Thursday, January 28, 2010

Trompettes des Morts

While I am shoveling out the latest white precipitation, my West Coast fungal friends are gleefully harvesting oodles of "black chanterelles or "trompettes des morts" as they are inexplicably called --(ok, they are black/ gray and have a certain haunted look.) They are also called Horns of Plenty derived from the latin name Craterellus Cornucopioides. To add insult to injury they send me a picture of the latest haul. Disgusting!

We East coast mushroom fanciers have to live vicariously in the frosty months. In California these dusky guys can be found in large quantities under live oak and laurel and since they dry well, can be stored for later consumption. We do do get them here, in August, and last year I collected quite a few and dried them. To reconstitute all you need do is soak then for 5-10 minutes and they are ready for the saute pan, or the risotto pot, or the pasta sauce--whatever!
So my California friends needn't feel guilty about the picture--I have my own stash of trompettes sechees.

But wait! Merde!! A search into the larder reveals an empty jar--there's none left! All I can find in that dark cupboard is a bunch of dried wood ears (auricularia sp.) or tree fungus as the Chinese call them, and these not foraged but purchased in the local Asian food market. I put a handful to soak and later that night I find them ballooned up to three times their original size--quite a show. But they are tough, and practically devoid of flavor;the Chinese consider them a "texture" food. They are crunchy, good in soups and reportedly full of healthful things.

Indeed, there are all kinds of amazing claims made about the health benefits of fungi, and some of them may be true.Those made about reishi (ganoderms sp.) which is a "conk" growing on dead pines or firs in New England are particularly interesting and the subject of serious research.

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