After the first rainfall at the end of August you know that summer is pretty much over but the good part is if I wait a couple days and the ground is still moist I go to a certain place that I've been to nearly every year since about 1992 or so. Lots of people in the Pacific Northwest have these little “spots” that they might mention from time to time, if you are a very dear family friend you might get invited to go along but some people get pretty defensive about saying where they go… the ground at this particular special place in my life is composed of a very precise blend of pine needles, mulching leaves and branches, salal, huckleberry, wide reaching roots of trees. It's a “just add water” recipe of perfection for the mycelium living underground that brings forth a bountiful earth harvest of yellow, orange, and white “canterellus cibarius”, we call them chanterelles, like a baby's breath or apricots they smell!
I enter the woods behind this particular farm, take a particular trail, or rather it's a network of trails, I know them like the lines on the palm of my hand and still I always pretend I am hopelessly lost just for fun- I carry a paper bag and jump over fallen logs, brush spiders' webs out of my face and listen for ravens and sometimes woodpeckers in the canopy above. It's easy to go for hours without even looking up at all, I'm so focused on an act of such pure prehistoric human intuition, I'm gathering. While it can be a little too woolly an activity for a first date, for a third or fourth date it's fucking awesome to impress the shit out of a girl with “how the hell did you even see that mushroom there under that leaf? It just looked like a leaf!!!” Exactly the point- the chanterelles are really sneaky, you have to develop a seventh sense to tell them apart from leaves and needles and broken branches, they do that to you on purpose to confuse you and make you blind with leaves and sticks and spiderwebs and berries.
I just know where they're going to be. Gathering them is like music where I don't need to think about what note I'm playing, the perfect sound just makes itself evident in the moment, and there, look at that, by listening to the notes in between the notes my bag is now wet with ten pounds of mushrooms! I used to take them to local restaurants, back in the day you could sometimes fetch about ten bucks a pound, a few hours of harvesting made rent! I'm not sure how the market works, nobody seems willing to pay that much wholesale anymore, at least not in Olympia because I guess everybody just picks their own now that so many food magazines talk about this stuff of earth and moisture?
Chanterelles aren't even my favorite mushroom, morels are much better but I have to get to higher elevation in the late spring and I never seem to make it… shaggy manes are also fun to find, they're more of a springtime mushroom and you don't really go looking for them, they just pop up and surprise you when you aren't expecting. Fairy ring mushrooms taste just like fried eggs, but please be careful because just because it grows in a fairy ring doesn't mean it's a fairy ring mushroom, look it up in a book! Don't look it up on google, god, that's so fucking lame- I can't believe you kids these days, do you even know what a card catalog is, even? You can't always go around looking up every single thing you want to know on a computer… that's what is so great about harvesting wild mushrooms- I can't pretend to be Mr. Henry David Thoreau all back to the land and don't know what an interweb is, but that feeling of reaching under a clump of leaves and pulling up the flesh of a critter chemically closer to meat than plant, that you can cook and eat and impress the ladies with, well, that feeling is fucking rad!