This weeks post is going to be an autumn special due to the embarrassment of riches that myself and a couple of friends managed to forage up this weekend. As a result I will divide the post into two or more distinct parts. Onwards to the elongated narrative sequence, bear with me.
I can remember this time last year sitting in my cold basement suite, flicking through facebook photo albums and friends blogs, the rain and winds lashing at the thinly glassed windows, a feeling of amazement and rising jealousy as a couple of local acquaintances posted reports and images of some of the best hand foraged mushrooms this region has to offer. Accompanying the images of their foraging efforts were also images of their subsequent culinary creations for all to see and few to try.
I am pleased to say that it’s now my turn! This weekend I was lucky enough to be guided by some new friends to their secret Chanterelle stomping grounds (this secret will remain as such, I have been informed that better men have died as a result of loose tongues)!
The blind fold and zip ties were left in the back of the car, after trust was assured, and we set off north from Victoria (that’s as much as I am revealing). The sun was shining and my day had been thus far wasted, so I was very happy to be getting out into the countryside and eager to be shown how to spot these amazing little delicacies.
Once we had decamped from the car and found no sign of the Chanterelles by the fairly well worn trail I was directed to try further into the slightly less welcoming undergrowth. At the beginning of the trip one of the local guides, Jasmine, had asked me if I wanted to change out of the shorts I was wearing into something that might protect my pasty English legs a little more. I had declined, and while I don’t think I would have wanted to be wearing jeans while tromping the humid forest floor, my legs did suffer slightly from the knotty, spiny tendrils of one plant and the spiked edges of the Oregon Grape (is this right Jasmine? You did tell me but I may have got the name wrong!).
We searched for the illusive fungi for a short period with no success, the usual Chanterelle locations had delivered no bounty. We saw many white, wet leaves masquerading as the edges of some huge colony of our quarry, but with further inspection revealing themselves to be nothing more than the first fallen few of the autumn season.
Jasmine’s partner, Mark, strode onwards, throwing back valuable advice and guidance that I was trying to utilize in my own search. We soon dispersed further from each other until we all occupied our own little corner of the forest. Ever searching through the undergrowth, silently, meditatively (thanks for that one Aaron) picking our way through the thick stands of old(ish) growth.
I found many different varieties of the fungi brethren, as can be seen from the images above. None however really offered any guide as to where their tastier, probably safer cousins could be found.
Aaron, the fourth forager of the group found the first individual specimen while a good distance from myself, Mark and Jasmine, but unfortunately the area appeared to hold no more for the picking.
We walked further and further into the forest, any sense of the direction we had come from becoming slightly less clear in my mind. I started to think that it might be me, had I jinxed the trip as I had possibly jinxed all those fly fishing trips with my father? Just as my doubts began to rise I was presented with a decision: Take the higher clearer ground, or venture lower into the heavy undergrowth. I turned to the low ground and began to tromp my way through to a slight depression in the landscape, no bigger than eight feet round.
I had been told to look out for the edges of the Chanterelle caps, poking out from under fallen trees or heavy foliage, heavily mossy areas had also been mentioned as a common place for them to thrive. The area looked promising, despite the heavy undergrowth that surrounded it. Sure enough what at first looked to be just one of those pesky white leaves turned out to be the edge of quite a large Chanterelle. With a little digging and careful observation the area began to turn up many more examples of this beautiful and tasty fungi. As Mark had mentioned at the beginning of the trip; where there is one, there is often many.
We had found what we soon began to call the motherload. The moss, which was thick in this area, was at times almost completely covering the mushroom cap, allowing only the slightest peak of white from under the greenery. With a little foraging (that’s what we were there for!) we began to pull out huge, fist sized Chanterelles. The stuff of legend! The bounty I had been promised from the outset!
Like all good melodramas and the odd day time soap opera it feels right to insert a pause at this point, to leave you waiting for more. You have been satisfied and well fed with description and images and I shall keep the end of our trip and the subsequent recipes for tomorrow (and maybe even the next day. This may take up multiple posts!).
Thank you for reading and looking. I hope you have enjoyed this prose based interlude and you are keen to waste some more of your working day tomorrow reading about the five or more recipes I was able to create from my share of the bounty.
The Epicurean Candidate