By Sarah Elton - Wednesday, January 30, 2013 - 0 Comments
Pickers say the lacterius indigo is under threat
Once, when high on LSD, recounts the author and neurologist Oliver Sacks in his new book, Hallucinations, he was obsessed with the colour indigo. “It was the colour of heaven,” he writes. Sacks was desperate to see it—so much so that he began to conjure up a blob of indigo in his mind.
The lacterius indigo could have saved him a trip. The mushroom’s whitish cap looks deceptively plain, but if you flip it over, the gills are a brilliant blue. Slice into it, and the mushroom bleeds indigo-coloured milk. Cook it, and the flesh turns a greyish green. “It’s a green you’ve never seen in cooking,” says Fidel Brochu, a Quebec-based wild mushroom distributor who picked the lacterius indigo in Saskatchewan’s Torch River Provincial Forest last summer. When chef Gilles Herzog at F Bar in Montreal served them as a garnish, simmered in olive oil and cider vinegar, he made sure to explain what they were to his diners. “Sometimes clients find them bizarre,” he says. The mushrooms can be as small as a toonie or as large as dinner plates. Take a bite, and “it’s extraordinary,” says Elisabeth Poscher, who also harvests the mushroom. “It has a peppery taste. It’s—I don’t know. You have to try it.” Continue…
By Andrew Stobo Sniderman with Simon Hayter - Thursday, August 9, 2012 at 5:11 PM - 0 Comments
Check out our PHOTO GALLERY of Canada’s boreal forests, plus our MOREL RECIPES
Each summer hundreds of nomadic pickers prowl Canada’s boreal forests in search of the elusive morel, reports Andrew Sniderman. Click here for a stunning photo gallery of morel hunters at work from Simon Hayter and here for a couple of delicious morel recipes.
“Freedom and adventure. Those are the main draws for people. You live in a tent in the bush, wake up when you want, work as hard as you want. Nobody is looking over your shoulder,” Eric Whitehead says. The 34-year-old picks, buys and distributes mushrooms—specifically, the prized morel mushroom, which looks like a cone-shaped sponge, delights gourmands, and retails for more than $100 per dried pound. “But,” he adds, “we still joke that we are slaves to the spore, moving it around the globe, doing its bidding.”
On a decent day, morel pickers make $250 by filling a pack and selling to a local buyer. Whitehead is a pro with 13 years of experience, so he can push $400.
Earlier this summer, mostly in remote parts of British Columbia, the Yukon, Alberta and the Northwest Territories, many hundreds of nomadic commercial pickers prowled boreal forests hunting morels. Unlike Canada’s tree planters, who sweat under the thumb of gargantuan logging companies, morel pickers live beyond the corporate gaze. Businesses haven’t figured out how to effectively cultivate morels, which means pickers can be as wild as their mushrooms.
By Brian D. Johnson - Wednesday, February 4, 2009 at 11:10 AM - 0 Comments
Ron Mann’s new documentary sheds light on a literal subculture and its cultish devotees
There’s a mushroom that, when nibbled by an ant, will take over the insect’s nervous system, direct it to travel to a prime location for spreading spores, then kill it by growing a long tuber that snakes out of its head. There are oyster mushrooms that can be used to dress up a pasta sauce—or clean up an oil spill. Certain species of fungi are thought to lower blood pressure, boost immunity, and fend off cancer and diabetes. Some make you hallucinate, others make you horny, and a few are deadly. Fungi are pretty weird. And so are the folks obsessed with them, from mushroom experts (mycologists) to mushroom freaks (fungiphiles). There are even those who believe mushrooms are sentient beings—and possibly evolutionary hosts to an alien life form that came from outer space and provided the magic nutrient for human consciousness.
That’s just a taste of the wild lore in Know Your Mushrooms, a new documentary from Canadian filmmaker Ron Mann (who, I should declare, is a friend of mine and executive producer of a short film I directed). Over the past three decades, Mann has excavated the roots of pop culture with docs about poetry, jazz, comic books, the twist, pot prohibition, and a hemp-fuelled bus crusade led by Woody Harrelson. Now he sheds light on a literal subculture—the underground web of fungal growth that envelops the earth—and on the cultish devotees who believe the mushroom is maligned and misunderstood.