Weather, Mushrooming, and Vegan Meat

I thought I would start with a follow-up on last month’s article regarding Oregon’s weather Prognosticators. Some were predicting the Northwest to have a very strong El Niño event, which is expected to bring increased rainfall to our area. Well, I’m still on the fence regarding the strong El Niño event; however, the rainfall part has certainly come to fruition. As a result, and this is the good news, mushrooms are popping up in greater abundance than the last several years. Sandy and I went out mushrooming on October 12th and ran into quite a nice collection of Boletes, Chanterelles and many other cool mushroom species.

Sandy also found this perfect trio of boletes (pictured left) with one big one and two smaller ones. To avoid the possibility of having them trampled by deer or elk, we felt obligated to pick them. Although we are not yet seeing roadsides lined with mushrooms as in some of our more stupendous years, we certainly have no complaints. Rain events are still predicted going forward with gaps of sunny mushroom hunting weather in between. As long as the rains continue and there are no hard freezes to stop fruiting this should be a pretty decent mushroom year. Just remember that edibles are not the only mushrooms in the woods.

While foraging for edibles is popular on CMS outings, that is actually not the primary objective of CMS sponsored forays field trips. The CMS mission statement is to study fungi; educate on fungi identification and ecology; promote conservation of fungi; promote health and safety in gathering and consumption of edible fungi. Of course, having fun while doing all these things is also a big part of the CMS mission. I have found that the more you learn about our amazing diversity of mushrooms the greater the appreciation for them, their role in nature, and incredible benefits.

Now it’s time for a Ron and Sandy flashback experience. Earlier this year, Sandy and I had an opportunity to try a relatively new fungal based product from Meati Foods. As the popularity of meat alternatives has been on the rise, there’s been more interest in experimenting with fungal based products. Plant based alternatives are popular; however, growing crops requires large amounts of land, water, machinery, favorable climate conditions and its generally one crop per year. Alternatively, fungal based products can be produced in climate-controlled buildings with far more frequency and predictability. Sandy and I enjoy a good veggie burger, but as a couple of mushroom enthusiasts we’re interested in most fungal based products. The Meati product we decided to try was their Classic Cutlets. It is their most basic product consisting only of; Mushroom Root (mycelium), Less Than 2% Of: Salt, Natural Flavor, Acacia Gum, Oat Fiber, and Chickpea Flour. At the time it was not available in the Eugene area but we found it on our trip to Washington’s Kitsap peninsula. They currently have four choices of cutlets to select from and have expanded their distribution to include Whole Foods stores. None are made from an actual mushroom, rather they use what they are calling the “mushroom root”. Those of us who are a little more familiar with fungal organisms more correctly refer to “mushroom root” as mycelium. It is much faster to produce mycelium than the actual fruiting body, which makes production faster and I dare say less expensive. I won’t go into the health or nutritional differences between eating mycelium vs. mushroom-based products as much has already been published and there is no lack of controversy. We cooked the Meati cutlets as suggested on the package. We didn’t add any seasonings as we wanted to experience only its flavor. As for the taste and texture, there was no consensus between the two of us. Sandy gave it a 1-thumb up while I gave it 2-thumbs down. I thought it was bland and the mouth feel felt like chewing on a giant slug. Sandy actually liked its texture and said it felt like chewing on chicken breast. I’m not sure what kind of chicken Sandy typically ate but it was not like any I’ve ever eaten. Since Meati has four cutlet styles, with hopefully different flavor profiles, you may want to try one of them and evaluate it for yourself. I’ve often been accused of missing the mark on food reviews as my vegetarian palate does bias me against most pseudo-meat products.

This is a picture of Sandy who went under, over and around obstacles to get to a nice patch of chanterelles. Focusing on the prize is the way of a truly dedicated (or obsessed) Mushroomer. Ralph Waldo Emerson is credited for saying “It’s not the destination, it’s the journey”. I guess Waldo never met Sandy or wasn’t much of a dedicated mushroom hunter.

Take care and definitely take advantage of the wonderful rainfall we’ve been having and enjoy the full diversity of mushroom species that these rains have encourage to fruit. We both hope to see all of you at Wednesday’s Myco Mingle event for CMS members. Ron

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