We've lived in our little corner of the province for 10 years and this is the first year we've mushroomed. Back in the 1970's an underground economy sprang up in our area when it was discovered that the pine mushroom, which grows in our region after the first fall rains, was equivalent to the much-prized matsutake mushroom of Japan. People have made as much as $40,000 in 3 weeks in the past. Nowadays there are so many pickers out that profits are much smaller, but it can be lucrative.
Not this year. It was dry for 15 months and then it rained for a month straight. And then the sun came out and the ground warmed up a bit, and the pine mushrooms started popping up by the thousands. Friends of ours went out last week and picked 60 lb. in a single afternoon. This is a mushroom that in a year of scarcity will fetch $50-100/lb for Grade 1 specimens. This year the price is $2-4/lb.
Well, we were given a couple of dozen pounds. They are delicious! They cook up firm with a lovely flavour that's aromatic and almost spicy. And we decided we should go out picking to find some of our own. We had touched and smelled and handled and tasted so many that, when given a few tips by our friends we felt confident that we could find our own and identify them with certainty. We headed out on a long logging-road drive north of the lake and came out at a forestry service campsite area. The kids mostly hung out at the beach playing with rocks, water and sticks, while I went off in the woods and hopped across acres and acres of moss hunting the elusive gourmet mushroom. I found about 10 lbs.
At home we're eating mushrooms like crazy, and dehydrating them like crazy too. I've got a couple of pounds of dried mushrooms (that's a lot... maybe 30 lb. worth!). And tonight I tried out a soup mix I'm concocting ... dehydrated pine mushrooms with spices including wild ginger and dried veggies etc. to make a hot & sour soup. I think it's a go, and we'll send it out as Christmas gifts in ziploc bags.
Our area is just so beautiful at this time of year, I can hardly believe it.