Mule Mushroomimg: Hunting “Aeyer Schweumli” from the Saddle

My mom used to point them out to us as kids. We’d be walking through the forest in western North Carolina and she’d point down at an orange mushroom and say, “Lueg. As Aeyer Schweumli”. “Lueg” means “look” in Swiss German, her native language. Aeyer Schweumli is what she used to call chanterelles. *

Aeyer Schweumli: aka chanterelle. It’s also called “Pfifferling” in German. Pfeffer means “pepper” in German. The mushroom has a peppery taste.

My brother Christian recalls a whole different side to my mom’s mushroom picking. She’d, “sample an unknown mushroom to see if it was poisonous. Just nibble a tiny sliver, then spit it out. She would never say what constitutes a poisonous mushroom in terms of taste, So did she know what she was doing? Was it all bluff to impress the kids? We’ll never know. But it wasn’t mushrooms that did her in.

After she picked an Aeyer Schweumli, she’d stick it in her pocket, carry it home and cook what remained of the mushroom for supper. Often it was just mushroom shards. My mom was a vigorous walker.

My mom Lislott Harberts (born Blatter) was originally from Switzerland. She moved to the ‘States in the 1960s and could never understand why none of our neighbors picked Aeyer Schweumli. Or Morchla. Morchla is what she called morels. In Switzerland, those are both considered delicacies.

One of the things that used to freak out our neighbors about picking wild mushrooms was that they thought we’d get poisoned. That was a risk with some of the other mushrooms we grew up with. The red and white spotted toadtool comes to mind. But it’s hard to confuse a chanterelle with anything else.

The Swiss name for chantarelle, “Aeyer Schweumli” means “egg mushroom”. That’s a good description of the color. Chanterelles really have the same color as an egg yolk. Some are a dark orange and some tend toward yellow but they’re all a shade of egg yolk.

They’re funnel-shaped and orange with heavy gills that run from the top of the stem out to the corner of the cap. Around here in western North Carolina, there’s no other mushroom to confuse them with.

Where the Chanterelles Grow

This week, Julia and I saddled our critters and headed in to the woods to look for chanterelles. She rode her pony Pie, I rode my mule Cracker. I brought along a paper sack to keep the mushrooms in. Plastic is okay but seems to make the mushrooms sweat more so I like to stick with paper.

Our mushroom bag: it’s just a plain paper bag that some friends of ours brought over some tomatoes in
Our barnyard: this photo was taken a few days before we went mushroom hunting.

From our barn, we headed up West Creek, the westernmost creek on our property. West Creek runs down a rocky bed with lots of seeps and springs that drain in to it. It bubbles along over mossy rocks and under the roots of giant beech trees and along the way, Julia and I just stopped to listen to it. I even made you a recording so you’d hear what it sounds like. Just click on the player below from some cooling creak sounds.

What West Creek sounds like

West Creek’s banks are covered in rhododendron, oaks and moss. The forest floor is dark and cool with lots of millipedes and granddaddy long legs crawling about. These are ideal conditions for chanterelle mushrooms.

Up West Creek

Chanterelle are picky about where they grow. The first quarter-mile of along West Creek, we didn’t see any. Then, in a cool cove of tulip poplar and white oaks, we spotted the first orange mushroom on the forest floor. I dismounted, grabbed the bag off Cracker’s saddle and started picking. Julia held Cracker while I worked. Here are some photos of that I thought you’d enjoy.

The first mushroom. The main part of the mushroom lives underground. The part you see here is the fruiting body.
The one-handed slice. Look closely and you can see the blade of my multi-tool up against the mushroom’s stem. I pick the mushrooms as gently as possible so as not to damage the larger, underground, parts of the mushroom.
Score! I always make sure not to pick all the mushrooms I find. This ensures a future crop. I’ve been picking on this stand of chanterelle for ten years and it’s as prolific now as the first time I picked it.
A chanterelle under a log. They like cool, damp conditions.

Pie inspects the haul
Cracker pestered me for a piece of mushroom until I relented. It didn’t taste like grain, as he’d hoped. Still, he ate it, mostly, I think, out of a sense of obligation.
Ready to head home.

Back home, I sorted the chanterelle, removing little leafy bits and twigs and the occasional bug I didn’t want to cook.

Our mushroom haul along with some other stuff from our garden: tickseed flowers, apples and squash from our garden. That’s a glass of mint tea from the peppermint that’s threatening to crowd out our garden.

Cooking chanterelles is easy. A bit of salt, pepper and olive oil is all you need. Butter or bacon grease works, too. I cook them in our cast iron skillet on a medium flame. They’re a wet mushroom so as you cook them, they give off a lot of water. Once the mushrooms are swimming in their own broth, I just turn the flame down low and cook just long enough to cook off a bit of the juice. Don’t pour off the juice or thicken it with corn starch or flour. Just be patient and you’ll be rewarded with a bonkers-rich tasting sauce.

Cooking chanterelles in our cast iron skillet.

Chanterelles are rich fare. They have a meaty, peppery flavor. You can eat them as a stand-alone dish but I like them best served as a side. Julia and I enjoy them with green beans, a piece of fish and a hunk of cornbread.

Enjoy!

Dig in: chanterells green beans, cornbread and fish cooked on wood coals

Let me Give you a Heads up

Mule Cracker’s done a lot more than pick mushrooms with me. Right now I’m working on”Trash to Triumph”, the account of my journey from North Carolina to Idaho with Cracker and another mule, Brick. Just click right here and I’ll let you know when it comes out.

* For you Swiss speakers, pardon my spelling.

2 Responses to Mule Mushroomimg: Hunting “Aeyer Schweumli” from the Saddle

  • Great memories surge back for the first time in decades…

    The other endearing thing Lüttich would do is sample an unknown mushroom to see if it was poisonous. Just nibble a tiny sliver, then spit it out. She would never say what constitutes a poisonous mushroom in terms of taste, So did she know what she was doing? Was it all bluff to impress the kids? We’ll never know. But it wasn’t 🍄 that did her in 🙂

    • Daaaaaaang. Now that brought back some memories. In fact, that’s such a great comment one, I’m gonna have to add it to the post!
      Yours in mushrooms.
      Bernie

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