"Good intentions will always be pleaded for every assumption of authority ... the Constitution was made to guard against the dangers of good intentions. There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters." - Noah Webster

"There is no worse tyranny than forcing a man to pay for what he does not want just because you think it would be good for him."
-- Robert A. Heinlein

Monday, June 27, 2011

Fabulous Fungus Among Us

On Saturday evening, we went to some friends' house in the neighborhood for dinner and to learn to play pinochle.  The hostess gave us the "nickel tour" and outside in the yard there was an area that had these beautiful golden mushrooms growing in the gravel path.

Yesterday we went back for another session, and this time I collected a bag of these mushrooms, since I'm of the mind that there are probably more edible mushrooms out there than we truly appreciate.  It turns out that my suspicion that these were edible was right.  Not only that, but they are considered excellent.  They are commonly called Golden Chantrelle.  Their scientific name is Cantharellus cibarius.  

Golden Chantrelles from my neighbor's yard.

I got really excited from reading about them in Wikipedia.

Chanterelles as a group are generally described as being rich in flavor, with a distinctive taste and aroma difficult to characterize. Some species have a fruity odor, others a more woody, earthy fragrance, and others still can even be considered spicy. The golden chanterelle is perhaps the most sought-after and flavorful chanterelle, and many chefs consider it on the same short list of gourmet fungi as truffles and morels. It therefore tends to command a high price in both restaurants and specialty stores.[12]There are many ways to cook chanterelles. Most of the flavorful compounds in chanterelles are fat-soluble, making them good mushrooms to sauté in butter, oil or cream. They also contain smaller amounts of water- and alcohol-soluble flavorings, which lend the mushrooms well to recipes involving wine or other cooking alcohols. Many popular methods of cooking chanterelles include them in sautés, soufflés, cream sauces, and soups. They are not typically eaten raw, as their rich and complex flavor is best released when cooked.[4]

Cantharellus cibarius. Picture courtesy of Wikipedia.
I still did my little safety test on them.  I take the tiniest piece I can to sample for taste.  If I were to notice the slightest bad thing, numbness or anything at all, I would spit it out and wash out my mouth.  These tasted slightly plain, not much different than porcini  mushrooms. You know, those plain white things you buy at the supermarket.  But they did have a very slight peppery aftertaste.  After waiting a few minutes to see if there was any negative effects in my mouth I swallowed it.  After a couple of hours, I notice nothing at all.  I'm sure now that these are the same Chantrelles that I see on Wikipedia and a few other web sites.

After getting home, I was in the wooded area next to the house when I spotted this interesting fungus on the ground.

The specimen growing in my woods

In my searching, the closest thing I could find that matched my photo is Ramariopsis kunzei. I have never seen one before today.  If I'm wrong about the identification, I hope someone reading this blog will let me know.  I have no intention of trying this one, because if my identification is correct, this fungus, while edible, is tasteless and useless.  I'd have to be in survival mode to be curious enough to try it, but I've made a mental note filed away just in case.
"The Sickener" Quite fitting for this picture.

Then there was this specimen just a few yards away near some ferns.

While it seems that the gills suddenly grew out of control and pushed the red cap into disfigurement, I'm pretty sure that this is a Russula emetica.  That's the closest thing I could come up with, and the name says all I need to know.
Emetica is Latin for "sickener" and according to Wikipedia it causes vomiting and diarrhea.  Supposedly there is an edible type in the genus of Russula (meaning "reddish"), but I'm not feeling that experimental.

Anyway, I'll try to remember to report back on how the Chantrelles tasted after I cook them up with a meal.

Of course, you are responsible for any risks you take in harvesting or eating any fungus or plant in the wild.  I think everybody should use some intelligence to figure these things out.  If you don't have the mental skill to do that, don't risk trying to eat anything wild.

I'm just too ferociously freedom loving to let anything stop me from discovering stuff within reason.

Shalom Y'all

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