Foraging

The white ball was easy to spot, almost glowing in the gray, quiet woods. A flick of the well-honed pocket knife and the toothy ball joined several other shaggy Hericiums in the man’s basket.

His bride walked in as the first slices of the lion’s mane mushroom touched the hot butter in the skillet. A smell almost like lobster filled the kitchen. In the man’s mind the other Hericium mushrooms in the basket brought back memories of his bride’s wedding dress ... the lace, the princess sleeves, how her pearls reflected back the candles on the alter. He smiled.

“You’re thinking about our wedding, aren’t you?” she says, her eyes dancing. “Those white mushrooms remind me of my wedding dress, too. And also, your grandpa’s worn out hankie in your tuxedo pocket. So many loose threads. You’ve been collecting those lion’s mane mushrooms from the woods ever since that day, cooking some fresh, drying some for tea. We have them two to three times a week.”

“Yes” he responded, “And we’ll continue to have them as long as I or our grandkids can collect them.” The man’s wrinkled hand reached out and stroked his bride of 35 years’ cheek. “Happy anniversary, beloved.”

To lose one’s memory is to lose oneself. Everyone’s life has bright remembrances they never want to lose. The perfect day, their first kiss, their wedding day ... so many scenes of joy inside the head. There’s a belief such memories will fade in time, but that’s actually preventable. Scientific research on the Hericium family of mushrooms (aka lion’s mane and bear’s head’s tooth) has shown not only do they slow down and even prevent memory loss from age but some preliminary studies have shown a reversal of the symptoms of Alzheimer’s.

Lion’s mane mushrooms look like a white, softball-size, fuzzy ball on the side of dead hardwood trees. They are a cool-weather fungi, showing up in East Texas from December into February. If you find one yellowing it’s too old to harvest, but keep an eye on that tree or log as it will continue to produce these fantastic fungi until the wood has completely returned to the woodland soil.

By far the tastiest way to prepare Hericiums is simply sauté thin slices in butter until they turn a bit crispy. Their flavor is very similar to lobster and can be included in seafood dishes as such. To store these mushrooms, dehydrate after cutting into thin slices. Vacuum seal the dried mushrooms if possible to maximize their storage life. Later they can be rehydrated in soups or ground into powder to be enjoyed as tea.

While they are available from commercial sources, wouldn’t you rather spend a day wandering the woods with a basket in one hand and you husband’s hand in the other, searching for lion’s manes? That would be a day to remember.