Garden Diary - August 2013

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Friday, 2 August 2013
Rain Makes Mushrooms

April showers, so it is said, make May flowers. When the rain comes in July and August, the temperatures are high, and it is humid - why, then the chanterelles come out to play. Beautiful, delicious chanterelles.

Golden chanterelles, as rich in color as the egg yolk from a pastured hen. A little early, I found these on 30 July. Chanterelles often come back in the same place, year after year. But that's only when the weather is right. Scant rain, lower temperatures mean no chanterelles.

My mushroom collecting basket. Paul made this for me from a plastic crate, some cord, and a piece of bamboo for the handle. Brown paper lunch bags for collecting mushrooms are clipped to the side with a bungee cord. Keeping things together, my Opinel mushroom knife has a small chain that clips it to the cord. Better to cut the mushroom rather than yank it from the ground. Two reasons: one, a clean cut means less dirt on the mushroom, and you do want clean mushrooms to cook. Second, a cut will cause less damage to the underground portion of the mushroom which can then grow and make more fruiting bodies (the part we recognize as "mushrooms.")

Foraging for mushrooms can be intimidating for the novice. The stories abound of people made deathly ill by eating some mushrooms they thought were safe to eat, but were not. Here's my take on the topic: I only forage for a few kinds of mushrooms. They are very distinct in appearance and have no nasty look-alikes that are harmful. The mushrooms I gather are not merely edible, they're delicious.

Of course, lacking either the knowledge of what to collect or a site where the mushrooms might be foraged you could always visit a local vendor - perhaps the Frenchtown Farmers Market on a Sunday morning - and find chanterelles for sale at Mainly Mushrooms. He foraged locally for these chanterelles.

People are not the only ones who like mushrooms. Slugs, obviously, do too.
Box turtles. And, alas, deer. And squirrels. So go foraging early and often.

A goodly haul. One pound 10.25 ounces of golden chanterelles. They need to be cleaned but there's not enough dirt to make much of a difference in the weight. Plenty to eat and some for the freezer.

A delicious side dish of chanterelles and garlic scapes. Clean the chanterelles and make sure they are dry. Tear them lengthwise into large pieces - many only need to be halved or in thirds. Saute in butter and herb-infused olive oil. (That's something I make myself using EVOO, thyme, rosemary, and oregano.) Set aside. Cut the garlic scapes into pieces about an inch and a half long. Saute. Return the mushrooms to the pan, and sprinkle with a pinch of sea salt and some fresh thyme leaves. This accompanied salmon marinated with soy sauce, peanut oil, minced shallots, lime juice, and a little sherry, then baked in parchment bags in a very hot oven.

And just a couple of days later I found

Oyster mushrooms. Two trees, each with lots of oyster mushrooms. I gathered what I could reach from the ground without tumbling down the rather steep bank to the creek below.

Oysters are a beautiful mushroom. Rather delicate, easily damaged,
and they can soak up water like blotting paper. Handle with care.

Between a little paring knife and the brush on my Opinel this is the debris
that I needed to remove from the mushrooms. Store short term in paper bags
in the refrigerator, saute and freeze for long term preservation.

Not bad, close to a pound and a half of oyster mushrooms. Good eating from summer rain.

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