close your eyes for a moment and think about every type of mushroom you have ever eaten.
in no particular order, my list includes: morels, white button mushrooms, oyster mushrooms, chanterelle, portabellas, creminis (which are technically just baby portabellas), hen-of-the-woods, shiitake, brown clamshells, white clamshells, porcini, matsutake, enokitake, maitake, and king trumpet mushrooms. there might be some others, but those are the main ones i can think of. honestly, i think fourteen different kind of mushrooms is pretty good right off the top of my head. what was your score?
while you are distracted with this fun little mental exercise, i guess i’ll go ahead and get to the point of this post.
true, this post is about mushrooms as i am sure you have already guessed. but this post is also about a swedish guy named carl linnaeus.
carl was born in 1707. he lived to be 71 years old, which was pretty dang good for that time. over those 71 years, he laid the foundation for the modern method of scientific nomenclature we use today. you know the animal kingdom? yeah, he came up with that. plants? he was the first guy to start classifying them based on similar characteristics (such as visible or non-visible reproductive organs). plus, he wrote almost every one of his academic publications in latin. yeah.
in other words, he wasn’t just a zoologist. he was the zoologist.
sure, he got a lot of stuff wrong. he was coming up with zoological and botanical theories in the 1700s, so that is to be expected. but despite having lived some 250 years go, he came up with some really amazing stuff which we still use today.
one idea carl had (which is somewhat less known) was to develop a formal algorithm for organic diversity on our planet. the goal of this system was to use a variety of factors to estimate what percent of the world’s organisms belong in one kingdom or another. as is to be expected, it was pretty rough and was never taken that seriously. i’m an amateur home cook, not a botanist, so it would be futile/impossible for me to explain the inner workings of the theory here. nonetheless, assuming there is even a semblance of accuracy to his models, we are now pretty close to having cataloged all the mammals and birds on our planet.
brace yourself, because this history lesson isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. here comes the bad news. according to carl, we’ve discovered 10% of all ocean life. and fungi?
7%. yes, your eyes read that number correctly. an estimated 7% of all fungi on our planet have been discovered.
this post has two main goals. the first goal is to offer a brief/condensed history lesson and point out that, while we may think we know a lot about the magical things that happen in nature, we’ve only begun to scratch the surface. true, we know a lot about the living things which exist at our eye-level. but the majority of organisms in our world exist beneath our feet and in the deepest depths (whether underground or underwater), where even the sun doesn’t want to go. undiscovered organisms are more than likely becoming extinct with each day that passes, and we are missing out on all their potential awesomeness.
the second goal of this post is to reprimand mankind. i’ve eaten fourteen different kinds of mushroom, and they are all delicious. just humor me for a moment here. let’s assume the only edible fungi we know of in this world happen to be the exact ones i’ve eaten (which is obviously false). given the fact we’ve discovered only 7% of the world’s fungi, that means there are (14*.07=200, 200-14=) 186 edible fungi out there just waiting for me to sample them. we are all dropping the ball, myself included. i’m not really sure how to fix the problem, but maybe botanists and chefs need to get together and have a pow-wow or something. we need to combine some resources and fix this problem. mushrooms are awesome, and if carl is even close to correct, there could be approximately 93% more of them to sample.
but i digress. these aren’t problems that are going to be fixed over night. i know mycologists are doing their best. i’m going to bide my time, consume the delicious mushrooms i have on hand, and hope for a more fungal tomorrow. in the mean time, i’ll be drowning my sorrows in king trumpet mushrooms, bacon, and cheese.
bacon-stuffed king trumpet mushrooms
- two or three really big king trumpet mushrooms (a.k.a. erinigi)
- 100g of bacon
- 1/4 of an onion
- two cloves of garlic
- fresh parsley
- olive oil
- a shredded cheese of your choosing (i like mozzarella)
- mince the bacon, onions, garlic. add them to a frying pan with a little bit of oil. saute them over medium high heat. you want to bacon to crisp, the onions to turn transparent, and the garlic to be fragrant. keep stirring while you saute or you run the risk of burning the garlic.
- while your meat and aromatics are in the pan, start to chop the parsley. pick off the leaves and do your best to minimize the amount of parsley stalk you include. bunch the herbs up and use a sharp knife to chop them super finely.
- here comes the tough part. take out your king trumpet mushrooms and use your knife to make three or four partial parallel incisions from the cap to the base. the key to this step is to not cut all the way through the mushroom. these partial incisions will create narrow little pockets into which you can delicately stuff your cheese, parsley, and bacon-aromatic mixture.
- once the bacon saute is sufficiently crisp, set it in a dish and allow it to cool a little. use your fingers to delicately spread open each cut (remember, if you spread them too wide it’ll break the mushroom and your stuffing will fall through), and distribute a pinch of bacon saute, parsley, and cheese in that order. repeat until the mushrooms are bursting at the gills. (get it? because mushrooms have gills… never mind.)
- cut six pieces of string long enough to go around the circumference plus a few more centimeters. use one or two pieces of string per mushroom to keep the package tight while it cooks. the mushrooms will become significantly more limp in the oven, and without the string they run the risk of falling apart. make sure to tie the strings nice and tight. while a bow might look fancy, i generally go with a good solid double knot.
- once the strong is in place, preheat the toaster (or conventional oven) to about 200ºc. use a pastry brush to apply a thin layer of olive oil on the top and sides of each mushrooms, then pop them in to bake. take them out once they start to crisp, which shouldn’t be more than ten or fifteen minutes.
- cut the string, unbind the mushrooms, and feast.