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UNDER A MUSHROOM CLOUD (Cooking With Wild Mushrooms)

Many Americans are as scared of wild mushrooms as they would be if they saw a mushroom cloud looming in the sky, an attitude people in mushroom-loving countries cannot understand. The fungus kingdom is as vast as the plant kingdom, with a huge variety of flavors and textures. If you’ve identified your wild species with certainty, collected with an expert, grown "wild" species from a kit, or depleted your life savings buying wild mushrooms in a gourmet store, you’re in for an unbelievable treat.

Because wild mushrooms are so variable, you must prepare them according to their individual properties. You cannot sauté all species in olive oil with onions and garlic, as you would commercial mushrooms, and expect exceptional results. Although some species are great sautéed, others require moist cooking, and shine only in soups, stews, sauces, or cooked with grains. Even species with caps you can sauté to advantage may have tougher stems that also require moist heat cooking to tenderize them.

Mushroom Homepage, Mushroom Essentials, Mushroom Recipes, Home, Back to the Top The seasonings and cooking methods that work with some mushrooms flop with others. The French prize some mushroom species that the Chinese disdain, and vice versa. The former shine sautéed in olive oil with onions and garlic, the latter taste best stir-fried or simmered in soups and seasoned with soy sauce, ginger, dark sesame oil, or other Chinese flavorings. Applying the wrong cooking traditions to such mushrooms won’t kill you, but it may taste so bad, you’ll wish you were dead. So learn which cuisine's use and don’t use the species you’re going to prepare, and apply procedures akin to the ones that have been developed over the centuries.

Marination followed by baking, broiling, or grilling is another method of tenderizing and flavoring wild mushrooms. Some nonpoisonous wild mushrooms are too woody and bitter to eat no matter how you prepare them unless you’re a termite. But other "unworthy" species such as very young Berkeley's polypore and very young dryad's saddle mushrooms (or choice species such as chicken mushrooms, past their prime but not yet maggot-ridden or rotten) become transformed into choice delicacies after such preparation. Better yet, their meaty texture, along with marinade flavorings associated with meat, create meat substitutes better than any you can buy. Refer to the information accompanying descriptions of individual mushrooms’ culinary characteristics to bring out the best of the mushroom species you’ve collected.

Here are some of my best mushroom recipes, mostly from The Wild Vegetarian Cookbook.