Updated: Feb 2
Wild mushrooms vary greatly in color, flavor and texture. Getting to know how to best prepare the many different types can be a daunting endeavor. Here I am going to make it as simple as I can, based on certain characteristics the mushroom may have. The firmness, or density of the mushroom, the color of the mushroom and the flavor and aroma of the mushroom. There are so many edible mushrooms growing all around us! Getting to know these edible species, all of their look-a-likes, and their differentiating features is very important. Until you do know a mushroom species intimately, you should not eat it! Many edible mushrooms are easily confused with common look-alikes that are not only a different species you are looking for, but in some cases can be a species that will make you very sick or can even be lethal if ingested. It is important to consult with a mushroom expert when identifying and trying new species to eat. All mushrooms should be cooked before eating as the substance they are made of (chitin), is not digestible by humans. Without cooking, wild mushrooms can not only cause gastrointestinal upset, but their nutrients cannot be unlocked and absorbed in their raw state. There are mushrooms that are edible in other regions and countries that may get you sick or even kill you eating them in a foreign territory. Most mushroom poisonings in the United States are from people collecting and eating mushrooms they think are the same as the familiar species back home. Store mushrooms in paper bag in the refrigerator. Never in plastic as it can cause condensation, resulting in mold growth. Moldy mushrooms can make you very ill. With all that said now, let's talk about some of the species that you may be familiar with in our region, that make great components of our dishes!
Oyster mushrooms are one of the most commonly found and easily identified wild mushrooms in our region. The two most commonly found are the summer or Phoenix oyster (Pleurotus pulmonarius), and the Golden oyster (Pleurotus citrinopileatus). Both these species have an anise scent to them when fresh, turning somewhat fishy when getting old. When cooked fresh with a touch of fat and a pinch of salt, they have a earthy, nutty flavor. The Golden oyster can have a slightly bitter flavor when eaten raw or undercooked.
Oyster mushrooms are versatile and can be paired with any protein or vegetable. They make an excellent base for a rich earthy mushroom stock which can be used from anything from a Simple consumé, to a Ramen broth base. They are great in stir fry and make a complex addition to any dish when fermented. To ferment oyster mushrooms, clean them of dirt and debris and submerge them in a 2% salt brine at room temperature for 24 hours. They can be held at that stage for months with refrigeration. Add them with other wild mushrooms or on their own to make a mushroom duxelle. And lastly, they can be dehydrated to be used later for any stocks, ground into seasoning or made into a tea to add earthy anise notes to a cocktail.
Milky cap mushrooms. Hygrophorous Milky caps (Lactifluus hygrophoroides, formerly Lactarius hygrophoroides), simply sauteed in fat, salt and wild herbs, or a wild garlic chive or green onion tempura battered and deep fried delight, add to the wild mushroom duxelle. Milky caps whether hygrophorous, voluminous, or corrugated, they are best only when fresh. The day of is the best to harvest them. After the first day, they tend to get quite dry, leaving a less desirable texture as well as flavor.
Chicken of the Woods (Laetiporus sulphureus). Best when young and tender. Will become woody in texture with age. When supple and tender, dredge in flour , then buttermilk, then into seasoned flour coating it well in generous clumps, then deep fry in lard, tallow, or vegetable oil of your preference at 350° until golden brown. Mince up and add to the wild mushroom duxelle. Chicken of the woods makes an excellent pickled mushroom, preserving it's bright vibrant color as well as meaty mushroom flavor! Amazing infused in vinegars, which make great vinaigrette, combined with ginger and sugar to make a wild mushroom switchel .
Wood Ear (Auricula judae) These strange fleshy, jelly-like ,rubbery mushrooms really do resemble the human ear. But despite its Halloween prop-like appearance, this mushroom is an extremely versatile and texturally pleasing mushroom. Used traditionally in Chinese cuisine, these earthy mushrooms readily absorb the flavors they are cooked with. Taking on very well, liquid salts, nutty oils, and light vinegars, they are perfect for marinating before tossing into the hot wok or Sautee pan and cooking until perfectly crunchy on the outside with an enjoyably chewy texture throughout the rest of the mouthfeel. Wood Ear marinated in sesame oil and nuoc nam are amazing when brought to temperature in a wild mushroom Ramen broth flavored with dashi and nuoc nom, chared wild ginger and charred onion. Slurrp!
Chanterelles (Cantharellus), are amazing however you cook them up. Being a meaty and rather dense mushroom like the milkys , but more tender and less meaty than the chicken of the woods. These apricot scented, yellow-orange summer beauties have a mild mushroomy taste with a good tooth when perfectly cooked, making them a perfect addition to any dish. I love to get them with some local corn when in season, as they often both come to season around the same time and make a corn , bean, pickled ramp and chanterelle succotash. Hot or cold , as a side or featured in a tortilla de maiz taco with cotija cheese, cilantro and wood sorrel . So good cooked over a wood fire in a saute pan in fat of choice (I love butter best) the woods for lunch while foraging all the many mushrooms!!! Try brushing them with oil, seasoning with salt and pepper and then filling them over the wood coals to get a sweet smokey earthy flavor and meaty texture on the mushrooms.
Black Trumpets (Craterellus cornucopioides) are such a beautifully aromatic and flavorful earthy, musky mushroomy mushroom. These delicate, paper thin and hollow mushrooms are very delicate and wilt with just a kiss of heat. That being said, they need very little treatment. They are absolutely perfect quickly sauteed in some butter or nut oil with salt and pepper and tossed with some fresh made pasta. Add to the mushroom duxelle. The black color with the yellows, golds and oranges of some of the other mushrooms will make a colorful contrasting duxelle for a compound butter to make into a buerre Monte for your locally grown seasonal vegetables.
Pickled Chicken of the Woods , and Pickled Chanterelles.
1 Qt. Chicken of the woods cut up into bite size pieces or chanterelles cut into quarters and smaller ones left whole. 1 Cup white balsamic vinegar 1 Cup rice wine vinegar 2 T Kosher salt 1 teaspoon red pepper flake 1 teaspoon crushed juniper berries or spruce tips 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorn.
For chicken of the woods, using the most tender specimen... Bring vinegars, salt, peppercorn, red pepper flake and juniper or spruce tips to a boil. Add chicken of the woods and let simmer for 10 seconds. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature. Refrigerate for 24-48 hours and they are ready to eat. Keep refrigerated or can to keep in your pantry. To pickle chanterelles, bring all ingredients except mushrooms to a boil and turn off heat. Add chanterelles and put right in the refrigerator to cool. Let sit in refrigerator for 48 hours and they are ready to eat. Keep in refrigerator or can to keep in pantry.
Wild mushroom duxelle 1lb wild mushrooms, (oyster, chanterelle, hygrophorous milky, chicken of the woods, black trumpet. All finely minced 3T butter 2 large shallots finely minced 1/2 Cup 2T chiffonade of parsley 1T chiffonade of tarragon 1T chiffonade of fennel frond Kosher salt to taste Freshly ground black peppercorn 1/2C dry vermouth
Heat up saute pan over medium high heat and melt 2T butter in pan. Add Mushrooms, shallots, and season with salt and pepper. Stir frequently and cook until the mushrooms have expelled their water and liquid has reduced to almost dry Add 3rd Tablespoon of butter and vermouth and let cook out until it is still wet but not watery Stir in herbs and taste to adjust salt and pepper. Mushroom Duxelle can be frozen and used as
To learn hands on, in the field mushroom identification, sign up for my Introduction to Foraging Wild Edible and Medicinal Fungi of the Northeast Workshop. Details in the booking section of the website. Please don't hesitate to leave a message in my inbox if you have any questions or concerns regarding workshops. You can also email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Happy and safe mushroom hunting this season!