Mushroom hunting in the Maine woods

Maine Foraging -Our annual trip to the motherland always yields some epic culinary finds! 

Dormant half of the year,  when the Maine forest comes back to life, all living things have twice the zeal to compensate for the dormancy.  Life bursts forth out of the forest floor, especially after a good dose of moisture.  Our annual trip to the motherland always yields some epic foraging adventures.

My parents introduced us to forest foraging at a young age.  Amateur mycologists,  they loved to take us out on epic hikes, baskets and field knives in hand, our eyes were trained to identify edible growth in the forest floor, and to remember where the spores yielded choice pickings the following year.   

Although drudgery for a young child, as an adult, I now realize what a gift my parents gave us in our little forays into the deep Maine woods.

  Here are some of our finds and a brief little snapshot of each of our forest finds;

Chanterelles-  the choicest mushroom- apricot scented and mango in color, these gorgeous culinary treats are as good as gold and make beautiful delicate sauces, sauté up perfectly to be served as an accompaniment to a cut of meat, or added to a frittata or omelette.    Truly culinary bling- and sell at select grocers for as much as 40.00/ pound.

Oyster Mushrooms –  Although many evil doppelgängers exist for this,  when you find the right one and can VERY positively identify it,  you have a lovely meal awaiting you.  Best sliced in half, lengthwise and marinated with little tamari/ garlic/ fresh pepper and fresh herbs,  these are grillable, delectable delights.  Abundant and farmed on Big Island of Hawaii at the Hamakua Mushroom farm,  King Oyster mushrooms, or Ali’i ( Hawaiian for Prince)  mushrooms frequent my grilled vegetable medley. 

Morels-  The elusive Morel is friend to the fire scorched land.  Wherever there was a forest fire, soft pine needles and shade,  check for morels!  Perhaps the most choice mushroom in all the fungi phylum,  if you are lucky enough to find morels, always go back to the same spot to see if they make an encore. 

Porcini or King Bolete-  This is a very dense, very flavorful mushroom and in fact, the favorite snack of slugs so these are most often pitted with bites from visitors.  Popping up out of the earth like little red orbs,  the stem is as thick as the cap the entire mushroom is edible.  When harvesting,  always cut perfectly horizontally to leave the mycelium intact to ensure a return crop .  ( Mycelium is the web like network of essentially mushroom DNA – when you pick at mushroom with its whole stem, you can see the strands –  leave these in the ground to ensure later propagation.) 

Field mushroom –  Pink gilled beauties,  these guy are the cultivated version of what you buy in the supermarket as “button” mushrooms.   They are choice mushrooms but not too exciting because you can find them at your grocery store without the risk of poisoning yourself from misidentification!