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Stalking the wild ones on Vancouver Island

By Margo Pfeiff
  "Watch for 'shrumps'," Bill Jones cautions as we wander the damp forest behind his Cowichan Valley, BC home. A "shrump" is short for a "mushroom hump," the telltale moss lump pushed up by growing fungi. I am giddy. My heart races with the adventure of the hunt, and my shrump basket soon overflows with delicately flavoured, trumpet-shaped golden chanterelles and bright-orange lobster mushrooms that taste sweet and smell like cooked seafood. Back in the high-tech teaching kitchen Jones installed for classes in his old farmhouse, the French-trained chef and author of The Savoury Mushroom sautés each one, then serves on croutons with goat cheese.
     Rich flavours of garlic, chèvre and earthy, musty fungi mingle and melt on my tongue.
     Fall is mushroom season, and thanks to the "eat local" trend, it's a shrumping stampede on Vancouver Island. There are 30 kinds of edible mushrooms growing wild here, including celli, hedgehog, pine, cauliflowers and chicken-of-the-woods. Every September and October, Jones launches private hunts for small groups, followed by a cooking demo.
     That's also when Benedictine monk, Brother Michael, from a nearby monastery heads into the woods with a few followers from the Relais & Chateaux Aerie Resort & Spa on Wild Fungi Forge and Feasts. It's a half-day educational mushroom hunt on how to harvest and which are safe for eating. Back at the Aerie, the windfall is served up as a gourmet three-course lunch by the hotel chef, who provides recipes and cooking suggestions. Post meal, we sip vodka martinis spiced with tiny fungi marinated in apricot brandy, fennel and pernod. Then we grab our goody bags, dreaming of tomorrow's chanterelle omelette and pine-mushroom ragout.

Award-winning, Montréal, QC-based freelance writer and photographer Margo Pfeiff's work has appeared in Reader's Digest (books and magazines), GEO, Better Homes and Gardens, Time-Life books, Canadian Geographic, Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, The Dallas Morning News, Montréal Gazette, National Post, The Globe and Mail and Cathay Pacific's Discovery magazine. She is working on a book about contemporary life in Nunavut. Click for Duncan, British Columbia Forecast

Photo Credit & Article:
courtesy, Canadian Tourism Commission

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