Yesterday I was out and about town running errands. As we were driving the short stretch of highway from one end of town to the other, I naturally scanned the scenery. Lawns, trees, forest floor. It's second nature for me now. And I always travel prepared to harvest something. As we slowed for our exit, I saw the shaggy manes from the corner of my eye. At the top of a rock wall, on the lawn of a local hotel. Instantly I turned into the parking lot and gathered the best of them.
As I sorted through them at home and cleaned off the superficial debris, I was reminded of the first time I had ever gathered these delectable shrooms. In my novice, I had gathered ALL the mushrooms. Inky and all! I was regretfully unaware of the common knowledge to pick only the freshest and whitest shaggies. In my fury to stock up on them, I unwittingly had placed in my basket specimens that turned to ink instantly..thus making for a horrible MESS. My baskets are still stained, the black ink forever will remind me. As I look back at the "flops" of the harvest, I recount how much I have learned this mushroom season. I had started foraging mushrooms with much uncertainty, roaming the woods searching, with no clue that those fungi that I found and left in the forest could have been such a treat in the kitchen. But for fear, I had left them. The more I learn about mushrooms, keys, genera, identification jargon, spores, distribution, key traits, the vocabulary to define those traits, and Latin words, the more secure I am in eating, and sharing, and conquering new and foreign places. I believe I have overcome the mountain of amateur uncertainties, and now in the abundant valleys of experience..full of edible and medicinal fungi! It feels good.