Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Equivalent of a Twelve-Point Buck

Lost on a hundred acres plus the adjacent Missouri Conservation acreage, beating through downed trees with all my apps' arrows pointing different directions, and bruised and scratched and breathless with no water, I hit my shins on a branch and fell. There's nothing like whirling through the air thinking "!" and landing on one or another body part.

I have two kinds of falls. One is divinity forcing me to see a natural wonder. I found my first morel mushroom after a fall, and blewits (white mushrooms with ice-blue interiors), and tiny amphibians, and foxholes, and rare plants. The other, less common fall, the "stupid fall," teaches me only that I should have watched my step.

Wear your orange in autumn!
Got up all sweaty, thirsty, and breathless and beheld at the foot of a tree the 12-point buck of mushrooms: the unmistakable Hen of the Woods (Grifola frondosa), a choice edible, a big one. Took a moment to register.

After no rain for six days, "It's probably all dried out and no good," I thought, and pinched one of its featherlike fronds. It was perfectly fresh.

I released the fungus from the ground. No way I was I leaving it! Solid almost all the way through like a cauliflower, it weighed between 15 and 20 pounds. Determined, lugging it along, I escaped the snaggy part of the woods, went down and up ravines so steep they're scary just to look at, and bumbled on home, stopping to rest, gasping and with a backache and a cherry-red face and fearing a heart attack. But some things are worth it.

Although "Hens" can weigh up to 100 pounds, a 20-pounder is a great find by any standard.All evening I roasted the fronds to a lovely brown crispness, and chopped and sauteed the solid white meat and otherwise preserved as much of the find as was reasonable. No way was I not going to show and tell!

1 comment:

Pablo said...

Nice find and nice effort to bring it home. I would NEVER trust my identification skills with wild mushrooms.