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It's September and it's starting.
Empty cars sit by the roadside.
People, apparently out for a stroll, furtively duck into the woods, checking to be certain they're not followed.
Golfers quit walking down the middle of the fairway, instead heading over to the 'out of bounds' woods and streams.
It's mushroom season.
I leaned everything I know about mushrooming from our friend living in Spain:
1. Look for the pretty white ones with pink frills. (These were abundant on our golf course)
2. Do not pick the identical-looking ones with white frills. These are called Death Caps for a reason.
3. Do not forget said mushrooms and leave in your golf bag, in the sun, for three days (Ewww! Talk about slime!)
4. Do not eat them if the frills are turning brown; this means the maggots are hatching
Now, that last bit really qualifies as Too Much Information. The logical part of my brain accepts the fact that there are microscopic critters in our food and that food grown outside (where it rather tends to be grown) is bound to have flies and other creatures of nature doing their natural thing in and on them.
I just prefer not to think about it.
I leaned everything I know; not everything he knows. As you can see I am not qualified. Not to worry; we can take our find of mushrooms to the local pharmacy and they will pick through them, giving a mini-mushroom lesson and discarding the ones that'll kill you.
Still I'm just not comfortable with it all. The last year we lived in Andorra, a 20-year veteran of local mushroom lore put the wrong one in his omelet and died. His wife (who apparently had little faith) did not share the dish and lived.
And It's not just eating the wrong one that can get you in trouble. The whole secrecy thing demands that people hunt mushrooms alone. That's not much of a problems in the fields and small woods of France but In Andorra it's a bit riskier. One should never go up the mountains alone but, during mushroom season, what other choice it their? One must keep the best spots secret!
Our Spanish teacher took a tumble trying to cross a stream to get to a particularly rich patch and broke her leg. No mobile phone service in the mountains; no one knew where she was. It took her three hours to crawl back to her car; then she had to drive herself down the mountain (standard transmission, of course).
Five years later she still walked with a limp. She still went mushrooming. Alone.
I know that zucchini won't kill me! (Although I found one that got away from me that could have done grievous bodily harm. It was the size of the Jolly Green Giant's baseball bat; a size which makes it the British 'marrow'.)
For all of you who still have them lurking in your garden here is one last recipe:
Zucchini (Courgette) Timbales with Pimiento Sauce
Prepare timbale dishes (ramekins or small custard baking dishes): Butter the dishes, then line the bottom with buttered parchment (wax) paper. Make two additional circles of buttered paper for the tops.
Whisk together egg and mustard. Add rest of ingredients and mix well. Spoon into timbale dishes. Cover top with remaining circles of buttered parchment paper. Set into a pan of very hot water that comes half way up the sides of the dishes. Put into a pre-heated 400F (200C) oven and bake 25 – 30 minutes, until set. Remove top paper and slide a knife around the sides to loosen. Invert on to the serving plate and remove bottom paper. Spoon some Pimiento Sauce on top and around the timbales and serve.
1 4oz (160gr) jar pimiento (pimento) or roasted red peppers
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp chili powder
2 tsp Balsamic vinegar
1 cup (8oz, 240gr) tomato sauce
Put all of the ingredients into a small saucepan and heat to a simmer. Simmer a minute or two, just to blend the flavors. Remove from heat and puree in a blender until smooth.
I'm hosting Weekend Herb Blogging this week (lucky me!). If you want to participate (please, do) and haven't before, Kalyn has posted a few, very simple rules.
And don't fret, I will be eating mushrooms soon, just as soon as they're in the markets, all inspected and certified non-lethal!