The recent rains have given encouragement to a multitude of shrooms to grow throughout my yard this past week. I love how they spring up at a moment’s notice. One minute they are nowhere to be seen and the next there they are. Such fascinating little fungi.
A mushroom is the fleshy spore –bearing fruit of a fungus. Unfortunately it is not possible to just go out into my yard and gather any and all of the mushrooms that I may find and bring them into my kitchen to enjoy. Unless one if skilled at the art of identifying the many types, it is best to purchase your shrooms from the local market or grow them specifically yourself.
Most refer to poisonous mushrooms as toadstools. The term toadstool goes back through time and also can refer to any mushroom which had the classic umbrella like cap and stem form. These are usually the kind which can be found popping up throughout the yard when moisture has been left; although if one takes a closer look they may find a number of different varieties of mushrooms growing in their location.
There are many types of mushrooms which are edible. One may think that the common mushroom has little if any nutritional value however this is not so. They are quite high in fiber and provide vitamins such as thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, and ascorbic acid. They are also a good source of potassium and if grown under an ultra violet light, an excellent source of vitamin D. The white button mushroom is the most commonly sold mushroom and usually these are produced on a farm. However there are the more exotic kinds such as the Portobello, shiitake, oyster, and enoki. I have been fortunate enough to find some of these more elusive kinds at my local farmer’s market this year. They are a nice treat when I have a few extra coins to spend.
One of my favorite edible mushrooms is the morel. Although it cannot be found in stores, if one is adventurous enough they can have their fair share of the abundance simply by “hunting” for them. Each spring, usually in mid April the moral will start to appear in wooded areas. If one has a honey hole where they go and gather these little gems they know exactly what I am speaking of. For me I know when the time is right to go and look for them. It is just when the weather starts to warm a bit, there has been some moisture yet not too much and as you walk through the woods, the small spider webs start to appear. An old Indian friend of mine once said that they come out when the oak leaf is the size of a squirrel’s ear. Let’s just say I stick to my method.
If you have never hunted morals, the first sighting is a bit difficult. Yet after you have found your first moral it is like you see them everywhere. You will think that they are popping up everywhere. I have hunted them and swore that they came up in the time I was out looking. At one moment I passed a spot and it was not there. The next time I passed it I found one. You can tell their freshness by the ease in breaking it off at the ground and also in the color of the stem. If it is a creamy white and somewhat moist it is fresh. If the moisture is not as evident and the color is a bit darker it may have been there for a day or so.
After you have gathered your treasure, take them home and wash them thoroughly. This can be difficult as they have many holes. I usually soak mine in light salt water overnight and then rinse them again the next day. Shake them of any excess water and lay them on a towel to dry slightly. Slice them in half and lay them on a cookie sheet. When the cookie sheet if full, place in the freezer for approximately an hour. This will freeze the mushroom and when you remove it you can easily crumble the mushroom into small pieces and place them into a freezer bag or container, returning them to the freezer for future use.
If you want to enjoy them immediately, simply sauté them in butter or olive oil with a little salt and pepper to taste. The aroma will knock your socks off. The freshness of the morals emits a wonderful smell unlike the common store bought shroom. You will immediately be hooked.
Of course there are many other mushrooms, from the toxic to the psilocybin. The psilocybin has long been active with its role various native medicine traditions as well as other “experimental uses”. Commonly known as magic mushrooms they can be found in so called smart shops throughout the world or can be obtained through other sources if they have been outlawed in ones area. Psilocybin have been said to give the user life changing experiences which has often been described as mystical.
Many species of mushrooms have been linked to folk medicine for thousands of years. It is most readily found in Eastern medicine. They have also been researched in practical medicines for the possibilities of slowing tumor growth as well as many aspects of the immune system and cancer fighting.
The next time you see a group of the fungi, do not be too quick to rid your yard of such an occurrence. I myself have noticed they come often and usually encircle the many fairy circles I have throughout my yard. One may say that the fairy circles themselves are caused not by the fae but by the mushrooms, yet I tend to think different. I leave them where they be; as I see them as a means for something regardless if I do not quite understand what. As long as they are not bothering me, I see no need to bother them.