Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Mushroom hunting

Mo and I had a delicious dinner tonight. Chicken with garlic, onion, and wild black trumpet mushrooms. Black trumpets which we picked ourselves earlier today. Don't worry, we didn't just decide to raid the backyard.

This whole expedition began to take shape a few weeks ago. One of the Botanic Garden interns (coincidentally also named Stef) works closely with Elaine, whose job is to manage the botanic collection. They went out to a bog nearby in order to collect seeds, and in a deli afterwards they ran into two men who were also drenched to the waist, from fly fishing. Michael asked if they had been stealing orchids, and eventually during all the talk about plants it came out that Elaine is originally from Michigan and that the only thing she misses is being able to find morels.

Michael, on the other hand, grew up in Massachusetts and has been picking mushrooms since he was four years old. He started going on trips with his mother, and now he sells mushrooms to many upscale local restaurants. He has been on several forays with the national mushroom association, and one year won the grand prize for his discoveries. Elaine was in luck, because Michael offered to take Elaine on a tour of local edible mushrooms. He even obtained permission from a fellow mushroom hunter for Elaine to visit a prolific black trumpet population. He and his mushroom enthusiast friend had discovered the black trumpet spot together, and guarded it carefully ever since.

Neither of them were interested in sharing that spot with half a dozen new mushroom eaters, so Michael took the interns (and me) to a nearby spot where he had never been, but suspected there would be black trumpets. The first few hours we didn't find any. During our break for lunch Michael shared with us some black trumpets he had cooked the night before and brought from home. Fortunately we found a few small patches of black trumpets when we started to look in the afternoon. The best part is that the black trumpets are distinctive, and nothing else would be mistaken for one, so we can look for them on our own.

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