In May through June 2023 the forests near Joy’s place in Southern Oregon were sprouting both the early Blonde Morels (Morchella americana) and later Black Morels (Morchella elata.) I had never seen so many and many so large. Joy cooked them up to make a Creamy Morel Mushroom Pasta, which was a big hit with Joy’s nephew Dan and his wife Larah (who drove down from Portland to hunt for Morels.
Later in June and early July we found the Spring King Bolete (Boletus rex-varis) sprouting in sunnier clearings, where the morels were sprouting in the shadier areas. We sautéd these and their texture was more like a potato.
Nain, Labrador 1995 — “Gossan” is the Welsh word for “blood.” Prospectors always look for gossans, the blood-rust-colored earth which often occurs over sulfide ore-bodies. Early in January, our exploration team had discovered one of the richest nickel-copper ore-bodies of the 20th Century about one mile east of a hillside gossan. In late August, I was taking journalists around the gossan and telling them about our discovery.
While I was explaining how the geophysics was used to map the underground geology and mineralization, I spied some lighter-colored King Boletes (Boletus edulis) sprouting near a drill-site. “How ’bout gourmet mushrooms with our caribou steaks tonight?” I tell them.
Our camp cook is an Inuit woman (“Eskimo” is derogatory) who is none too happy when I bring her Boletes from the gossan.
“What do you want me to do with these?” she asks.
I say, “Do you have any olive oil?”
“Hell no,” is the reply, “this is the Arctic and olives don’t grow up here.”“Okay, how ’bout butter?” I tell her, “just sauté the ‘shrooms in a little butter and put them on my caribou steak.”
She brings out my ‘shrooms and steak, making a point to hold the dish as far away from her as she possibly can.
The dish was very good, and the ‘shrooms complemented the Canadian beer too. One of the drillers even tried a small bite, and said they were very good.
The next morning all the Inuit and geos in the camp seemed amazed I was still alive after eating the shrooms. So I tease them over my coffee, and pout how they could ever doubt their Chief Geophysicist?
Later that morning, while I was making maps, there was a knock on my field-office door. I opened the door, to find about twenty old Inuits (the town elders) standing outside. Their interpreter told me that the elders had heard of my mushroom identification skills, and hoped that I could teach them about the mushrooms sprouting around Nain. He explained that their grand-parents had been the last generation to know the good eating mushrooms.
In the 1920’s, Canadian and German Christian missionaries came to teach the Inuit the modern ways. The missionaries apparently had told them that mushrooms can be difficult to identify, and never to eat them. In ’96, some of the Inuit were beginning to question these beliefs, and wanted to learn about the local ‘shrooms.
Well, I was both honored and flabbergasted. I told my staff to handle the maps and called my chopper pilot to give me and a few senior Inuit a ride to the mushrooms. I showed them both the edible and inedible ones. They were very grateful, and on my next trip I brought them a good mushroom field-guide. The same mushrooms at Colorado’s +8000-foot elevation grow near sea-level in Labrador.
They had a little ceremony for me, and now Crebs is a kind of honorary Inuit.
A little sad though, too bad some guy from over 9,000 miles away had to teach a native aboriginal group about their traditional local delicacies.
Union Elementary School, Utah 1957 — It’s my first month in the first grade. I enjoy nap time, but recess is grand as there is just so much to explore on the school baseball fields and nearby irrigation canals. During one of my first recesses, I spy some Meadow Mushrooms sprouting beneath the old wooden bleachers. Alas, I have neither trowel nor basket, so I dig them out with a stick and use my baseball cap as a makeshift basket. The other kids, watch me dig and soon a crowd of older kids is around telling me to throw those Toadstools” away, as they’ll kill you. “Oh baloney,” I say, “these are yummy. Come on, I’ll take them to show Mrs. Jacobsen, my new first-grade teacher. She’ll tell you to just look for the pink gills.” Soon some of my buddies are digging up mushrooms too. The older kids were dubious, but we first-graders were so proud!
Bad move. Mrs. Jacobsen was horrified at the capful of Meadow Mushrooms we had so proudly placed on her desk after recess. “These are POISONOUS TOADSTOOLS,” she declared and summarily tossed them in the trash can, and called for the janitor to take them away. I was humiliated, and began to cry.
Later, I remember tearfully telling my Mom, what had happened after recess. She just chuckled, and said: “… sometimes even our teachers are wrong. Nobody knows everything about everything. I am proud of you, but do not to pick mushrooms at school anymore—it will just upset everyone again.”
At six years old, this first-grader was learning to distrust authority figures.
Midvale Cemetery, Utah 1956 — My grandmother Eleni Kastani Pangos (aka Helen) and my Aunt Sylvia (Mom’s older sister) decide to go mushroom hunting after some fine September rain, and also decide to take me along to carry the basket and trowels. North American Greeks call the month of September, the Rain Month (φεγγάρια της βροχής), a time to go ‘shrooming. Wild mushrooms are thought have been an important component of Greek cuisine for at least 6000 years. Turns out the best place to pick the beautiful Meadow Mushroom (Agaricus campestris) is the local cemetery. I loved mushrooming, and quickly learned the best mushrooms have pink gills (young and tasty, brown gills denote old) and smell earthy and heavenly. The Meadows like to hide behind headstones, but I’m quick and always find them. Mummee (what we all called our grandmother—later, I learned it’s Greek for “midwife,” and she was somewhat famous at it) warned me to always check the gills, as the ones with white gills will make you sick. The Little Brown Mushrooms were never picked as they make you sick too.
At the tender age of five, I was a budding amateur mycologist.
Jack Myers finds 4 pounds of Oysters
Today (5/26/17) while we were picking newly sprouted Meadow Mushrooms (Agaricus campestris) in the grasses of a local park, we met Jack Myers and his grandfather (they were fishing for crappie in a nearby pond.) Jack told us he had seen BIG mushrooms sprouting from a cottonwood tree’s base, and took us to see. Below is a picture of Jack, Campbell (our dog), Joy, and Jack’s grand father. We estimated the Oysters Mushrooms (Pleurotus ostreatus) he found weighed about 4 pounds. A very fine find, and he shared them with us. Thank you, Jack.
While searching for Black Morels (Morchella elata) along the South Platte, Joy instead finds a very nice Golden (Morchella esculenta). Her big smile may indicate she was kinda excited by her find! She found this beauty on May 24, 2017, which we thought was kinda late sprouting–we usually find Golden in late April or early May.
Joy cooked her find of the day in a little butter, and she shared some of it with Crebs. Yes, very delicious t’was!
In the rain, Danny takes us to his secret morel spot. The Dude knows some of the best spots for Late-April/Early-May sprouting.
MATSUTAKE TIME above 8500-feet!!! It’s Joy’s favorite ‘shroom, and she gets so excited when looking for “humps” in the duff at the base of Ponderosa Pines–White Matsu’s (Tricholoma magnivelare, aka Mutsutake) in Colorado are like truffles in that they often do NOT break the ground surface. Therefore, they’re a little harder to find.
Because it’s now bow-hunting elk, black-powder deer, and soon-to-be bear hunting season season up here, ‘shroomers need to be as conspicuous at possible. Here’s what Joy is wearing this Matsutake hunting season:
Note all the red; the bells hanging from her belt, two types of red trowels (long and short), and the whistle hanging from her hat. Yup, Joy is always safety conscious when it comes to dressing up for matsutakes.
The next picture shows Joy about to dig up a Matsu:
She’s scrapped the duff (all those pine needles) away and is ready to dig up and SMELL the mushroom. Colorado Matsu’s smell like “Red Hots Candy” to us; some less-educated noses claim they have a bouquet like “dirty tennis shoes!”
Here’s her beauty up close:
Note the off-white color of the gills, the ring on the stem. This is one CHOICE tasting mushroom. It is prized by the Japanese (e.g., matsu-take means pine-mushroom) and the Chinese (they call it Song rong) for it’s spicy-aromatic odor. Early season Japanese Matsutakes can cost up to $2000 per kilogram in Tokyo!
Here’s Joy holding another Matsutake:
Note the veil hasn’t torn yet, so there is no ring on the stem.
And here’s Joy goofing with two Matsutakes she found yesterday:
Now for something completely different:
We think “Vuggie” looks pretty sexy with her new personalized plates.
Happy Camping and ‘Shroomin’. T & Joy
Yippee!!! Rocky Mountain King Boletes are sprouting at about 10000 feet! But first a picture of Vuggie and the VW Rabbit at the Brainard Lake Picnic Area:
Note the pale Rainbow! The mountain to the right is the glaciated Mt. Audubon (13,223′)–an Eocene-Paleocene grano-syenite intrusion (i.e., for you geos, the Audubon-Albion Stock.) Yeah, sexy geology up here.
Okay back to the shrooms:
Could it be? Gotta look beneath the cap to be sure!
Oh, what a Happy Camper. It IS the famous Rocky Mountain King Bolete (i.e., the Italians call them “Porcini”, the Germans “Steinpilz”, aka Boletus edulis!) Yup, old T’s favorite shroom–so he smiles big.
The many trails around the Pawnee Campground (1.5-hour drive from Denver) were full of many kinds of shrooms. And here’s an identification trick:
Carry a small mirror to look under the mushroom cap. Boletes have spongy pores under their caps, not gills. Joy here is checking out the pores under an Aspen Bolete (Leccinum insigne). I know, I know, T gets too excited to check with a mirror when he think it’s a KING.
After find a few Kings, it started to rain, and it rained all night and all morning. We were very pleased with the REI Alcove, kept us nice and dry at temperatures in the mid 40’s.
Making McNugits Omelet in an 8-inch DO in light rain. I shielded the rain with my hat–worked great and dried out the hat too. Oh yeah, the omelet was awesome on a 42° morning. As the Stark’s say: Winter is Coming!
Driving Highway 72 south from Pawnee, we always stop at the B&F Grocery Store in Nederland, CO. It’s got a small cafe inside and they serve “Mountain Burgers” with lots of onions.
We recommend these burgers highly, and always try to get to Nederland before noon to order ’em, as the locals like ’em too and the line and wait can get long for them.
Happy Camping, T & Joy
Hall Valley Campground in Pike National Forest is one of our favorites during August as very tasty shrooms can be found nearby.
Joy and our dog Campbell always find Aspen Boletes (Leccinum insigne):
Last week Joy found some pretty Oyster mushrooms (Pleurotus ostreatus) growing on aspen stumps, and they smell so good too.
While old T found chanterelles (Cantharellus ciborium) and Meadow Mushrooms (Agaricus campestris). Meadow and Prince Mushrooms (an earlier post) are better tasting relatives to the white button, portabello, and crimini shrooms you find in the produce section of grocery stores.
Yup, Hall Valley and surrounding forests are indeed a nice place to find tasty fungus treats…and apparently Girls just wanna have fungi!
Regards, T & Joy