BEAT THE TILL AND TASTE THE BENEFITS OF NATURE
Its autumn somewhere on Vancouver Island. The leaves start to turn; the days get a bit shorter and I start to track rain fall and wait for the morning when the air feels and smells just right to go out looking for specifically Cantharellus cibarius, commonly known as the Chanterelle or golden Chanterelle.
There are at least 30 types of eatable mushroom here on the coastal islands. Unless you know your stuff stick with the chanterelle. Its easy to identify, find, and prepare. If you have any doubts in your ability to identify mushrooms that are safe to eat I recommend a guide like http://www.foragingguide.com to make sure you can in case, you have any second guesses.
The first mushroom trip of the year is a day I always look forward to. There’s satisfaction on a primal level knowing I am going to go find free tasty food to chef up later on when I get home. Sharing the bounty is almost as rewarding… almost!
I’ve already long been awaiting the day I head out for the first hunt of the year. Should I go north, or jump a ferry or two, maybe hit the place close to home, its an easy spot although it may have been picked over already.
Either way it’s a day I look forward to. If I have to find excuses to leave work once I’ve got a harvest or two in I will. The window is tight and shorter some years than others depending on rain or an early hard frost. You have to get out there when it hits and enjoy the bounty while it’s there.
I know I’m not alone in finding the restorative power of natural environments. The restorative effects become amplified by coupling the time in nature with an activity. There are countless ways people enjoy nature but harvesting food that the land offers is unlike any other. Hunting may not be for everyone but foraging gives you something gardening cannot. Foraging doesn’t take the same commitment a true hunt does.
There have been many studies based on the benefits of getting out in nature. Studies have shown a boost in immune function, improved cognition with depression sufferers, and a reduction in stress leading to better sleep. Those benefits I might add are all enjoyed before you’ve begun cooking!
Over the last ten years I’ve been making trips annually to a number of spots in my area of the west coast Discovery Passage. I have shared this time with friends and have enjoyed picking by myself too. This year my appreciation for the time I spend picking and my level of satisfaction grew exponentially. I have been able to share this part of my life with my son who turned one in October, typically mushroom season!
Picking as a family has made an old ritual new with a richer and deeper meaning. Like the rest of this year as a new father a lot of what I do I scrutinize and prioritize in a new way. I had no trepidation when imagining taking my young son out to traipse around though the salal and huckel berry bushes. I did wonder I will admit how things would go, he is after all only one. It’s a bit wet, it is technically bush whacking. My boy was so content out there, I would ask him how he was doing along the way getting back his little inaudible mumble all good Dad sound; my belief in the power of nature to nurture was reinforced. There’s something about these forests that our DNA no matter how far removed still meshes with when you find yourself out here. My son didn’t even seem to mind the occasional drip of water down his neck. I knew since I was getting them he must be too. During a little snack break of course I checked to see if he needed a change all I found was a bit of moss and pine needles that had found their way down his back as well. My thoughts wondered towards our future picks as a family and the extra help I’d have picking with him by my side. This brought another big smile to my face and as I looked over at his Mom I thought to myself, hmmmm maybe one more is a good idea!
If you aren’t used to being in the woods mushroom picking is a great place to start. You don’t have to be in steep or dangerous terrain. Nice second growth will do although old growth is the best in my opinion. The under growth is minimal and you won’t have a hard time getting around. I’d also say you should always bring your map and a compass but if you can find a local “guy” your bounty and arrival time back at the parking lot are a little more solid. Once you’ve harvested and eaten from the land the need for nature grows. It’s a win win situation and like me you will find many other fun activities to take you back out again and again even when there is no harvest. The mushroom season is unique though; you come home less stressed, a bit of exercise under your belt and some delicious, healthy food to cook.
No line ups, no cash registers, and you don’t have to stay on the outer isles here you just need to squint a bit and take a look around for the golden colors that starts to appear.