A couple of weekends ago I was lucky enough to be invited to a guided mushroom picking adventure that ended in an outdoor gourmet feast. My boyfriend is a member of The Foragers Galley which is a group of guys that try to survive off of foraging during sailing adventures; the crew is made up of a chef, a few cooks and some local food enthusiasts. This winter, the Galley boys and a local caterer named chef Castro Boateng teamed together to create a unique mushroom foraging experience. A group of 20 of us headed out into the backwoods of Sooke in search of some tasty fungi. Our guides said the mushrooms weren’t really popping yet, but we managed to find enough chanterelles to fill up several baskets. We were advised to look around before we bent down in a patch of mushrooms because if you don’t pay attention, the trees begin to look the same. We were also informed to stay together with a partner so that you have a better chance of keeping your bearings. Of course, I didn’t follow either of these pieces of advice. I got wrapped up in the mystical paths, wandered too far from the group and became utterly lost. Before I started to yell for help, I gave myself a moment to experience the feeling. The only word to describe the mist floating over the moss and array of fungal species is otherworldly; I felt like I was in an ancient fairytale. I’m not sure if the sound of silence or if the smell of the dew is is more calming, but those woods were sure good for the soul. I finally stumbled upon the stream that led to the road and headed back to the group.
We encountered two main types of chanterelles; one looked golden yellow and the other looked an interesting shade of soggy brown. Both were equally as delicious.
There are several mushrooms that are considered look alikes. The main one that we ran into is called the Jack O’Lantern, Omphalotus illudens, that has thinner, more crowded gills than the blunt forked ridges of the chanterelle. This species is poisonous and will make you ill, but will not kill you. Always check with you mushroom field guide, but when in doubt, throw it out.
After a few hours of picking, we headed down to the beach where we sorted the mushrooms and warmed up with some tea while the guide crew prepared the prettiest meal I have ever ingested. We started off with a cream of cauliflower, celeriac and sauteed mushroom soup with a fresh thyme garnish. The soup came with a chanterelle duxelle crostini that was topped with a delectable mushroom consumme infused whip. For course two, we were served wild mushroom mashed potatoes, seared porcinis and braised beef short ribs topped with truffle shavings. I am drooling at the memory of this meal. For desert, Castro brought homemade shortbread cookies.
At the end, we all went home with chanterelle goodie bags. Everyone learned how to clean and sort the mushrooms so that they could do it by themselves next time.
If you are interested in spending your Sunday mushroom foraging with some knowledgeable folks and ending the day with a gourmet meal for cheap, contact The Foragers Galley boys or Castro Boateng through the links below. Treat yourself to a special outing and support some local entrepreneurs.
There was another woman named Morgan Sterns doing a write up for Eat magazine about the rainy sunday afternoon. I got the pictures at the top of this post from her piece. Check out her beautifully written version of the day here: http://www.eatmagazine.ca/from-mushrooms-to-meals/
P.S. Click on any of the images to be directed to their source.