Mushroom hunting

During my morning meditation, I heard the wild turkeys for the first time this season. Rosy pink clouds floated in the eastern sky as I got up from the zafu.

A friend came to the house and invited me mushroom hunting. Matsutake hunting, that is. This guy hunts them regularly. The elusive mushroom rarely breaks the surface of the tan oak duff. The mushroom hunter showed me the slight mound of dried leaves that is the telltale sign.  As we hiked and bush-wacked the hillside, we found bits and shreds of white flesh; Matsutake chewed and discarded by deer.  We would do the mushroom crouch, searching for small heaps of leaves.  He showed me how to reach down and pull the stipe from the ground, carefully brushing off the mycelium and with a quick and sure motion replacing the disturbed leaves. Often I would come across colorful gems white, red, gray; other fungi that we didn’t stop to identify. We were on a mission.

He showed me how the young caps with their veils intact look like toasted marshmallows. At first, I thought he was crazy, but then I could imagine the irregular brown markings as looking charred and the swollen mushroom could be a marshmallow bloated from an open fire.

The best thing about learning this art (mind you, I haven’t tasted them yet!) is the smell.  Johnny mentioned it right when we started out, but I was focusing on visual cues.

I could smell something familiar, but elusive. He said it was the mycelium underground, not the mushroom itself.  Then, after finding several and subconsciously taking in the fragrance, I could recognize it.  He described the smell, “like cinnamon and old socks”. Bingo! To me it has the scent notes of drying valerian, (the botanical source of Valium), the cinnamon too subtle for me.

Recognizing scents is like hearing a bird-call and someone identifying the bird. If you are not primarily an auditory learner, it doesn’t lodge in the memory. When the guide translates the call and says listen for the “lee-lee-oh” all of a sudden we have something to remember.

Why this blog?

I hope to be a voice for the emerging agrarian culture and to inspire others to discover it where they live.  To live this is to embrace a sense of place and eco-literacy, is to live in rhythm and harmony with the seasons.  This way of life gives us the potential for a sustainable future.

I believe that the more intimate we are with the food we eat; by giving thanks to all the beings who participated in the food on our plates, by coming together with loved ones to celebrate and consume what we have grown or gathered, the more content we become.

The most basic way to become intimate with our food is to raise it ourselves, be it in our home garden, or our terraces in the city, or working on nearby market gardens. As we become more confident in growing and preserving our produce, many of us explore more of the foods we regularly eat and in that way we develop a sense of edible literacy.