I was walking my dog (and shivering because it was wicked windy and cold ) at the Charlestown Breachway this afternoon and ran into this interesting couple, who gave me a copy of their intriguing 2019 calendar/book, “Gourmet Mushrooms of the Northeast.” They were in search of snowy owls, so we chatted a bit about birds and then they produced the 48-page calendar from their car and handed it to me through the open window. Serendipity at its most serendipitous.
“They” turned out to be Ryan Bouchard and Emily Schmidt, founders of the Mushroom Hunting Foundation, an organization devoted to the study and safe consumption of wild mushrooms. The couple also conducts workshops and seminars on finding and identifying wild mushrooms. I wish I had thought to ask them how they fell so deeply into this passion, but my fingers were too cold to hold a pen.
In addition to detailed color photos of mushrooms, there’s a wealth of information, including an interesting piece on the history of wild mushroom-hunting in Rhode Island. Here’s a cool page showing everything you need for a hunting expedition.
Each month features gorgeous photos of a particular species, a calendar and a detailed description of the mushroom. Here is October’s mushroom of the month: Hen of the woods.
The authors do not encourage people to just head into the woods, find mushrooms and eat them. There is a clear warning about consuming species you are not familiar with and even possible allergies to mushrooms which are normally considered safe to eat.
Here’s the May mushroom, a lovely species called “Pheasant Polypore.” Even if you never harvest a single one of the mushrooms in this calendar/book, it’s still a lovely thing to hang on a wall.
More information on the calendar and the foundation is available here:
Editor’s note: The mushroom hunters responded to my musing about how they became so passionate about wild mushrooms. Here’s the comment:
“It was a pleasure meeting you and thank you for featuring us in your blog!,” Emily Schmidt wrote. ” To answer your question, we fell so deeply into this passion because after sampling the flavor of our first wild mushroom, we were utterly hooked. The flavor of the wild varieties are so much different (and in my opinion much better and more complex) than store bought varieties. We knew we had to learn how to collect more of them.”
What fun you found on your walk! Do you harvest your own mushrooms?
I only really know a couple that are safe, and I am afraid to try anything new – which is probably why I have lived to be this old! My mother-in-law is from “the old country” and whenever she visits our house, she forages like crazy. She’s been doing it since she was little, as so many people do over there.
That’s very cool. Do you eat what she picks?
I haven’t yet. She always stuffs them into a bag and brings them home. When I lived in Quebec, I did pick and enjoy puffballs when they were young and white and solid all the way through. They were delicious sliced, sauteed and added to pasta.
It was a pleasure meeting you and thank you for featuring us in your blog! To answer your question, we fell so deeply into this passion because after sampling the flavor of our first wild mushroom, we were utterly hooked. The flavor of the wild varieties are so much different (and in my opinion much better and more complex) than store bought varieties. We knew we had to learn how to collect more of them.
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Thanks Emily. And thanks also for your answer to my question about how you got so deeply into mushrooms. I have left a message on your website about maybe writing a story about you guys and wild mushrooms in general. Hope we can do that when the season begins!
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Mushrooms are so beautiful – and dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing! What a delightful encounter!