Foraging for mushrooms is something the Accidental Locavore has wanted to do for years. Ever since a friend of mine gifted me with a big bag of chanterelles he found behind our golf course, I've wanted to go in search of mushrooms. However, unlike some kitchen experiments, that might make you sick if screwed up, gathering the wrong mushrooms can kill you -- definitely a deterrent! So I was happy to discover (and join) the Mid-Hudson Mycological Association.
They were promising a morel walk for the past couple of weekends, but the morels weren't cooperating until last Saturday. The walks are all kept very hush-hush so interlopers won't go out and pick all the mushrooms. Then, late Friday night, an email giving the time and secret meeting place went out to the members. About fifteen foragers met in a parking lot and once we were briefed, we took off for the woods. Because it had rained (a lot) the night before, our first challenge was fording a couple of small streams. Once up in the woods, it wasn't long before someone found the first fungi, a couple of Dryad Saddles.
Further into the woods, our first sighting of morels! There were three decent sized ones, close by a dying elm tree. Once everyone got to admire them, the person who discovered them, picked them and we were on our way. Up a trail past old discarded washing machines and wrecked tires, we hiked on. Suddenly, in the middle of the woods, I had a wardrobe malfunction. My hiking boots, which hadn't seen the light of day in years, suddenly de-lamintated. At first it was just the heels flapping around, but before too long, both soles fell off! Rather than risk slipping and falling (note to self, next time, bring a hiking stick) and since my feet were rapidly getting wet, I had to turn back. Reluctantly, I let everyone know, packed my soles in the bag I was going to use for the morels, and hiked back to the car, driving home in bare feet, since boots were ruined and socks were soaked.
It didn't help to get the next midnight email, saying how successful the walk had been, with everyone (except me) going home with morels! But I have a better understanding of where to look for them, and a network of people I can send photos to if I need confirmation. I'm looking forward to the next secret meeting and a walk in my own woods to see if there's anything out there.