It’s been a busy Fall here at Leafhopper Farm, and that’s to be expected. The last of summer’s bounty is gathered, processed, and stored in the larder for the coming dark times of winter. Some foods are best fresh, and mushrooms are no exception. This year, our mushroom spring is slow. Usually by now, I’ve collected a bunch of chantrelle mushrooms Cantharellus cibarius.However, due to our hot, dry summer, the mushrooms are delayed and may not come up at all. It’s a little bit of a let down, but I’m hoping the mushrooms will still come out, making a late appearance in November, before we start dropping into freezing temperatures, which does in fact happen here in The Pacific Northwest.
On the landscape of Leafhopper, Zeller’s Boletes Xerocomellus zelleri are out and prolific, so we do have wild shrooms on the property to enjoy. Well, some people are not fans of the Boletaceae family, but it has some of the most desired edible mushrooms in the world such as Boletus edulis, porcini or King Bolete. The Zeller’s is less flavorful, but not bitter like so many other boletes. In coloquial language, Zeller’s is also called “crackly cap” mushroom, and here’s a picture to show why:
This sliced up cap still shows it’s “crackly” look. They also bruise blue like many psychedelic verities, but do not fear, these mushrooms are not “magical”. They are numerous on the farm, and find there way into many meals at this time. They do not dehydrate well, but they are delicious pan fried with a little butter. I also use them in soups to add body to the broth. Mushrooms are amazing, and should be treated with great respect. As I’ve stressed before, find a mycologist friend to take you out mushroom hunting so you learn with an expert. Never experiment with eating a mushroom you’re not sure of. Though I feel very comfortable with a few species I’ve worked with often over the years, I never experiment with unknown verities. The risk is too great. Again, if you are new to shrooming, go out with a professional to learn safe verities and key identification characteristics. There are many safe species to harvest in the woods, and once you know, you can enjoy without doubt.
Another great wild food to have in your larder is trout. I’ve got a few spots where I can fish year round (if the lake is not named, it does not fall under fishing season regulations). These lakes are very remote, and not listed in any fishing guides so you have to seek them out yourself. I do, and when I go, I’m also grouse hunting (when in season), mushroom hunting, and keeping aware of other food possibilities available in the wild (like wild cranberries from a bog). Usually, I return with something, even if it’s just a load of firewood. But wild harvesting is opportunistic. You have to know what’s out each season and where to find it. You’ll learn about new spots as you explore the landscape, but you have to get outside for success.
Wild food is also modest, usually only offering small portions for the time it takes to harvest. This can be frustrating for people with big appetites, but you can find more than enough sustenance if you are willing to take your time. I can say I often overeat as a result of having large portions available, especially in restaurant settings. Americans are notorious for eating more than any other nation in the world. It’s mind boggling to walk into a grocery store after being out in the wilds harvesting food. The underpinning concept to come to terms with is this: industrial agriculture is not sustainable.
On the flip side, wild harvests could never feed our current populations, but our numbers would have never grown to what they are now without industrial agriculture. For better or worse, we’re given in to consumption, and that’s going to make lean times hard to bear. By moving into a wilder diet, the practice of modest eating comes very much into play. I’ve become so much more aware of how precious food is. My hunting, fishing, and gathering is art, and the results speak for themselves. Gratitude to wild places, the chance to enter them, and the sustenance they provide for those who know where and how to look.