Monday, October 3, 2016

A First Time for Everything

This is not a Hostess Snowball; it's a mushroom, a Bearded Tooth (Hericium erinaceus) and for a couple of years I've been reading that Bearded Tooth tastes real good, ranking up there with morels and chanterelles as "choice" eating. Found it in my woods on a fallen log along with several others, but took only this one and a smaller one about an inch and a half in diameter. I'd read that they tasted good only when extremely fresh, and turn sour as they age.

So in the kitchen I brushed off the bits of dirt and took a knife to it. The "teeth" are very soft, softer than coconut, and the inner part about as firm as a button mushroom's interior, except it's branched, like the interior of a cauliflower. It smelled good, like mushrooms. Not knowing what else to do--I'd never eaten one or been served one--I sliced it into little steaks.
Bearded Tooth in the pan.

Next I threw butter in a pan and let it sizzle, laid the mushroom slices in, and cooked them through. Never, never eat raw mushrooms, especially wild mushrooms. Many contain toxins that evaporate when they are thoroughly cooked. Sauteed in butter is my favorite. Added a little salt. The Bearded Tooth slices gave off a lot of water before they browned.

Next, the test phase. Before eating any wild mushroom or serving any I always taste a tiny, tiny bit. I'm not allergic to any mushrooms I know of, but a taste is enough to cause a reaction if one's going to happen. My guests do the same test. I swallowed and then waited a few minutes. When I did not choke, vomit,  or die, I ate some more.

Bearded Tooth is the most delicious mushroom I have ever eaten. It's sweet, in the way lobster meat is sweet. I'd rather eat Bearded Tooth than morels or even the chanterelles I like better than morels. I'd rather eat Bearded Tooth than Chicken of the Woods, or Hen of the Woods, or oyster mushrooms. I love first-time experiences!

Or I love most of them. On my way out of the woods with my basket of shrooms a buzzing wasp somehow got caught in the shiny hoop earring I was wearing in my left ear. It struggled and couldn't find its way out. I swatted at it and then pulled the earring out. By then it had stung my earlobe. It swelled and hurt like an s.o.b. and I prepared to transmit my GPS position and die like people on Mt. Everest do. When it didn't happen I kept mushroom hunting, forced by the swelling to remove a stud earring (I wear four in each ear). It hurt for two hours. Now I'm fine. If you love the woods, got to take the rough stuff with the good.

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