Cooking with wild mushrooms is a delight – there is nothing that adds flavor to a dish quite like them. Every year my mom sends me a bag of wild mushrooms that she has painstakingly collected, cleaned and dried. Growing up in Colorado, our family used to go in search of these delicacies in the late summer months under damp pine branches in the woods. With our Mushrooms of the Colorado Rockies handbook, we would forage for interesting specimens to collect and bring home for identification. Our elderly neighbor was a practiced mushroom hunter, and we relied heavily on her to help us identify what was edible (and not poisonous!) and also worth eating. From coral mushrooms, that looked like a creature growing under the sea, to chanterelles, in all of their apricot-scented loveliness, we brought it all home and experimented with different recipes.
In my humble opinion, though, of all the mushrooms we foraged, nothing quite competes with the King Bolete (boletus edulis).
Just finding one of these amazing specimens would bring such joy to our outing. If it proved to be fresh and bug free, we would pop it in our bag and take it home.
Finding a small patch of boletes growing under a few trees would turn into a plentiful amount of mushrooms.
Given the size of some of these mushrooms, we often dried them and stored them for future use. To reconstitute them, I usually just put them in a cup and add enough hot water to just cover them, and then let them steep for about 20 minutes. If I am making something like soup, I add the mushrooms, broth and all, to my soup pot. I especially love adding them to mushroom barley soup or pasta sauce. Here is my recipe for pasta sauce with wild mushrooms:
Pasta Sauce With Wild Mushrooms and Tuna
2 cans crushed tomatoes, 28 oz. size
2 large or 3 small garlic cloves, crushed
½ teaspoon dried basil
½ teaspoon dried oregano
1 – 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cans good quality solid white albacore tuna, drained
1/3 cup dried mushrooms, reconstituted
salt and pepper to taste
Put ingredients in a large pot and simmer on stove for 15 minutes. Serve immediately over your favorite pasta.
One last note about gathering wild mushrooms – always be certain that you can identify what you find. For more information, check out a good guide or website on mycology, or rely on an expert who knows whether something is poisonous or edible. When in doubt, don’t eat it. Remember, as the old saying goes, “there are old mushroom hunters, and there are bold mushroom hunters, but there are no old, bold mushroom hunters!”
Have you tried cooking with wild mushrooms? Please share your experiences with me!