October 21, 2014
If we had stopped to put gas in the car, we would have missed it. But it was almost sunset, and I wanted to get to one of my favorite produce stands before they took everything in for the night. Et Cetera Farm is just a little cart by the side of the road, but on it you can find ginger, greens, purple carrots, tomatoes and eggs. They make their own kimchi and grow what must be the only rice in Columbia County.
We were thumbing through nubs of resplendent young ginger when an old truck pulled up next to the stand and the driver emerged holding something the size of a baseball; from far away it looked like coral or sheep’s wool. As he drew closer the wind wafted toward us, sending out the unmistakable scent of mushrooms.
“It’s called lion’s mane,” he said.
“Where did you find it?” I asked, stupidly.
“In the woods somewhere.” The man gestured around at the landscape, his eyes shifting. I blushed; I'd forgotten the first rule of mushrooms: never ask a forager where he finds his treasures.
As the man traded the mushroom for vegetables, the farmers glanced my way. "Have you ever tasted this?" they asked. When I shook my head they broke off a little piece and shyly handed it over.
At home, a little nervous, I looked it up. Apparently this is a safe and easy mushroom; nothing poisonous remotely resembles its shaggy beauty. I brushed away small bits of dirt with a mushroom brush and tore the lion’s mane into pieces the size of a fingernail. Melting a little olive oil and a bit of butter, I gently sautéed the mushroom until it turned golden. By the time it hit the table, our fantastical mushroom had shriveled to fifteen micro-bites. I savored each one, amazed at the whoosh of forest flavor filling my mouth.
My problem now: where do I get more?
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