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Monday, July 11, 2011

Gold On the Forest Floor

It's chantie time..chanterelles, those deep golden apricot scented mushrooms that we are treated to in the dog days of summer. All signs in my neighborhood point to a banner year. Hot weather and the very very moist ground from receding floodwater and heavy rains have left the forest floors carpeted in gold.

I must admit that as much as I love the chanties, collecting them is not necessarily my most favorite thing. The hardwood forests in deep summer are like a jungle, hot, hazy, nary a breath of air or breeze to be felt. spiderwebs abound causing me to traverse the area swinging my spider stick much much like a shaman swings and swooshes a smudge bundle. Even so it seems I spend as much time spitting out mosquitos, gnats, spiders, wiping sweat from my eyes as I do cutting mushrooms.

But the golden egg yolk yellow treats covering the forest floor make the bugs, the heat, and the briars worth putting up with. I generally hit my patches during the early morning hours  - by even noon the woods have become oppressively intolerable - the air heavy, thick and insect filled.Thankfully I have no reaction to poison ivy, as it seems the thicker the poison ivy, the thicker the chanterelles.

Often as I head into a favorite patch I will set a tightline for a nice summer catfish to complete the days meals. Nothing better than coming back out of te woods to find a good cat on your pole to go with a bag of chanties.

Even during the oppresive heat I favor long pants, boots, and long sleeves - there's just to many bugs and briars to scampering around with much bare skin showing. A sharp knife and collecting bag, basket or bucket are all you need.
Chanterelles are one of the few mushrooms that should be pulled from the ground - cutting them of at ground level can leave the mycelium trail open to a parasitic fungus that will destroy a good patch. Speaking of patches, they will return year after year, just as morels do, so one you find a good spot, remember it for next years harvest.

Once the chantie has pulled from the ground I give it quick once over and trim away the dirty end and any bad spots that might be present. Despite the fact that they flush during the buggiest season of the year, rarely does one find many insects in the chanterelles.  Cleaning them once home is simple matterof brushing them clean with a vegetable brush, trimming any broken of parts that have been damaged in transit and popping them in the fridge.

This mornings mess after cleaning headed for the fridge

We eat seasonally at our house as much as possible so tonight's menu will include fresh grilled catfish filets, and freshly picked zucchini stuffed with chanterelles sauteed in butter with a few herbs and some bread crumbs and grated cheese thrown in for good measure. 

To make the stuffed zuchhini:
(serves 4)

2 medium zuchhini halved with seeds and some meat scooped out with a spoon

2 cups sliced /diced chanterelles

2 cloves minced garlic

1 Tablespoon olive oil

1 Tablespoon butter

3 Tablespoons chopped parsley (or herb of choice)

Slice each squash in half and, using a spoon, scoop out the seeds and some of the meat.
Melt the butter and olive oil in a heavy skillet. Add shallot , garlic, and bits of zucchini cook until golden. Stir in the mushrooms and cover for 2 minutes. Uncover and reduce the liquid down to almost dry, stir in parsley
and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper,
Fill the Zucchini boats with mushroom mixture
Top with breadcrumbs, mixed with chopped herbs of choice, and butter. Bake at 350degrees for 25 minutes. Sprinkle with a shredded cheese mix of your choice last five minutes of baking.

 Grab your spider stick, take an early morning stroll through the forest and see if you can't find some the forests golden treasures for yourself! 

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