Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Fungi perfecti

Theoretically, Leda was helping me pull weeds and clean winter debris from the garden out front. I was on a mission. Leda, on the other hand, was open to anything. Thus, it was she who espied the mushrooms hidden in plain sight among last autumn’s fallen leaves.
Sometimes in Sleeping Beauty they eat mushrooms, she said.
I don’t know that version, I said.
Nana, we can make mushroom pie now, she said.
Great idea, Leda.
I will make the pie and you can help. I am going to let you have all you want. And Chucker can have all he wants, she said generously.
What about your Mom & Dad? I asked.
I don't know if they will like it, She said.
More to the point, do you like mushroom pie? I said.
I probably won’t really eat it, she admitted.
We proudly took our basket of mushrooms inside. I climbed up the step-ladder to fetch the Mushroom Handbook and found, in the section on “Morels, Stinkhorns and Other Club-Shaped Mushrooms”: Yellow Morel, Morchella esculanta; Blond to yellow-brown, honey-combed cap on whitish stalk; Edibility: Choice. I was delighted. Leda and I once again congratulated ourselves on our brilliant find, right in front of our noses. But just to be on the safe side, I emailed a picture (see below) to our friend Tom, an amateur mycologist who graciously continues to identify whatever fungi I bring home from our rambles, and thus far he has not lost patience. He wrote back that to say they were probably the Half-free Morel, Morchella semilibera. (Yellow-brown, skirtlike, honeycombed cap on whitish stalk; Edibility: Good.)Or more likely the wrinkled Thimble-cap, Verpa Bohemica; Yellow-brown, wrinkled, thimblelike cap on whitish stalk; Edibility: Edible with caution.
Caution is not a word I like attached to food I intend to feed to my family.
Early the next morning, I found a package on our front porch. Inside were beautiful Black morels, Morchella elata, the real thing. I will cook them this evening with freshly-laid eggs, and throw caution to the winds.

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