Juniper’s Chef Doug Paine is no stranger to fungi. A native Vermonter, Doug grew up foraging in the Green Mountains. Read his recommendations for finding, foraging, and cooking mushrooms. Also, please note that some mushrooms are poisonous, so if you are unsure if it is edible do not pick!
It’s no secret that we love wild mushrooms here at Hotel Vermont. One of my personal favorites have just started to pop out. They are white matsutake aka. pine mushrooms. These mushrooms have a very distinct spicy aroma similar to cinnamon. Also due to the environment they grow in and the time of year, they are firm and dry, also are not typically bug infested. They are fairly rare and could easily be misidentified so we don’t have too many people that pick them for us. One person we trust to gather them is Colin McCaffrey, local musician and operator of Hermit’s Gold Wild Edibles.
The other night Colin brought some to us and it happened to be his anniversary so he was also dining at Juniper that evening. I made him a special dish with one of the matsutake mushrooms he had just brought. I caramelized the mushroom in a cast iron pan with butter, herbs, garlic and a touch of ice wine vinegar. Then I crisped up some thinly sliced bread, from Red Hen Bakery, in the juices left in the pan. I served the mushroom on the bread with a little calendula and micro basil from Half Pint Farm, and a pinch of course salt. A simple preparation but a fantastic way to let the mushroom be the star. From forest to plate in just a few hours. It doesn’t get any better than that!
If you are out looking for white matsutake mushrooms they like to grow on steep hillsides in hemlock groves. Look for small streams running through the grove. They can easily be seen when they are fully opened but you want to leave those in the forest. Look carefully near the open ones and you will see unopened ones trying to push up through the dirt and fallen needles. These are the ones you want to pick. These unopened ones are highly regarded as some of the finest mushrooms in the world and grade A specimens can sell from any where between $100-$1000 per pound in Japan. Remember to be a good steward of the forest and not pick too many. A general rule of thumb is to pick 1 out of every 3 within eyesight. Also try not to disturb the ground too much where you dig them up and cover the holes left behind. Good luck!