SOUTHERN COLORADO — Tremendous amounts of rain and snow have made their way through southern Colorado this year, creating conditions for a uniquely robust upcoming mushroom season for the area, according to Jennifer Bell, the president of the Pikes Peak Mycological Society (PPMS).
"We’ve had such a great year this year with all the rain and we had a lot of snow,"
said Bell, "This year it’s gonna be weird because of all the moisture. It makes all the mushrooms grow and we’re all super excited about that."
Bell identifies as what many mushroom enthusiasts refer to as a "citizen scientist." Her organization leads groups of people of all ages through Colorado's wilderness in search of mushrooms.
There is no average day. Anything can happen.
Bell said her involvement with the PPMS comes from a place of longing to contribute something positive for others in her community.
"If you’re a person who is lucky and has had a good life, it’s important to give your time," said Bell.
She said the PPMS is focused on getting people, especially young people, outside and into nature without fear. Many of the kids, in one way or another, expressed their excitement while out on a foray.
"Cooked or not, I don't like [eating] them," said one young forayer, "I like finding them; I like looking at them."
Some of the best places to find mushrooms are damp areas offering a mix of both shade and sun, often at high elevations, according to members of the PPMS.
James Chelin, the vice president of the PPMS, gathers members after forays to provide insight into what members found by both identifying mushrooms and explaining their properties.
"I think it's really important that we know our poisonous mushrooms as much as our edible ones," said Chelin while handling a poisonous mushroom with his bare hands.
Many of the PPMS members said they planned to take their mushrooms home from their foray to eat. Some, however, do not feel entirely comfortable eating what they found in the wild.
"If you see a mushroom and you don’t know what it is, it’s safer to assume that it’s poisonous. I think it comes from the innate human desire to live," said Petru Dumitru, founder and owner of Microvora a Colorado Springs business that grows and sells exotic mushrooms and microgreens.
He said he believes most people do not enjoy mushrooms because of the options made most available in many markets like portobello and button mushrooms.
"Don’t knock it until you’ve tried [something] like an oyster mushroom that’s fried up really good ... And this is from someone who didn’t like mushrooms to begin with. So, I’m a converted man"
Chris Starkus, a professional chef and member of the PPMS, has provided a recipe using ingredients that can be found at Microvora. The recipe can be found below:
- 1/2 pound king trumpet mushrooms (dived into 1/2 inch pieces)
- 1/4 cup small diced white onion
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh garlic
- 1/2 pound lion's mane mushrooms (sliced into 3/4 inch slices for grilling)
- 1/2 cup canola or vegetable oil
- 2-4 ounces micro-green mix
- 1 French baguette (cut in half lengthwise)
- 1teaspoon dried thyme
- 2 tablespoons butter
- kosher salt (to taste)
- fresh ground black pepper (to taste)
- 1 small lemon
Lion's Main Marinade:
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 and 1/2 tablespoons aged sherry vinegar
- 1/4 teaspoon red chili flake
Lion's Mane Mushrooms:
Preheat grill to 500 degrees or more
Slice lion's mane mushrooms into 3/4-inch slices. Marinate, covering both sides.
Set aside for 30 minutes.
Grill Both sides of each piece for grill marks. About 3 minutes per side.
Set aside to cool
Cut into triangle pieces to garnish toast
King Trumpet Mushrooms:
Place large sauté pan or rondeau over high heat for 1 minute.
Add canola or vegetable oil
Add diced mushrooms so they are evenly distributed on the bottom of the pan, ideally not touching to achieve maximum caramelization (approximately 4-5 minutes)
Once golden, lower heat to medium and add butter, dried thyme, chopped garlic, and diced white onion.
Stir and season with salt and pepper. Cook until onions are translucent. Approximately 3-4 minutes.
Shut off heat and set aside to cool
Putting it all together:
Preheat oven broiler to high for 5 minutes.
Place sliced baguette on cookie sheet, cut side up.
Drizzle both cut sides with extra virgin olive oil, season with kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper. Toast in broiler until golden brown evenly.
Place sautéed king trumpet mushrooms spread evenly on each toasted baguette slice.
Lightly dress micro-greens with lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, kosher salt, and fresh ground pepper to taste.
Place evenly on each baguette slice over the top of the Sautéed king trumpet mushroom mix.
Top with pieces of your grilled lion's mane mushrooms, cut into 4-5 inch pieces, and serve warm.
Paired best with light beer or crisp white wine.
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