When I was emerging from my illness and started to walk with my dad in the canyon behind our house, my dad whacked to smithereens a beautiful, layered patch of mushrooms growing at the base of a dead pine. I was so mad, I called him names. (He was contrite, but he said, he didn want Mom to slip on them.) At that moment, I decided I'd take up the mushroom identification and ordered my field guide that night. I also asked the mushroom to teach me something about life.
Aha! My friend Judie sites a shrump 1/3 images
You've heard the metaphor of life being a jigsaw puzzle. It's so apt, because given a single piece of knowledge, you can incrementally enlarge your vision of the world. So I asked the mushroom to be the starting piece.
Lesson 1 is a dark one, but dark is also useful: how wars begin
Men began to fight over territory when they hunted deer.
Women began to fight over territory when the foraged for mushrooms and plants
I was happy, dangling my mushroom basket, traipsing through the forest--la, la, la--glad to tell anyone I was hunting for mushrooms. Soon, from my friends' hissing, I learned that you don't want to be obvious about what you are doing. If you find porcinis, you never tell people about it, because the location is your treasured secret. (So, now I've become a skulker in the duff.) In Northern California, where the matsutake mushrooms grow, men have killed over mushroom territory. Matsutake mushrooms are favored by many, especially the Asians, and sell for $200 a piece in Japan.
Lesson 2: Okay, this is a dark one, too. Money managers, boyfriends can be as fatal as toxic mushrooms.
Beware that you don’t deceive yourself into believing that the toxic shroom you just picked is the choice, edible, digestible, delicious one you see in the lush pages of the National Geographic. Don’t just rationalize that they look like the picture you want them to be, and then eat them!
Lesson 3: Hunting and identifying mushrooms will expand your powers of observation.
When you look for mushrooms, your eyes must be keen to the formation of shrumps, the emergence of the fungi under the duff. You must be aware of the vegetation, trees or shrubs associated with certain fungi.
Identifying the mushroom is even more complex. Are the gills adenate, adnexed, decurrent, sinuous? Do you see the universal veil on the cap? You better know these things, because you don't want to eat a destroying angel or death cap, the Amanita phalloides.
Lesson 4: Nothing on earth can live in absolute solitude.
Mushrooms are need by trees to breakdown the minerals at the roots for absorption; mushrooms need trees for the sugars they produce.
When our Monterey Pines were imported by the Australians for lumber, the trees all died. Then the Aussies realized that the soil, along with all the microbes and the fungi, were absolutely necessary for the trees to flourish. They imported Monterey soil and, indeed, the trees did thrive.
Lesson 5: Decay is life.
Have you ever scooped up a handful of duff (humus) and peeked at the dark, rich, moist decay? Smell it. It is the fragrance of life itself. See the worms and ants, and there are even smaller things we cannot see with the naked eye at work, chewing down the dead and decaying to make new beginnings possible.
Lesson 6: The best lesson of all.
My friend June put it perfectly. I asked her if she has ever made compost of delicious porcinis so that she could cultivate them in her own yard. She replied: "No, never. Mushrooms are a gift [of the gods]." It was an aha! moment, because so many delightful gifts come to us, not from our machinations but born of the right place, right moment, and perhaps, right people.
And it is a porcini! Adrenaline still pumping 2/3 photos
It is a beauty. Can you smell dinner?
Note1: The first sensation you take of a porcini is an explosion of your taste buds, all of them crying out, YOWZA. It is the natural MSG you are tasting. My friend, Judie Marks provided me with the following figures:
MSG levels (mg/100g): cow's milk, 2; human milk, 22; eggs, 23; beef, 33; fish (mackerel) 36; chicken, 44; potatoes, 102; corn, 130; oysters, 137; tomatoes, 140; broccoli, 176; mushrooms, 180; peas, 200; grape juice, 258; fresh tomato juice, 260; walnuts, 658; soy sauce, 1090; Parmesan cheese, 1200; Roquefort cheese, 1280.
While the freaking out over MSG may have been a bit of a fad for many, I suspect some people really are allergic -- they may be the same people who get a migraine from certain cheeses? Natural MSG or man-made, it's all chemically the same.
Note 2: Redroom author, Patry Francis, who was battling cancer when Redroom first emerged online is alive and thriving on sardines! She has written a piece on this very creature. She says she has her fish and I my mushroom. Touche
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