Tuesday, September 22, 2009

It's not a Clam Bake

Somethin' good is simmering over the campfire.

While on vacation at the Presque Island campground, inside Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, I found a woman inspecting one of the many fallen trees. "Mushrooming?" She nodded yes, but didn't offer more. Later, I found a little more gumption, which isn't all that hard for me to find, and approached her campsite. She produced a hard fungus as big around as my two fists. "Horse-hoof mushrooms...to brew for a tea. My husband has gout and drinks it three times a day. My sisters in Korea can't wait for me to send it. My name is Song."

She told me how to look for the smooth white underbelly, avoiding older, wormier specimens. A fallen behemoth birch right next to our campsite was loaded. (to get an idea of the size of these huge trees, see our two room tent to the right of the fallen birch) Now I've picked a few wild morels but I have a healthy respect for fungi...so I consulted her again.

The fungus are very hard and woody with no stem. You kind of have to press downward to release them and you still end of with a lot of bark attached. The larger ones are broken into smaller pieces and then brewed for about 45 minutes in a pot of water, until the mushrooms impart a golden brown color to the tea. We let it cool, and ran it through a sieve. Did I tell you it is BITTER! That's an understatement, and I couldn't choke it down until it had been mixed with some cranberry juice.

I got little over a half gallon of tea. When Song returned to my camp, offering homegrown tomatoes, she said that the extra mushroom could be blanched and then frozen for future use, reusing to make the tea up to 3 times before discarding. She also offered a smaller vermilion gem, the Reishi mushroom, that grows on pine trees.

Back in civilization, I researched the Tinder Polypore, as it is commonly known.

More about the campground:
400 year old hemlock and deciduous forest.
Great rustic camping.
A "Polish" bath in Lake Superior. Richard heard later that the same weekend folks were surfing Duluth shoreline.
Refraining from sleeping in my cooking clothes yielded no black bears in camp.
We camped 5 nights, hiked, biked, ate like kings and returned home rested and restored...let the lovin' begin.

1 comment:

cookie said...

one year later, I have learned that the reishi prefers fallen maple, not birch or pine as earlier indicated.