As a child, I was repulsed by the idea of eating fungal growth. In fact, if my mom put mushrooms anywhere near the dinner table, I would declare in an ominous tone, “There’s a fungus among us,” and stare at them suspiciously as though their mere presence were a death sentence. At some point I had been warned not to pick and eat unidentified wild mushrooms/toadstools, which instilled a bit of phobia in me. I saw mushrooms as evil and poisonous, and I was not about to put my life in danger to taste those unattractive beige stems and pieces that came from a tiny can.
My disdain for mushrooms manifested itself not only in the avoidance of consuming them, but also in eliminating those that grew in the grass up north at our cabin. There was the low-sitting grey variety that would produce a puff of smoke-like spores when stepped on, and the larger white ones that ones that closely resembled golf balls. In an attempt to rid the yard of the insidious fungus, my sister and I started a little business called Gherkin and Sibling Mushroom Mutilators. Our highly original motto was, “Walk Softly and Carry a Big Stick.” I was about ten or eleven years old, and she was three years my junior. I had nicknamed her Gherkin for reasons that I no longer remember. Or maybe I was the Gherkin? In any case, one of us was the Gherkin, the other was the Sibling, and we used large sticks to whack the hell out of all the mushrooms we could find. We would then expect payment from our parents for providing this crucial service. This was one of the many failed money-making ventures of our youth.
Over the years, I got past my dislike for mushrooms, and began to develop an open mind about them. Didn’t the Smurfs live in mushrooms? Perhaps that had something to do with my change in attitude. Anyway, fast forward to about five years ago, when my husband and I were in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. I had progressed to not picking mushrooms off of pizza, and even indulged in the occasional mushroom Swiss burger or portabello sandwich. We were at a tourist destination that happened to grow its own oyster mushrooms, and so we ordered a plate to sample. To this day, I still can taste the buttery, garlicky smoothness of what is possibly the most pleasantly memorable snack I have ever had.
Lately, we have been noticing Grow Your Own Mushrooms kits popping up at home shows and farmers’ markets. Intrigued that they are supposed to produce ‘shrooms similar in taste to oyster mushrooms, we decided to purchase one and give it a try. Stay tuned for our fungal adventures…