I went matsutake (Tricholoma magnivelare) hunting this morning at 6:30 AM. I had to be back in Seattle before 12-noon, and I am happy to say I had a successful hunt and made it back in time, too.
The drive to Lake Kachess, about an hour East via I-90, was beautiful at that hour. It was dark when I started. The moon was a tiny sliver, low in the sky and I drove into the sunrise. Here is Lake Kachess with rising morning fog:
I found so many matsutake! The name is Japanese for Pine Mushroom because they grow in association with Pines and have a spicy pine/radish/cinnamon odor and taste. They are very distinct, I don't think you can confuse it with any other mushroom if you combine the distinct odor with a few characteristics such as:
manly white mushroom with brown fibrils on cap, a squat appearance, thick cottony veil:
that is often fully intact:
Matsutake often completely develop under "duff," leaf and needle litter on the forest floor. You see puffed up, bulging areas of dirt and if you excavate further, you find this:
a nearly missed matsutake.
Here is an older fruit body. The cap has alredy turned upward and the gills have turned pink with age:
The odor/taste is strange. I actually like it, but I'm the type that sniffs every mushroom I see (I'm trying to learn all the mushroom odors - there are thousands). It was really satisfying to collect matsutake and get a "stamp of correct i.d."
I found my first matsutake last year (here's the post) and ate it sliced thin in a broth soup. It was pretty good. This year, I found about 15 large matsutake. I gave 4 away so I still had way too many to eat. I decide to try every interesting sounding recipe I found so I could get them all out of my system and not have to worry about mushroom hunting or mushroom taste testing any more this year (the collecting season is over anyway).
Here are my ingredients (I'm really proud of myself for chopping everything before I stared cooking, for the first time in my life):
Here is what I made:
clockwise from top: Matsutake broth, grilled matsutake, Matsutake rice (gohan), and Matsutake sukiyaki (stir-fry noodle soup).
The best one was the sukiyaki, then the rice, then the broth soup. The grilled matsutake were not so good. I think it would have been better on a real BBQ grill, not our panini grill :)
Now, we are sick of matsutake (Death by Matsutake, as Adam said) and our freezer is full of matsutake leftovers. It's funny to think this is one of the most expensive mushrooms. It can be $100 / pound in Japan - though around $15-$25 / pound in U.S. As a reference, one average matsutake is 4-5 ounces. So, 4 mushrooms make one pound.
Here is the log bridge leading to the secret matsutake hunting grounds!
Here are the recipes I consulted: