Saturday, January 23, 2010

Gleaning Day

Yesterday was a full day. It was gorgeous. The sky started sunny and open, with a lovely rim of dark, smooth clouds. I was originally going to get up and go running, get some sunlight and oxygen and move a little.

Instead, my mother-in-law and Kevin's Grandpa asked if I wanted to go orange picking. Gladly.

It has been raining this last week, so the ground is sufficiently muddy, and there is green everywhere. I need to move to the sticks--just putting on my rubber boots made me smile with a silly sense of purpose and personal satisfaction. Physical labor does that for me. Give me a shovel and point to a bit of earth, and I will dig away, completely elated, at least as long as I have the right tool, right directions, right clothes.

We went to an older couple's ranch a mile or so outside of town, where they had two large trees loaded with fruit. We picked a lot of oranges--like, twelve five-gallon buckets full of them. And we only picked over one of the trees. We can use this much. My in-laws make juice, Kevin eats sliced oranges in plain yogurt, and I have my heart set on making marmalade.

This is the kind of trip I've been hoping to participate in. It's the kind of use of resources I like--someone has too many oranges to use, they let someone else pick them. If I had a peach tree, I would call the orange people up and drop off a few loads during their season. I encourage all to give excess away. Please! I've walked around the neighborhood and their are at least 5 lemon trees in a one-mile-radius. One tree is too much for a family of two, or four. And I would take the wisdom of the old orange couple: tell others to come and pick. That saves time for the tree owners times two--no picking and no picking up as much lost fruit. A couple of the trees I've seen have the fruit just falling off of it! Ah! It kills my soul.

So I think I smiled the whole time picking oranges.

The day couldn't have gotten better, but it did. I told Grandpa that I wanted him to teach me how to mushroom hunt. And because he is a no nonsense kind of man, on our way off the ranch he pointed to a field (where he usually picks mushrooms) and he began teaching.

"Do you have a knife?" He said.

"Why, yes I do," I said.

"Well then, you've already started. Getting a knife is the very first step."

So he led me out and showed me the mushroom he picks. We found fairy rings of mostly older mushrooms, ones too old to want to eat. But there were a few lovelies. And there was one beauty.

I have decided to join the Mycological Society of the Sacramento Area. I missed their last outing for the winter just two days ago, but 'late spring' will bring morrels, so I'll save my energy.

I have wanted to hunt mushrooms for a while now. I love that they are free, but even more, I love that they are wild. They are one among many that many people are afraid of and/or are annoyed by. Either way, they are one among many that people attempt to eradicate (mushrooms, berries, nettles, and dandelions to name a few).

I brought my orange and mushroom loot home and as per Grampa's instructions, cooked to mushrooms whole in a little butter, starting gill-side down in case they were water-logged, then flipping them over to the cap side to brown. I've never had such a flavorful mushroom. I am addicted. I am convinced. I am a mushroom hunter!

Stay tuned for Orange Marmalade!


  1. I am jealous! This looks like a dreamy outting. Fresh oranges? Sign me up!

  2. How do you know which mushrooms to pick?

  3. Which mushrooms depends... different mushrooms have characteristics that help a hunter to identify a species. The ones I picked were supposed to be round and 'normal' mushroom looking in shape, and pink to brown in color on the gills. But I would not encourage you to just go out and look for that. There is no hard and fast guide to edible mushrooms...meaning that some poisonous mushrooms look like some edible types, and you just have to know exactly what to look for in a specific edible mushroom. There is a lot of information on the web for mushroom hunting, as well as mushroom clubs, called mycological societies where you c an find actual people to teach you first hand what to pick and what not to. Hope this helps!