That’s the word from Dan, a novice mushroom forager, who’s been out learning from an experienced gatherer the ways of the fungus among us.
He contacts me from the road, asking if I want to cook up what he found, saying he’s bringing “a variety of wild mushrooms.” I’m pumped–Dan is fast becoming THE Mushroom Man as he’s the most avid mushroom connoisseur I’ve met. Every spring, I can look forward to a call from him about morels being in season–usually sautéed with Copper River sockeye, my favorite. I bring wine to pair. During the late summer and fall, he surveys where the best quality/least expensive golden chanterelles are, and I’ve been the recipient numerous times. Recently, he says he’s learning how to forage. I’m ready for whatever he has in the bag.
But when he says “This type of mushroom killed people in Japan, in 2004.” I recoil in shock. At first, I think he’s joking.
“I took these to the Puget Sound Mycological Society, and they said they’ve not heard of anyone in the U.S. dying from eating them.” He’s referring to the angel wing mushroom. Its name is rather deceptive. Wait. What? Are you nuts? Do you really want to risk our lives because you’re “almost sure these are not poisonous?”
He details how the poison can actually take weeks to kill us. We won’t even know until it’s too late to remedy. Not very reassuring. Rabid online research immediately commences while mushroom cleaning and risotto prep take place.
He’s accurate: no one has died in years or there are no reports of deaths attributed–mycological societies tend to share stats like that. In addition, I find a post from The Bald Gourmet about angel wings from 2011, regaling their delicate flavor when carefully cooked.
DEATH OR DELICIOUSNESS?
After deliberation and considerable doubt, I sautée his angel wings, golden chanterelles, and two additional matsutake in a combo of bacon fat and butter, incorporating them to a wild mushroom risotto.
Normally, I use homemade brown stock for wild mushroom risotto; not this time. Instead I mull the idea of using homemade chicken stock as a lighter alternative that allows the mushrooms’ delicate flavors to shine. Yes.
Each mushroom has its own unique variety of earthy flavor when cooked separately: angel wings are nutty and mild, with a crispy texture; golden chanterelles are rich and meaty; matsutake are herbaceous–almost sappy–and heavily perfumed. Impressive.
The experience sparks a desire to forage for my own treasure. But that’s another story.