Sunday, July 19, 2009


Morel hunting in the spring is an long-lived Ozark tradition, one that continues to send Missourians into their special patch of woods where they've found morels every April before. But late summer mushroom hunting can rustle up another Ozark chert woodland delicacy, a mushroom I've paid mightily for when I lived in Brooklyn. It's chanterelle season these days, the same time of year that Liatris begins to bloom on the glades and the Schranckia holds on to its latest hot pink flowers in the woodlands.

Just as morels have a "false morel" relative, a mushroom similar in appearance and taste, chanterelles have the same, a similarly tasting version of itself, though a different species altogether. (Quick note: I don't encourage anyone who isn't absolutely positive in their identification skills to eat wild mushrooms....) Chanterelles look like a rather toxic mushroom also found in the woodlands in the late summer days, commonly called a jack-o-lantern mushroom, eating these would cause negative effects on your internal organs.

But I trust Travis. A passionate, avid outdoorsman who feels itchy when he's indoors, Travis spent part of last week gathering chanterelles for chili, for a mushroom tart his darling wife, Mindy, makes, for a whole storehouse of good recipes that also include other awesome produce he's grown. He may even freeze some of his cache this year, an easy task along the lines of freezing morels. But like strapping leaves of fresh basil, fresh chanterelles can't be beat.

And so, along with the peaches, the cucumbers, the zucchini, the yellow squash, the green beans, the tomatoes, homemade salsas, and other sundry items, Travis sent me back to Columbia last night with an entire grocery bag full of chanterelles he picked from his woods. They're too nice to eat. Chanterelles are like the silver set or the Waterford clock you keep in the box so the dog doesn't knock it off the table with his wagging tail. Chanterelles are so nice I'm eating them this week by themselves with nothing on them but garlic, Grenache and olive oil, all very simply, to really appreciate the special fruit of a good chert woodland.

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