Mushroom hunting with Iliana Regan | Bleader

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Mushroom hunting with Iliana Regan

Posted By on 09.13.12 at 02:27 PM

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Not what we were looking for
Iliana Regan's truck has a decal in the back window that says "Stay out of my morel patch." When I went foraging with her in Indiana this week, though, we weren't looking for morels—those grow in the spring. We were trying to find maitake mushrooms. Or Regan was, at least. Mostly, I was trying to keep up with her as she plunged through the underbrush. She moved quickly in the woods, but that could have been because every time she stopped I'd ask her to identify every berry and mushroom in sight. Her answer was almost always the same: "Don't eat that."

So I didn't. I just took pictures of everything that caught my eye, without any regard for whether it was edible or not.

Amaranth. This is actually edible, and something that Regan uses in her cooking.

Don't eat these. Whatever they are.

Black walnut. "These have the best smell in the world," Regan said—and they did smell pretty good. She's been experimenting with ways to use the shell as well as the nutmeats, and is currently soaking some that she punched holes into with a nail, trying to soften them up.

Regan didn't know what these were, but she didn't think they were edible.

Honey cap mushrooms. These are actually edible, but Regan wasn't interested in collecting them. They tend to be slimy, she said, and she didn't want to deal with them.

We didn't find any maitakes. Or Regan didn't, anyway—there wasn't much chance that I was going to find anything useful. She tasted some acorns but rejected them for being too bitter (some types of oak produce sweeter acorns than others, she said). While driving, she looked for elderberries and sumac as well, but that search also proved to be fruitless (sorry). She did pull over at one point to check out some crab apples, which she cooks with sometimes, but ended up passing on those too after tasting them. The truck bed did provide easy access to the tree, though.

The best foraging spot we found turned out to be Regan's dad's garden. About half of her haul is pictured below.

Read more from Foraging Week, this week's Variations on a Theme:

"Mix of the day: Jon Brooks's Summer Triangles," by Tal Rosenberg
"Dumpster diving," by Julia Thiel
"Ask a librarian, and then listen," by J.R. Jones
"The primitive urge to hunt is what drives us to art fairs," by Deanna Isaacs
"Forage every stream," by Michael Miner

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