When the rain begins, our “backyard” forest blooms. Throughout the winter we see Oyster Mushrooms, Chanterelles, Hedgehogs, Lion’s Mane, Boars Head, Matsutake, Porcini and a million more we don’t know the names to. We don our camel packs, knives and bags and go out hunting. There’s a maniacal glee in the expressions of all the hunters in our fungi bible, All the Rain Promises and More, and it bursts from even the most sedate hiker we bring along with us. Today we were already fat on the first load of oysters I found on a tree the day before and turned into delicious gratin (http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Potato-Leek-Gruyere-and-Oyster-Mushroom-Gratin-15641) which we will probably be having for Thanksgiving. The rest I sautéed in butter and froze.
The hike is a bit rugged, the paths are abandoned, overgrown fire trails from the logging days. I have patches of poison oak on me already from the eager green leaves that embody “ubiquitous”. But the joy on sighting that angelic glimmer of white, a glowing cathedral in a misty forest, overpowers the itching (and fear of it). The oyster mushrooms form magnificent bouquets along dead and fallen trees. I murmur, “Beautiful”, “Amazing”, as I cut them down and hand them to Joey for cleaning. There’s a similar sense of awe and living community to that of the bees. We clean the log so that the next bloom will have room to thrive and won’t suffer from rotting mushrooms. Over the years, we have feasted off particular logs repeatedly, up to three times a season from the same one.
The first log we found this morning just recently fell to the ground. But the second one was still wedged against the dead stump and another tree 50 feet up in the air. I gingerly harvested from this beauty, careful not to stand below it. Then Joey mounted it to capture the luscious ones just out of reach.