Friday, March 29, 2013

Wild mushroom and Dungeness Ramen (from scratch)

Well I appreciate everyone sending good energy our way, but as usual, federal financial aid is late! I am now down to $1.86, but as usual, when I am the poorest, we eat the best! Today’s special was really the culmination of a few forays, and that is the subject of this post.

                Stalking the depths for fish stock- My good buddy Sam and I got out early last month. My freezer was empty and I was in full hunt mode. I made a bee line to the furthest kelp bed at a cove we refer to only as The New Spot. Locating the edge of the most productive reef, I descended through a large school of smelt and greenback mackerel slowly arching my back and leveling off 10 ft from the bottom. A very sizable sand bass lay still to my right and just as I began lining up for the shot I noticed a calico of equal proportions. Switching my focus to the latter the tension of my finger on the trigger began to increase, but soon my focus again was averted to a pair of large male California Sheephead. I let myself sink below their view, placing a large boulder between us and closing the gap while simultaneously lining up for the shot in a gap in the reef where the pair appeared to be heading. They emerged on schedule and the shot was true. This was the smaller goat of the day.

                The second fish also surprised me from the murk. I noticed him sneakily heading for a cave over my right shoulder, leaving just enough time to change the direction of my body and send a little cold steel his way. The shot was well placed behind the gill plate, but as soon as he was hit the fight went wild! Rushing into the cave, the huge goat bent the shaft of my 120cm euro gun. He then made two loops out of the cave over the top and back through, entangling the shooting line thoroughly. I could see that his wound was tearing and the spear beginning to slip and made the decision to get the backup gun, old trusty, and made a second drop. The second shot was a stone shot and he fought no more.

                That’s when I heard them and then saw them emerging from the murk with great fluidity like something out of a dream. Soon dolphins were lazily swimming all around me in an inquisitive manner, all the while singing their sweet sonar melody. I eventually smiled so big my mask flooded and I had to slowly ascend for a breath and laugh. Crossing that off my bucket list was a true pleasure! Unfortunately, the camera was not in hand, but I doubt I would have taken my eyes off of them long enough to turn on a camera even if I did have it!

                The 23lbs sheephead fed us well over the next few weeks, and upon advice from my good buddy Kirby, I cooked down the carcass into a delicious fish broth…the base for my ramen…and the base of this post.

Mushroom madness- It was early January on the north coast. A group of us consisting of my Dad, brother, myself and good friends Alex and Jesse made our way into the damp coastal woods. Where the conifers met huckleberry, salal berry and oak we began finding mushrooms almost immediately. It had been a very strange and late year so far and though we should have been way past when edible pig ears should be found, there they were! They were not just there, but they were freshly popping and abundant. The hedgehogs and black trumpets were few (though normally abundant this time of year), and the oysters were only out in small numbers. As usual we made off with a huge haul of yellowfoot chanterelles while barely taking a noticeable amount from the dense miniature forests of fungi. We had so many they were growing out of our ears and noses!

Mushroom hunting truly embodies the fun and wonder of seasonal foraging. Though many folks hate the rain, mushroom hunters can be regularly seen out looking up at the sky and begging for liquid sunshine. Once the rain comes, it’s off to the woods. Though the American culture is largely fungiphobic, and it is quite true that eating the wrong mushroom can certainly kill you, one can learn to positively identify many of these moist forest floor loving delicacies as long as special attention is paid to key attributes.

                Dungeness delights- You know the story…today’s treat is last night’s leftovers (read Dungeness Dinner below for more info surrounding adventures in crab harvesting).

The ramen got lots of “mmmmmm”s and that is always a good sign. Especially with a total cost of roughly $0.38 per bowl!

*As always, Countryman assumes no responsibility for those engaged in foraging activities. PLEASE BE CAREFUL WHEN HARVESTING ANY WILD EDIBLE, ESPECIALLY MUSHROOMS!

Finally, remember to enjoy the sights and smells of the sea and land, have as much fun cooking your foraged foods as you had gathering them, and always strive to keep the old ways alive!

By Kevin Smith

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