By Kaare Melby
Mushrooms and wild rice have consumed my life for the past few weeks. This year, the mushrooms came late, but they came on strong. The drought we saw this summer had really caused a lot of problems for the water-loving mycelium that produce wild mushrooms. But the rain finally came, and since then the forests seems to be exploding with mushrooms. Along with chanterelles, there have been lobster mushrooms, hedgehog mushrooms, and, in my valley at least, a particular abundance of pig’s ear mushrooms.
Interestingly, the drought seems to have helped the wild rice this year. Too much water at the “floating stage” of wild rice development can actually uproot the plants. I took my friend out to harvest wild rice for his first time this year. He said the experience changed his life. The experience and connection to the land that comes from gathering wild food in such abundance is awe-inspiring. Being able to harvest enough food in one day to feed your family for a whole year is a magical experience. All of this food is here, ready, waiting for us to harvest it and feed ourselves with it. The land truly does provide the food we need to survive.
As the nights get colder, new opportunities arise. Some of us have already seen frost! But with the frost comes the highbush cranberries. So keep an eye out for bursts of red in the forest. And now that the frost is coming, it is time to harvest roots again – the cold triggers the plants to transfer energy down to the roots in the form of sugars and other compounds. If you have found a good patch of wild ginger during the summer, this is a good time to start harvesting some roots for the winter. I find it interesting to note that sauteed wild mushrooms, mixed with wild rice, a little wild ginger, and some highbush cranberry sauce is a particularly good treat. And highbush cranberry sauce is a great complement for the fish and meat that will come from fall hunting and fishing. Once again we see one part of the cycle leading us into the next, reminding us that the earth’s cycles are eternal. Simply remembering the steadfastness of these cycles seems to be a source of normalcy, something we could all use these days. Happy foraging!