Thursday, October 18, 2007

Under Every Tree

The Woods are full of them.

After our wettish summer the mushroom hunters are out in force. You see them everywhere, walking with their heads down and their beady little eyes scanning the ground, blind to everything but the fungi.

Most of them are looking for chanterelles, probably because they don't know any better.

But the farmer has been raking in Zeller's Boletus, an undersung mushroom and close cousin to the boletus edulis, the mushroom of a thousand names, including the cep, the cepe, the steinpilz, the Karl Johan, the varganya, the borovik, the penny bun. If you are a foodie, you probably know it by its plural Italian name: porcini.

Around here it is called the king boletus, and not for nothing, because it is pretty much the king of mushrooms. We don't find many king boletus, even in a year like this, because we are at too low of an elevation, but the humble Zeller's - homely as they come with its purple neck, its spongy underside, its dingy cap - is hiding in plain sight just about everywhere.

The farmer doesn't even bother with the flashy overpraised chanterelles any more, they take up too much space in the basket and they aren't as good, in spite of what some of the mushroom book writers have written about lowly Zeller's - "edible but not incredible", etc.

Ha. Keep your fancy chanterelles.