A fungus among us | Rock Candy

A fungus among us

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Tim Jones, a mushroom fan, sends along the photo of what he says is a delectable wild mushroom. Before I get to his post, let me just remind readers that a very famous Little Rock chef, Andre Simon, who was an experienced mushroom gatherer, nearly died from ingesting a mushroom he harvested that he mistook for a safe variety. He later was shot to death in a robbery. With those warnings issued, Tim's report:

I like mushrooms. I mean, I really like mushrooms. I guess I’m a bit of a mushroom snob, though - if I didn’t grow it or pick it, I’m not apt to get excited about it. The Fresh Market has some nice exotic varieties from time to time, so there are options we lacked a short time ago, like fresh lobster mushrooms, chanterelles, or even truffles. To my taste, button mushrooms are to fungi as Wonder Bread is to the best that Boulevard Bread has to offer.

The accompanying photo probably isn’t what the average Eat Arkansas reader may expect for a gourmet mushroom. That is a Hericium, aka Lion’s Mane or Bear Paw mushroom, an odd looking but delicious tooth fungus that pops up on damaged hardwood trees. It looks like a hairy snowball. Sliced thinly and sautéed, it has a firm, meaty texture and a unique but mild flavor.

That’s the thing about wild edible mushrooms- they aren’t just dodgy and potentially toxic ways to get the same flavor of a store-bought mushroom, they’re truly unique. Morels or chanterelles are both heavenly, and there’s nothing on earth that tastes remotely like either. Moreover, neither can be cultivated, at least not in any commercially feasible way. You’ve got to learn and to hike and to search, but the payoff is amazing. Want to learn more?

The annual Fungus Fair, sponsored by the Arkansas Mycological Society, will be held Saturday, Nov. 3 at the Pinnacle Mountain State Park Visitors Center.

Events include:

Foray in Arboretum 10 AM – 12:30 PM

Lunch 12:30 PM – 1:30 PM (wild mushroom soup will be provided but participants should bring some snack food or a sandwich)

Slide Presentation 1:30 PM – 2:30 PM “Edible and Poisonous Mushrooms of Arkansas”

Lecture on growing mushrooms as a hobby, 2:45 PM - 3:30 PM

Mycophagy session (cooking and tasting wild mushrooms) 3:45 PM – 4:30 PM

Admission: AMS members may attend free but non-members (over the age of 18) are asked to pay $10 for the day’s events.

So how about it- who’s got some good mushroom stories, recipes, local haunts with delights from the forest? (No hallucination stories from college, thank you.)

 

 

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