Saturday, September 10, 2011

Hurricane Irene gave us a reason to smile

Everyone on the East Coast prepared for Irene as if the end of the world was coming. We boarded up our windows and stocked up on water and canned food, as the government instructed us all to do. Some of us even evacuated our homes.

My family and I decided to spend the night of the wicked storm together in Bergen County, one of the more elevated areas of New Jersey.

We had a great evening together and even decided to eat dinner with candles lit, to celebrate the impending power outage early. The storm came at night. Wind whistled. Thunder roared. Lightning struck. Massive downpour of rain flooded streets.

When all cleared up in the morning, we took a stroll outside to check the damage. Yes, small rivers formed in the streets, and branches were scattered around. Yes, a few trees were downed. And yep, we didn't have power.

Yet there was one great thing that surprised us all: a fantastic sea of mushrooms covered our neighbors' lawns. It was the greatest harvest of wild mushrooms that any of us had ever seen in our lives. Thanks to Irene, conditions were perfect for thousands of fungi to spring up literally overnight in our suburban town.

Being Russian, our eyes bulging with excitement, we ran with our bags and knives to go mushroom hunting. We looked for lawns that were marked as not chemically treated and collected these completely under-appreciated, misunderstood and even feared things called mushrooms, with permission from property owners (who while expressing their concern for our safety allowed us to do as we liked!).

We collected multiple bags of gorgeous chanterelles, russulas, and boletes. Some of these species can sell for up to $30 per pound! Needless to say, we went home with our booty happy as clams, and proceeded to clean, cut and cook these beauties on our grill and in the fireplace, producing the most spectacular meal.

Nothing tastes better than the food you hunt or gather yourself!

WARNING: mushroom hunting requires expertise! Before attempting this yourself, please review these guidelines to avoid mushrooms that are not only bitter but lethal! Continue...