Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Winter Harvest (Part 3)

The rains came back last week, and with it, the mushrooms.

When we first got back to the ranch in January, we had plenty of mushrooms, but with the warm dry weather, they'd all dried up. I had been watering the chanterelle patch near the oak swing, but something was nibbling them away, too.

"Prices are way down this year," our neighbor from down the valley told us earlier. His son had made a nice little bundle last year, but they say there's a glut of chanterelles bringing down wholesale prices. Knowing what a good mushroom hunter the son is, I got them to come look for the fungi on our ranch, promising them that I'd give them half of their haul after I dried them.

That was last month and those mushrooms are all dried and shriveled up, ready to use like dried porcini or shiitake mushrooms. (If you are interested in drying your mushrooms, it's real easy. Just wash, then spread out on a towel until they are less soggy, then onto a paper towel. Leave them out until every bit of moisture is gone before you put them away. Patience is the key. I've ruined several batches by putting them away too soon. Better if you can just forget about them for a few months.)

Now we've had several days of torrential rain and the mykos are back. A short walk through our back woods gave me a bucketful of chanterelles and a handful of what I think are oyster mushrooms.

Chanterelles are best in simple dishes, I think. You want to be able to enjoy their flavor. People around here say they saute them with garlic and butter, but I like them with just a little sprinkle of salt and pepper and a little drizzle of cream and/or a splash of white wine. If I have time, I'll make chanterelle ravioli. Serve them tossed in olive oil with freshly grated parmesan. Mmm.

Now, do I try the oyster mushroom or not???

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