Saturday, August 16, 2008

The Lost Art of Mushrooming

We used to eat these--I think. My field guide informs me that it is a Straight-branched Coral (Ramaria Stricta) and poisonous. A long long time ago, when I was very small, I used to follow my dad through the woods. He'd have a big wooden strawberry basket in hand. He was the finder, I just followed. Anything branching and strange was fair game for the pot, as he would turn over leaves and find edible treasure. The corals were the best, fried crispy or slipped into stew and I can still recall their distinctive taste, sharp and spicy with a metallic tang. According to my Dad, they were all edible, and according to my palate, they were all yummy. My husband still recalls the incredible stews that my family introduced him to. Although he swears he hates mushrooms, the coral fungus stew was a notable exception. According to my current field guide, most of them are inedible, and the straight-branched coral (depicted here) is poisonous. Without my fathers presence, I'm less brave than I was and completely unwilling to experiment. Even then we knew there were discrepancies between the North American Field Guides and old European knowledge, much of which was passed down from fathers to their children. Lost now, is everything my father knew, and I can't retrieve it. Mushrooming brings back my fondest memories of my father, and leaves me missing him the most.

Image: gouache on 140lb watercolour paper. Upper left is the Common Fibre Vase (thelephora terrestris) and lower is the Straight-branched Coral (Ramaria Stricta). BTW, I painted the fibre vase because it's interesting and pretty. It's tiny and has a texture of shoe leather. No one would eat this.


Chrissy said...

Lovely tribute to your Dad. I used to go mushrooming with my Dad when I was little in the fields and yet could I tell the difference now, not a hope. I am not sure he would appreciate me dragging him across fields now! Nice waterolour, I don't think I have ever seen the coral mushroom - Chrissy

Michelle (artscapes) said...

Beautiful drawing... I saw some of those on a hike last weekend - very neat!

Your story reminds me of how much we have lost with the commercializing of food - so much knowledge.... You were very lucky with your Dad.

kaslkaos said...

Thanks Chrissy! Now that you know what they look like, maybe you will see them. Look down in rainy weather in the woods.
Thanks Michelle. Mushrooms are fun, but I had a great introduction to them. I wish there was a way to keep the knowledge flowing. It's interesting to compare book knowledge with field knowledge.


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