There’s a Fungus Among Us

Meet Brian Jessurun, one of the owners of Dog Lane Café at 1 Dog Lane, Mansfield, CT . Located right next to UConn, it’s one of our favorite places to eat breakfast. Not only is the food excellent (that’s a shout out to Dana), but they try to buy locally, and they have gluten-free bread and rolls (Yay!). I sit in this cafe and write quite frequently. Bringing your kids to an eco-friendly restaurant is great, but telling them that you’re doing it – and pointing out what the place strives to do – is even better.We met Brian while he was searching for a bag for this huge fungus, a Maitaki mushroom, or Hen of the Woods, or Spanish Dancer. It’s a shelf mushroom that grows in layers at the base of trees. There’s a Fungus Among Us…
It is also known as a healing mushroom by the Japanese. When I looked it up online for the spelling, the first link listed was to the American Cancer Society. (They reported there is nothing definitive in terms of cancer, but there were some indications regarding different aspects of the immune system.)

This description provided by CARLA LALLI MUSIC was so creative, I had to include it:

 a magestic-looking thing, frilly and bulbous, like a cross between a brain and a tasseled skirt.

She provides great directions on grilling them. I love grilled food. I could watch someone grilling all day…

As long as they feed me.

Anyway, apparently Maitaki mushrooms are good eating…

…for those who like them.

Brian is bringing home this Hen in the Woods. There he will soak it in salt water to chase out any creepy crawlies calling it home, then lay it out to dry. Voila!      Food!

Don’t feel confident about picking your own mushrooms? Well, you absolutely should not if you are an amateur. There are poisonous varieties all over. In CT, there is one that is a pristine white that can do major harm to your liver, the Amanita virosa.

However, there are organizations that can help you identify and select wild mushrooms. Check out

 Valley The Connecticut Valley Mycological Society (CBMS) was founded in 1975. It’s a “Mushroom Club for those interested in mushrooms as food, a club for those interested in mushrooms and fungi for study, and a club for those who are interested in mushrooms as an art form.” At the meetings, foragers go on a field trip with collecting baskets. When they return, the contents of everyone’s basket are laid out on a table, sorted, and identified by the experts.

It’s a great learning experience, plus you get to hang out with Mother Nature for a while. And what a great way to lower your food bill.
That one mushroom Brian is holding could sell for $30. Not too shabby, eh?  I’m just saying…
For what types of foods do you forage? Include the general geographic area in your response, please.

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