On our property in Terra Cotta, there was a circle of mushrooms that grew on our front lawn. One day, a friendly neighbour stopped by to let us know that they were safe to eat, delicious in fact. "Thanks very much" we said with polite smiles on our faces, but we didn't cut, cook or eat them. A week later, I found a mushroom field guide in our mailbox. Our neighbour had placed post-it notes on the pages indicating the species of mushrooms that we had on our lawn. Proof of their safety and his helpful advice. Still we didn't touch them...
When Graydon's teacher asked me if I'd like to come on a mushroom picking trip with his class, I jumped at the opportunity. Much to the mortification of my children standing beside us, we joked about going on a magic mushroom trip. We laughed, because of course we were hilarious. They rolled their eyes and muttered "so embarrassing."
The truth is that I am intrigued by wild mushrooms, where and how they grow, but mostly how to know which are safe and which are not. Mushroom aficionados in Ontario are very secretive about their picking spots and they sneak around the countryside loading up their baskets. I asked a friend once if she'd take me with her to pick Morels and she looked at me, eyes wide, amazed that I'd be so bold to ask.
While I was being offered a guided exploration, I found that mushroom picking is just as covert here in Switzerland. Our local expert Sebastien made cracks about blindfolding the adults on the trip as we drove to his favourite picking place. Not that blindfolds were necessary. I don't think I'd ever find my way back despite my best attempts to memorise our route - up a road, a sharp right at a barn, past another barn, through a field and up into a small clearing in the woods. Oh, and there were a river and mountains nearby.
We had a discussion about mushroom safety and Sebastien was adamant that no one touch or pick anything without his approval. This was done in a combination of French and English (curriculum multi-tasking) to ensure that everyone knew the rules. He had made a Dossier Champignons for each of us with illustrations, diagrams, classifications and at the end, a recipe for omelette aux champignons. This was my kind of field trip!
|Ms Anne Marie + Sebastien show the parts of the mushroom|
Armed with our baskets, bags and dossiers, we followed Sebastien up into the forest. While there were lots of trees, it felt more like a forest of moss - under foot, the floor was carpeted in both brilliant and drab shades of green and the moss dripped from the trees above. I am sure that this forest is home to fairies and it was magically quiet. Quiet, at least, until the first kid spotted a mushroom and then another and another... "M. Sebastien, is this one", "over here, can you look at this?", "can I pick this one?" And so it went, all of us caught up in the fervor of finding the right mushrooms. My own hopes pinned on the possibility of une omelette aux champignons for dinner.
|off we went into the fairy + mushroom forest|
We were looking for Chanterelles and another variety called Laccaire Amethyste. At first, I had a hard time spotting either and was getting rather annoyed by all the twerps who couldn't help but show off how many they had picked. Even Graydon got a head start after finding a huge patch of Chanterelles when he wandered a few meters away from the pack. I tried to suppress my competitive spirit and reasoned that, at least his spoils would count towards our family dinner. Once I found my first few, however, my eyes were able to pick out the purples and oranges in the moss and I became a little obsessed. Unlike some of the other parents and teachers, I did not offer my findings to any of the kids - I had a family of five to feed after all!
|my haul of chanterelles + amethystes|
It was a fantastic afternoon. Who doesn't love a "field trip", especially one that brings all kinds of interesting learning and fun together? And after combining our efforts, Graydon and I made dinner that night. Et voila.....