This is a Hen-of-the-Woods mushroom, that grows under old and massive elms. I have never found one, but one or another of my mushroom buddies usually brings me one this time of year. They are delicious – crisp and full of that mysterious taste of umami. Meaty. Fungal.
I met this year’s mushroom buddy just as he crossed the green bridge to Tinmouth, and I had just come down the hill with Mo. I noticed an old truck slowing, and when I recognized him I quickly glanced into the back of his truck and onto the cluttered seat beside him. “I left you something beside your door,” he said, nervously keeping an eye on his rear-view mirror. I knew what he meant. He brushed aside my ecstatic thanks. Another car approached the other side of the bridge and he sped creakily away.
I will separate the petals of the mushroom and scrape out the critters – not too many in this kind of mushroom, usually – and rinse off the litter, then fry them up. Only some of them – they keep their shape and don’t loose a lot of volume in cooking.
Maybe I’ll scramble some eggs – mushrooms and eggs go well together.
Then I’ll put the picked-over leavings in a jar and cover them with extra-proof vodka and let them macerate, and then I will have a tincture or a winter aperitif.
Asians prize Maitake – Grifola Frondosa – for its immune-enhancing and cancer-preventing properties, also for its deliciosity.