Deerholme Farm’s mushroom foraging workshops highlight all that the wilds have to offer

Mushrooms, mushrooms everywhere - interior of Deerholme Cottage is crammed full of mushroom memorabilia.  Bill at work in the kitchen.....

Mushrooms, mushrooms everywhere – the interior of Deerholme Cottage is crammed full of mushroom memorabilia. Bill at work in the kitchen…..

Autumn on Vancouver Island brings with it many delights, among them the prospect of yummy meals created with the huge variety of wild mushrooms that can be found here. Mushroom foraging is not, however, for the faint of heart or for the foolish, as we learned during a wonderful Saturday spent with mycologist and chef extraordinaire Bill Jones of Deerholme Farm.

Bill with a cauliflower fungus, which makes for very interesting eating

Bill with a cauliflower fungus, which makes for very interesting eating

Among his many projects (cookbook author, guest chef, food consultant, host chef) Bill runs a series of foraging workshops from his small farm in the Cowichan Valley. In the fall the workshops focus on wild mushrooms because that is the main season for them.  Weather plays a huge role in what varieties you can find, and when you can find them, and where.  But a few hours spent in the delightful company of Bill and the nine other folks who attended his workshop had us up to speed and, happily, very well-fed by the end of the day. Bill calls the workshops ‘a general overview of what you need to know in order to keep yourselves alive.’

All ready for lunch....

All ready for lunch….

Our day began with generous servings of Bill’s house-made hummus featuring chanterelle and porcini mushrooms and a long discussion and display of the various kinds of mushrooms found in the Cowichan area – both the edible ones, and those that can kill you.  A generous handout package featured colour photos and written descriptions of the edible types, along with a couple of recipes. All of the lectures and dining are staged in Deerholme’s pretty 1904 renovated cottage

Lecture over, Bill returned to the kitchen to put the final touches on lunch (featuring a variety of mushrooms, of course) while we ‘students’ whiled away the short wait perusing his many cookbooks or hanging over the kitchen counter watching him at work.

The beautiful pork terrine, with house-made mustard and porcini mushrooms - a sublime combination of flavours

The beautiful pork terrine, with house-made mustard and porcini mushrooms – a sublime combination of flavours

Following a sumptuous lunch featuring a tasty terrine, simple romaine salad and filling rice chowder we headed outdoors where we tramped through forest and field, sometimes along trails, other times through dense undergrowth. While the foraging movement is becoming very popular it certainly isn’t a simple walk in the woods. In fact as Bill adeptly pointed out, the further away you are from public spaces the more likely you are to find wild mushrooms. In our particular case the quest led us through farm fields, up hills through dense woodland undergrowth and along trails. Bill took the time to explain the types of terrain preferred by each variety of commonly found mushroom. Dry weather up to the point of our visit meant that not many fungi had emerged on the forest floor but we managed to find a fair number of varieties, all examined closely by Bill and elucidated upon.

Foraging in the forest

Foraging in the forest

Two hours later we returned to the cottage to finish off the day with dessert – a not-too-sweet apple crumble featuring fruit from the Deerholme tree (no mushrooms in this course).  And, because Bill is the ultimate forager, the crumble was accompanied by a lovely tea that combined the needles of Grand Fir (collected during our walk) and honey.

Overall it was a great, relaxed day of camaraderie, learning and great food – a fine, gentle transition from Indian summer into the charms of autumn and all it has to offer.

            Further information on Deerholme Farm and its many events can be found at the website:  www.deerholme.com

            Deerholme Farm is located at 4830   Stelfox Road, Duncan

            GPS co-ordinates are:

            Lat. 48.7448846  Long. -123.76171590000001

            N 48 44.693  W 123 45.703

 

 

 

Shirley

About Shirley

More years ago than I like to remember, I completed the Journalism program at Vancouver Community College and launched straight into a career as a newspaper reporter (thanks to my journalism professor Nick Russell and an opening at the venerable daily Alberni Valley Times.) My work as a news reporter/feature writer/columnist and ultimately, newspaper and magazine editor, took me to many interesting places and introduced me to hundreds of interesting characters over the years. I loved every minute of it, but burnout caught up with me while I was trying to juggle the simultaneous editing of five trade magazines, and for 27 years I abandoned my keyboard (on a professional basis, at least) and followed my heart in a variety of other careers.
In 2010 I returned to the journalistic fold, thanks to the encouragement (nay – nagging!) of my husband. I feel no regret – only great joy to be back at the keyboard, and to be spending time interviewing interesting folks and discovering great places.

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