotting red trunks upon the needle-soft ground.

Yeah, we did some of that.

But mostly we hunted shrooms like we were after terrorists, and I don't mean the roundabout head-up-their-ass way our government goes about it.

We hunted shrooms like we meant to not only FIND those people, but sit down and discuss social needs with them, and really DO something about the situation, like building roads and cleaning up drinking water and cutting all our lines with the local dictator we'd been paling up with.

We were out there for about hours, and we did spend about an hour of it driving up the Hoko Ozette road, and an hour, on and off, of it resting and talking and having a snack, and at least an hour going around "just one more bend" in the logging road, and listening to a red-tailed hawk tell raven that we were Over Here.

So we figure we were actually picking mushrooms only about two and a half hours. But we got thirty pounds of 'em.

That's more than ten pounds an hour. Mostly Chanterelles, with a handful of Angel Wings, and about two pounds of White Sheep Polypore.

And this is plunging around through dead branches and crawling up and down rotting hummocks of old clear-cut debris, most of which had hemlocks growing up out of them, and occasionally breaking through those rotten hummocks, and ducking more branches, and generally not taking the stroll in the park you hear about.

We'd heard about that moment in mushrooming when you were walking back along the logging road, weighed down by the haul, and refusing to look back into the woods because you were afraid you'd see another drift of orange or white to come back and pick. Actually you cut 'em -- you don't pick mushrooms, you cut 'em off at the base, to protect the mycelium, which is delicate. You won't find any more unless you close your clasp knife, because then they know you're coming, and they'll run. No, they do.

We drove home really slow, partly because my right foot was totally dead from wearing THE wrong hiking boots in that soft debris, and partly because I wanted to see the bigleaf maples going gold and the vine maples turning scarlet against the dark green firs.

We stopped off at a friend's house on the Hoko Ozette (we have Friends On The Hoko now!) and left him about a pound of chanterelles, in exchange for the good beer we'd been sampling there.

When we got back, we gave a pound to the neighbor, who always gives us veggies from her garden, and sometimes canned salmon (the good stuff -- smoked and home canned). We left another pound with another artist friend, who asks us over for wine and conversation.

Then we went home and processed mushrooms for HOURS. They gotta be brushed and cleaned, and cooked over the wood stove, and then packed in vinegar or salt. The chanterelles don't change much, other than to release a rich brown juice, but the polypores turn dark yellow and have the best mushroom smell.

We didn't have enough contains for all the polypores, so I guess we'll just HAVE to have mushroom spaghetti tonight.

Oh, darn.

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