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How to use Mushrooms

Mushrooms are much in demand as food and you rarely come across someone who does not appreciate the delicious concoctions made from them. However there are a few people who find them dif­ficult to digest so they must not eat them too often nor be tempted to take too large a helping because in this, as in many other things. moderation is a virtue.

The food value of mushrooms is considerable. People with hearty appetites will have to be content with the recipes we give after each description, but, before trying them, here are a few general rules for getting the most out of what you collect.

The first thing to do is to sort the mushrooms according to what use will be made of them, either to be eaten at once or to be pre­served. If you want to preserve some. choose only those young spe­cimens that are firm and undamaged. The ones that are a little more advanced and do not look quite as good are the ones to eat right away.

From the ones you intend to eat at once you should pick out any that can be eaten raw. There are very few kinds because most mush­rooms are indigestible, or even slightly poisonous, before they are cooked. There are one or two kinds that should be blanched in boil­ing water before further cooking. and some need to be dried for a short spell first.

When there is a big crop you can prepare mushrooms in various. different ways and eat them at the same meal, if you have enough patience to cook them. If not, then you can eat them at different meals in succession.

If firm-fleshed specimens are mixed up with the more fragile ones that need less cooking time, the latter will go mushy before the others are cooked. There are kinds with a strong flavor that blend well with additional seasonings like garlic, olive oil, and aromatic herbs. The more delicate ones are set off best with a little bit of butter.

Some types of mushrooms can be preserved easily using the old-fashioned. country methods that were the only ones available years ago Others need all the resources of a modern kitchen.

Preserving by drying

Boleti, morels. helvellas. the Horn of Plenty, and the Fairy Ring Mushroom are easily dried if the temperature is right. Do not wash them but clean them with a knife Split them in two or, in the case of boleti. cut them in thin slices Put them in the sun on a tray, or string them on cotton thread so as not to be touching each other, and hang them up to dry If the evenings are damp, bring them in before the dew settles on the grass. Continue the operation until the mush­rooms are quite dry. that is. brittle. Put them in cans or sealed jars away from the light.

When you decide to use them it is best to soak them for 15 minutes in warm, salty water and after that cook them as though they were fresh.

Preserving by freezing

If you have a freezer, it is good for keeping chanterelles Clean them and remove any earthy bits, put them in a plastic bag. squeeze out the air, and seal. Do not thaw when the time comes to cook them. You can also freeze other kinds. but it is advisable to cook them first.

Preserving by canning

Start by cooking the mushrooms using the recommended re­cipes, but stop before the cooking is completed and put them into glass canning jars and seal the lids in accordance with the manufac­turer’s instructions. Inside the lats. the mushrooms will give up addi­tional liquid as they are processed. Put the jars in a pressure cooker for an hour and a half after the regulator valve indicates maximum temperature Alternatively put the jars in a hot water bath for two and a half hours at 100 (212 F) This method is good for all kinds of mushrooms.

Preserving in vinegar

This is a suitable method for the chanterelle, the Delicious Milky Cap, and the Cup-Bearing Clavaria.

Blanch by plunging them for three minutes into boiling salted wa­ter. Rinse in cold water and let drain a few hours before packing them into a glass or earthenware jar Meanwhile prepare some wine or malt vinegar by boiling it for five minutes with a bunch of parsley, a sprig of tarragon, a clove of garlic, and a few peppercorns. Allow the seasoned vinegar mixture to cool before pouring it over the mush­rooms and covering the iar. This pickle goes well with cold meats

IS THERE ANY DANGER
OF BEING POISONED?

By carefully reading the description of each species in this book and meticulously observing the features that will ensure against error, even a novice can gather and eat fungi with complete peace of mind.

Some rash collectors neglect these precautions and they make mistakes. so you ought to know what to do if it becomes necessary for you to act.

First you must find out if it really is a case of poisoning. some high­ly strung persons do in fact feel ill at the very thought of eating fungi, even though they are perfectly wholesome. Others may think they have been poisoned when it is simply a case of having eaten too much Mushrooms are rich food. Quite harmless food like shrimp or lobster may cause trouble when eaten to excess.

In every case where a meal of fungi is followed by disorders that go beyond the consequences of eating too much. a doctor should be called at once. Swift action may well prevent many a mishap.

Symptoms may take the form of excitement similar to that of drunkenness, even though no alcohol has been consumed. abnor­mal secretions (tears or abundant perspiration), frequent vomiting and diarrhea accompanied by sharp pain, an intense thirst. These ef­fects which may appear soon after eating mushrooms, are not really serious. unless the victim has been weakened by a previous illness.

If, however, several hours after the meal, sometimes the day fol­lowing, your table companion finds his or her skin turning yellow and suffers from fainting fits or periods of sleep interrupted by convul­sions. the outlook is serious and you must call the doctor with the ut­most urgency. So, too, if the sick person has stomach pains, cold sweating, and giddiness

We feel it necessary to describe this list of disorders which indicate mushroom poisoning so that everybody can help a possible victim. However the enthusiast must not be scared by this unhappy picture. Accidents only happen when there has been lack of attention or prudence. Since it is easy to avoid such accidents. we should put aside once and for all those unfortunate prejudices which these plants suffer from

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