Spring is, well, in the process of springing, and for those in the know, this means there are great eats just waiting in the woods to be gathered, sauteed and gobbled up. It's mushroom season in Missouri.
If you're looking for some help avoiding a bad trip, man, head over to the Powder Valley Conservation Nature Center on Saturday (March 26) from 1 to 3 p.m. for a talk by Maxine Stone, amateur mycophile and author of Missouri's Wild Mushrooms. Copies of the book will be available for sale, and if you ask nicely, Stone will sign yours.
The talk, "Missouri's Wild (Spring) Mushrooms: Not Just Morels," will clue you in on how to find edible mushrooms in the wild. Stone will discuss where to look and how to identify which mushrooms are good to eat and which ones you should avoid.
If visions of a painful psychedelic death have scared you off of foraging, fear not.
"There aren't very many deadly mushrooms," Stone assures Gut Check. "There are a few that will make you sick, but really just a few that'll kill you."
The luscious morel, so spendy at grocery stores, is probably the best-known edible mushroom -- and the most coveted. Stone says she'll reveal in general how to find them, but don't expect her or any forager to give up their specific hunting grounds. Go find your own!
She'll talk about black trumpets, hen-of-the-woods, oyster mushrooms and plenty of others.
How about mouthwatering chanterelles, those savory golden flavor explosions?
"Yes, yes yes!" Stone enthuses. Missouri's got 'em, but you won't find them in the woods until the height of summer. Worth it, Gut Check would have to say.
"The first thing I do when I have a mushroom, my very favorite is a sauté with mushrooms and olive oil -- sometimes butter, because it doesn't change the flavor -- and a little salt and pepper. If you want to keep going, add a little cream, a little Cognac."
Stone's book includes two dozen recipes for your finds, including a self-crusting chanterelle quiche, a black trumpet sauce that's great over salmon, and mushroom versions of dishes like hen (of-the-woods) and biscuits, and oyster (mushrooms) Rockefeller.
Stone says the best way to get a good handle on foraging is to join the Missouri Mycological Society and go on a hike with more experienced seekers. Then you can confidently strike out on your own.
"We have a ball!" she says. "We go out and look for mushrooms and there's really nothing more fun than that."
The talk is free, but call ahead -- 314-301-1500 -- to reserve a spot.