The mushroom hunters : on the trail of an underground America

by Langdon Cook

Hardcover, 2013




New York : Ballantine Books, [2013]


"In the dark corners of America's forests grow culinary treasures. Chefs pay top dollar to showcase these elusive and beguiling ingredients on their menus. Whether dressing up a filet mignon with smoky morels or shaving luxurious white truffles over pasta, the most elegant restaurants across the country now feature an abundance of wild mushrooms. The mushroom hunters, by contrast, are a rough lot. They live in the wilderness and move with the seasons. Motivated by Gold Rush desires, they haul improbable quantities of fungi from the woods for cash. Langdon Cook embeds himself in this shadowy subculture, reporting from both rural fringes and big-city eateries with the flair of a novelist, uncovering along the way what might be the last gasp of frontier-style capitalism. Meet Doug, an ex-logger and crabber--now an itinerant mushroom picker trying to pay his bills and stay out of trouble; Jeremy, a former cook turned wild-food entrepreneur, crisscrossing the continent to build a business amid cutthroat competition; their friend Matt, an up-and-coming chef whose kitchen alchemy is turning heads; and the woman who inspires them all. Rich with the science and lore of edible fungi--from seductive chanterelles to exotic porcini--The Mushroom Hunters is equal parts gonzo travelogue and culinary history lesson, a rollicking, character-driven tour through a world that is by turns secretive, dangerous, and tragically American."--book jacket.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member Carolee888
The Mushroom Hunters: On the Trail of Secrets, Eccentrics, and the American Dream by Langdon Cook is window into the strange but exciting world of foragers of mushrooms, morels and truffles.

I was excited to receive this book as I had been asked in the past for permission to search for mushrooms and American ginseng on our land in the past. We only had three acres but on one side the ground sloped downwards. The land used to be a state forest so we had a lot of different kinds of trees of different ages. There were many treasures that you could find on a hike down to the stream before.

Because of that experience I was thrilled to see this book in my mailbox. It is a great book with loads of information for the recreational seeker of mushrooms and even for professional buyers starting out. One lesson that I had right away that it is almost impossible to eke out a living from selling mushrooms to restaurants. You might be lucky someday and find a big patch that would yield many buckets but there are too many variables to count on it. Beside the thrill of finding sought after mushrooms and morels, the best job benefit seems that you are outside most of the time.

There was only one thing that wanted from this book and didn’t get. That was big color pictures of the mushrooms, morels and truffles. This would be necessary for a collector but it for a novice like me. I remember seeing so many different kinds of mushrooms growing down the slope that I have often wondered what kinds they were. I had always been afraid of picking poisonous ones.

Langdon Cook paints an interesting portrait of the people who get hooked on mushroom hunting. His mushroom hunters seem to be a special breed who love discovery of treasures and a deep love for nature. All is not well with them and that is one that makes these books fascinating. After you have read this book, you will be able to answer several questions like:

1.Where is the mushroom capital of the United States?
2.Why are mushroom hunters so secretive?

I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in mushrooms and mushroom hunting.

I received it as a win from First Reads but that in no way influenced my thought s or feelings in this review.
… (more)
LibraryThing member dele2451
I spend a lot of time cooking and hiking in the forests of the Pacific Northwest, but somehow I've never given very much thought to the mushrooms (or the few people) I encounter in my wanderings. I want to sincerely thank this author for changing that. I'm sure I will look at the forests and fellow hikers of Washington and Oregon differently after reading Cook's research. I enjoyed this book immensely but, if I was pressed to give a suggested improvement, it would be to include a brief description of some of the fungi that novice recreational pickers may want to avoid while they are out there (or at least an acknowledgement that there are some inedible varieties). If this was the first text on the subject someone picked up, some younger readers without botanical backgrounds might be left with the mistaken impression that every mushroom they encounter is safe to eat. Even non-foragers who obtain most of their nourishment in restaurants will find much to enjoy in this book. Well worth the read.… (more)
LibraryThing member mstrust
Cook travels across America and Canada with the people who make their living in the mushroom business. He teams with the freelance pickers who follow the growth patterns of a variety of mushrooms, mostly along the Pacific Northwest Coast, destined for your farmer's market or high-end restaurant. He shadows the mushroom buyers, the middle men who have the restaurant accounts, and he meets the chefs who rely on foraged produce for their menus. He also looks at the growing Oregon truffle industry and meets the people who are attempting to build a trade to rival the French market.

Even if you don't like mushrooms you'd find some really interesting information that translates to much of the foraged food movement. Cook spends a lot of time with the people who go into the forests, searching for mushrooms that will pay them, usually, just enough to get by. The competition is fierce, sometimes intimidating, yet these are people who have to know nature very well to survive.
… (more)
LibraryThing member cygnet81
Who knew these folks even existed? Lots of fun but beware - you'll probably never be able to buy those white mushrooms from the grocery story again.


Page: 0.1658 seconds