Monday, October 7, 2013

Gather Ye Mushrooms While Ye May

Persistence pays off in the search for mushrooms.
It took the better part of the day, but this gentleman and his family (his wife and their two children) finally were able to gather enough wild mushrooms to nearly fill their bucket. They drove to Provincetown on their annual mushroom pilgrimage and went wandering in the little hillsides surrounding Province Lands Road, out near the visitor center, where the land isn't exactly forest and not exactly dunes either, but rather a verdant combination of small, sandy hills and little pockets of pitch pines and scrub oaks, with the occasional fox or coyote thrown in for local color.
These folks rambled over dozens of scenic acres, peeking beneath shrubs and around tree trunks for the elusive edible mushrooms that are scattered all too sparsely through these little hummocks this year. The dearth of rainfall this spring may have something to do with this year's scarcity of the fungus that brings carloads of visitors to this part of the Cape Cod National Seashore each autumn for a peaceful walk among the changing colors of the season while they forage for these delicious morsels.
My favorite Provincetown chef told me he hunted for two hours the other day and found just two mushrooms, and he remarked that the cranberries looked to be about three weeks behind schedule, too, with none quite ready to pick that day. We've had rainfall this year far below the amount we receive in the average year. This spring we got very little, and we stand at less than 10% of the average rainfall over the past month, which may have something to do with the lack of mushrooms this season, and the slower growth of the cranberries. But I've also met a few folks who have filled their mushroom baskets and buckets to the brim, with persistence paying off during a longer walk.
If you know your mushrooms and are confident in your ability to recognize the edible varieties, by all means, get out for a little hike and find the tasty few that await you. Just remember to be careful not to walk on any of the plant life as you wander. Some of these plants and grasses are extremely fragile. And remember to cut your mushrooms off at the base of the stem rather than plucking them out of the ground so that they can continue to sprout more mushrooms for others to find later. If you don't know very much about wild mushrooms, get out and enjoy the stroll anyway, but simply admire the lovely mushrooms you might discover and just walk on by. We want you to live to take another walk amongst the mushrooms another day.

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