I love mushrooms, cultivated or wild. I love their earthy flavors especially this time of the year when the weather turns cool. A few years ago we went to Switzerland for a hiking vacation in the Lötschenthal Valley. Once back to Zurich, we went foraging for porcini with Francois’s brother Jean and his wife Kati. The forest was full of mushrooms and we had a feast over the next 3 days until we never wanted to see a mushroom again.

When we first bought our cabin in Michiana, we couldn’t believe one spring when we found morels in our yard. At our next house, we were hopeful every spring but never seemed to find any more morels. One day in the fall we discovered a strange mushroom growing next to one of our oak trees. The following week, I saw a similar looking one at the farmer’s market in Chicago. I decide to cut off a piece of ours to show the farmer. He told me that I was very lucky. The mushroom was edible, called “Maitake” or “Hen-of-the-Woods” and we would have it every year near the same tree. Hen-of-the-Woods grow in clusters around the base of oak trees and can grow up to 50 lbs. in size, if you can imagine!

Francois takes great care in watering the tree every summer and we were hopeful when we came back from Asia that our mushroom would be here. And it is. We have enjoyed 2 dinners already and will probably have enough Hen-of-the-Woods for the rest of the month. Sauteed with a leek, some garlic and white wine, tossed with some pasta and garnished with some fried sage leaves… perfection.

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