Saturday, October 30, 2010

Oyster mushrooms in the hood

We needed to think about some things, so we went for a walk.

At Blue Apron in Park Slope, where we bought some ham and baguette (and perhaps some salami and some cheese) for an outing to the Bronx tomorrow,  I begged for a couple of extra bags because I had forgotten to bring any for the mushrooms I hoped we might find.We were given white paper bags. Plastic is not good for mushrooms, said the nice guy behind the till. Be careful! said a customer. And off we went.

About thirty-five minutes later, having scanned all the trees and logs we passed, and not feeling very hopeful, I froze. Mushroomsssss, I hissed, pointing and trembling like a bird dog. We waited for one of the solitary men that seems to haunt this part of the woods to pass. And in we went. Nearby a mother and two small children were busy on the path. We figured they would not turn us in.

What gorgeous mushrooms.

We picked about a third of what we found - the mushrooms were thick on two sides of a fallen tree, with some young ones and then very mature ones on opposite ends. Already far more than we needed for one meal, and my mom always taught me to leave some behind. Some for other hunters, some to drop spores and continue the cycle.

When we left, we walked past the young mother and her children. They were picking up trash and bagging it, and leaving it for Parks workers to fetch. There was a lot of litter - bottles, cans, thrown in here and there.

On the way home I stopped in at Blue Apron again to thank them for the bags and offer some mushrooms in exchange. While very interested in the oyster mushrooms, no one took me up on my offer (not that I blame them...beware a woman bearing mushrooms), but the girl now behind the cash register said she'd recently found chicken of the woods nearby.

Just under four pounds, all told. I washed them and a beetle floated up. They did absorb water like a sponge, though, into their caps, and I could literally press down on the caps with kitchen paper and bring it up sopping wet afterwards. I kept one bag unwashed, and it's outside on the terrace, secure from marauding squirrels.
I sliced and sauteed our supper mushrooms in sweet butter with a small clove of garlic and some lemon juice, then a splash of cream, parmesan, pepper, pappardelle.


  1. Who says you're not an early riser? 7:00am on a Saturday seems early enough to me.

    Beautiful shrooms and dinner.

    Now tell me these were indeed oyster mushrooms and this story has a delicious and happy ending?

    xo Jane

  2. So. How. Did. They. Taste?

    You know, I never did think of seeking shroom in the parks. Now you've done it!

    Isn't it the most amazing thing, on the hunt. The unsatisfied feeling of nothing, and then -wallop! There!

  3. In addition to Fort Greene (where I don't expect to find muchrooms) we live in western NJ near Lambertville/New Hope, with lots of woods all around us. I love mushrooms, but don't want to die for them. How did you learn what to trust?

  4. It looks yummy, but how did you learn the safe ones? I might have picked the first photo, but would definitely have passed on the second...

  5. jane - the beauty of scheduled posts :-) zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

    frank - you tell me! Good. Mild, but good. I reduced the juice that came out of them, which was very yummy.

    James and webb - I can ID oysters, but that is because they are easy to distinguish: their habit, on logs or trees, kind of stacked over each other. The gills run down the stems. The colour, the texture. There are NO poisonous lookalikes. That is the most important thing, making these good for beginners. The first time I saw them I was with a forager who ID'd them, the second time with Ellen Zachos who is also very experienced with them. And this was my first time solo :-)

    There are some other easy ones for me, like shaggy manes or immature stink horns, but for mushrooms I do not recognize, I take picture, and ask experts. There are also some great books, but never rely only on a book for ID.

    If you are very interested, try and find a local mushroom or foraging club or expert, and go with them. In the NYC area, Steve Brill leads tours.

    Maybe we could arrange an informal tour?

  6. Marie - I have followed your blog since hearing your "Rooftop Gardens" talk for our garden club. The reason for this comment isn't re mushrooms but to tell you that I visited your mom's EXQUISITE garden - no wonder you love plants and all the pleasure that comes from gardening. If I'd had the energy after visiting all the Open Gardens (and being stung by a bee in one!), I would have gone back for seconds. I overheard others - often - asking fellow Open Garden visitors whether they'd been to the fantastic one in Sun Valley Rd!

    Another thing - I bought a strange looking succulenty-thing at the plant sale. Lynne McCallum, who knows ALL there is about gardening, said she'd Googled the given name, wihtout joy. So I entered the given common name, "Boerwors plant" - and guess what....!!! It sent me to your story on boerewors!!!!!!!

    Thanks for sharing the love of gardening.

  7. How cool is this? Fungi foray in the city!

    What is it with automatic dispensation of plastic bags with mushrooms? Makes my blood boil - Supermarkets that is. There's a good one near here called the Grand Frais. I was there yesterday and they had for sale; mousserons, trompette de la mort, chanterelles and pied de mouton, yet supplied only (((plastic bags))) the surest way to bring out the 'mush' out of mushrooms - I just don't get it.

    Anyway, enough of the rant, here's the spooky bit. I just made pasta with mushrooms to almost the same recipe as yours, except I used penne.

    Continued good luck on your hunts in the city, cool!

  8. This is so beautiful but wild mushrooms scare me! A dear friend of my family, a mushroom savvy guy, REALLY almost died from wild mushrooms.
    Pleas be careful because you are so wonderful (and I suppose even if you weren't wonderful it would be a big pity!)

  9. I don't have AmEx, but I "never leave home without paper bags."
    No bags? Fold a poke from a sheet of newspaper.Use a kerchief, a hat...just get those babies home for dinner!

  10. You must think me terrible because I didn't leave any behind! But I know from experience that log will produce more, perhaps even by next weekend. Congratulations on your find!

  11. Hi Kathy - yes, that's my mom's garden :-) So glad you were able to go. I'm sure she would be happy for you to come back any time. And VERY funny about the boerewors plant. Yep, that's my blog. Meat and flowers.

    Rob - it's good to hear a man with opinions about mushroom storage :-)

    Hi Anne, no they should scare you. They scare me, too, which is why I'm not laissez faire about them. Oysters are not mix-upable.I'd like to know what your mushroom-savvy guy ate. He sounds like a bold mushroom hunter. There are old mushroom hunters, there are bold mushrooms hunters, but there are no old, bold mushroom hunters? Total cliche but worth remembering.

    MIT, I used to stuff pine rings (saffron milk caps) down my shirt if I came upon them while riding the chestnut horse called Cromwell.

    Ellen, no...I know you're not terrible :-) For me it's just a nod to karma, or something...


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