mushrooms 2

Magic Mushrooms!

I was driving down one of the busiest streets in the very center of Stamford, Connecticut, about two weeks ago when out of the corner of my eye, I sensed a blur of vibrant, bright orange growth at the bottom of what seemed to be a dying decorative plum tree. “Could they possibly be mushrooms?” I asked myself. What in the world were these fluorescent caps doing in the unlikeliest of places?

If I turned around then, I’d risk being later for a lunch for which I was already running late. I vowed to myself that if these bouquets were still intact on my return trip, I would definitely find a place to pull over so that I could investigate.

I never expected them to be there upon my return. It would simply be too good to be true. I figured a dog, a kid, a car, or something else would crowd around them and choke them off in some way before I had a chance to beat them to the finish. Much to my surprise, I spotted them just hanging out in the sunlight, teasing me from the road. As I came to a screeching halt, somehow avoiding getting rear-ended by the person driving behind me (and I must admit, I haven’t heard a more creative string of expletives in quite some time, some of which, I confess, to make my own going forward).

mushrooms 2

And there they were, in all their glory. I photographed the clusters and ran home to consult my mushroom reference book, the one I recently purchased at an estate sale for all of one measly dollar (because no one in their right mind goes to a fabulous estate sale only to come away with a mushroom foraging book. To each his own, I always say).

Mushroom Book Text

As reliable as my guide is, in no way could I possibly safely categorize them, but for the sake of trying, I’ll say that they seem to closest to what looks like Omphalotus Olearius, or Jack O’Lantern mushrooms, so appropriate for the season, especially since they’re supposed to glow in the dark. Please read the text for more fascinating details. I guess I should have pulled one out of the ground to examine the gills to confirm my guess. Still, I just couldn’t bring myself to disturb these gorgeous clusters, especially since I wasn’t planning to cook and eat them. I’ll finish by asking if anyone in my culinary community can confirm or correct my guess,I’d appreciate it.

In the meantime, as requested by many of my followers, I’ll be posting some really great mushroom recipes soon. Don’t worry, I’ll refer to my mushroom book to be sure they’re edible.

–Chef Diana

Giving credit where credit is due: The Mushroom Book; How to Identify, Gather, and Cook Wild Mushrooms and Other Fungi, Thomas Læssøe, Anna Del Conte, Gary Lincoff. Print publication date 1996.

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