Mushrooms that come from “the wild” taste different – better – than their cultivated brethren. Foraged mushrooms taste of the Earth, with a depth and complexity that shrooms grown on compost, straw or other sterile media lack. From our experience, mushroom foraging is also exciting, especially when we come upon a favorite variety, fresh and unmistakable. Of course, it bears repeating: DO NOT eat any mushrooms that have not been positively identified.
So, we were pretty excited when we were lucky enough to find, in our local farm market, a freshly foraged sparassis, also called a cauliflower mushroom. The name comes from the way it looks, not the taste. Scoring a freshly-foraged mushroom at a shop is the best of both worlds, especially for mushroom novices or time-pressed people like we are. We cooked it up, in age-old mushroom tradition, with a little olive oil, garlic and parsley. With its earthy but still mild taste and hearty texture, it was the perfect topping for some hot toast.
1 Sparassis Mushroom, carefully cleaned with a brush, damp paper towel, etc.
1-2 Garlic Cloves, chopped or sliced
1-2 tsp. chopped parsley
1 tsp. Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper to taste
Step One: Clean the Mushroom.
One drawback to this mushroom is it can be very dirty. With multiple folds and branches, dirt hides, and debris like pine needles, leafy bits and even insects must be removed. As a practical matter, this means the mushroom must be broken up before cooking to be sure to get it fully clean. That must be why there are so many recipes for sparassis soup, where large pieces are less important.
Step Two: Sauté.
On medium heat, add the olive oil to a small to medium sauté pan. When it is hot, add the garlic and cook for a minute or so. Add the mushrooms and stir for one-two minutes. Add the parsley and reduce heat. Cook for another few minutes until mushrooms are cooked through. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
This is self-explanatory. You can also add to pasta, rice, steamed veggies (like spinach) or eat as is. Some folks like a squeeze of lemon – we didn’t but suit your own tastes.