Hunting the Fifth Kingdom

Wild Mushrooms

Are you a fungophobe or a fungophile? I love mushrooms, well the edible ones anyway. Mushrooms are great on pizza, in a pasta sauce, grilled, stuffed, in a soup or nearly any dish. Have you ever wanted to taste something beyond the ordinary button / Portobello mushrooms that most grocery stores carry? Some grocers carry more expensive varieties like oyster, shitake and enoki. A great way to find more interesting species of mushroom is to hunt them in the wild.

I was introduced to mushroom hunting by a former chef and very current foodie friend. She would rhapsodize about secret groves that would burst with Boletes, Chantarelles and Morels after a late-summer rain. We set out one early-September morning into the Sangre de Cristo Mountains with a pack lunch, mushroom guide, baskets and bags. Well, we made out like bandits. Our bags were filled with Boletes, Morels and other varieties of delicious mushrooms to take home and cook or dry. I was hooked.

One necessity of mushroom hunting is a guide book. There are over 100,000 varieties of fungi, possibly 200,000, and the differences between species can be very subtle. I use a pocket guide to mushrooms by David Arora that filled with photos and clear descriptions of mushrooms. Even with a good mushroom book, you may need to take your mushrooms home to make spore prints to identify them. Always, clearly identify your fungi and if you aren't absolutely certain check with other mushroom books or a local mushroom club. Eating an unknown mushroom can lead to anything from an upset stomach to death!

Mushroom hunting is an adventure, with surprises hiding under pine needles, behind logs and in the middle of fields. A location can produce bountiful mushrooms in one year and nothing the next year. Mushrooming is also a great way to turn a hike in the woods into 'shopping' for your next meal.

Have you ever been mushrooming and what do you like best about it?

More Info: - Mushrooming in New Mexico - Mushrooms - Paul Stamets

David Arora - Fungi