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Blizzards publish book on wild mushroom foraging

Couple also has side business including classes, blogs, merchandise

Kristen and Trent Blizzard outside of their home on Westbank Mesa.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent
A porcini mushroom.

Sauerkraut Soup with Mushrooms and Sausage

FORAGER: Matej Hodul | SERVES: 4

The type of sausage you choose will influence the flavor in this recipe. Consider using chorizo, andouille or smoked sausage. Crunchy sauerkraut brings nice high notes with overtones of caraway.

2 ounces dried porcini mushrooms

4 cups water

½ pound sausage, sliced or ground

1 medium onion, sliced

3 cloves garlic, crushed

1 teaspoon caraway

½ teaspoon ground pepper

2 teaspoons paprika

4 cups sauerkraut and its juice

2 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, cubed

4 bay leaves

Rehydrate mushrooms in 4 cups of hot water for 30 minutes. Reserve liquid and filter if necessary. Set aside. Sauté sausage and onion together. Add garlic and spices, and sauté for 2 minutes. Add mushrooms, reserved mushroom soaking liquid, sauerkraut juice, potatoes, and bay leaves. Simmer until potatoes soften. Smash up potatoes a bit. Add sauerkraut, heat if needed, and serve.

 

Five tips for beginning mushroom foragers

1. “There are different tips for safety. No. 1 is you never eat a mushroom you can’t identify, No. 2 is you only try it in very small quantities, and you may pick it a few times before you eat it to get familiar with it. Those are the three steps we follow, and that keeps you from getting sick. … The fourth safety tip is you never eat them raw,” Trent Blizzard said.

2. “You’re looking for a specific type of mushroom, and you want to know what that is before you go out. … That keeps you on point with finding the edible mushrooms, and that’s typically porcini and chanterelle,” he said.

3. “Here in Colorado many of those prime mushrooms are at very high elevation. We’re always above 9,000 feet in the summer and often above 10[,000]. That’s because they favor the spruce and fir forests,” he said.

4. “You want to clean your mushrooms well when you pick them. If you bring them home with dirt in them it’s hard to get it out at home, it’s hard to get them clean and you end up eating a lot of dirt,” he said.

5. “Use Facebook, they have great groups here in Colorado and nationally. If you have any questions you can take several good pictures of your mushroom from different angles and post it up and people will help you identify it,” he said.

They may not have exactly “written the book” on wild mushrooms.

But they have written a book titled “Wild Mushrooms.”

Trent and Kristen Blizzard of Glenwood Springs run a website design company BlizzardPress.

But their alter ego is self-proclaimed mushroom geeks. They’ve been collecting mushrooms for eight years, Kristen Blizzard, 46, said.

“We started the hobby together,” she said.

In that time they’ve traveled the country foraging for mushrooms and attending events.

“We attend a lot of festivals and conferences every year and speak publicly at them as well on foraging,” Trent Blizzard, 50, said.

The Blizzards’ mushroom book is scheduled to be released on Oct. 13. The cover may change some. For one thing, there are 115 recipes in the book.

‘Wild Mushrooms’ book

And their book “Wild Mushrooms: How to Find, Store, and Prepare Foraged Mushrooms” is scheduled for an Oct. 13 release.

“It focuses on about 15 mushrooms and focuses on how to preserve mushrooms. Then we have over 100 recipes that we interviewed about 20 different foragers for, and they each provided a few recipes and tips. So it’s a combination of wild mushroom preserving, cooking and forager stories about those mushrooms,” Trent Blizzard said.

It took a lot of work to finish the book.

“We’ve been working on it pretty hard for a year. Definitely a lot of work. The photography was a difficult part; we had to learn how to do a lot of photography. We had to interview all the foragers. Then we had to cook up 115 recipes and take pictures,” he said. 

The COVID-19 lockdown gave the Blizzards time to dedicate to the book.

‘In a way the pandemic helped us because we just finished up all the cookbook pictures and then it hit. … We had two months of downtime to sit here and write, edit, rewrite and re-edit. That was our pandemic project. We probably got the book out a couple of months early because of that,” Trent Blizzard said.

One of the websites BlizzardPress designed was for Modern Forager, the couple’s mushroom-hunting side business.

The website features blogs, links to resources, items for sale and burn maps. The Blizzards have looked at fires in all western states except Nevada and selected the ones that are accessible, where picking is legal and which are most likely to have burn morels.

Mushroom class

Enthusiasts can also sign up for one of Trent Blizzard’s online mushroom classes. Session 1 of Learn Colorado’s Wild Mushrooms just wrapped up on June 19 with all 50 slots sold out. According to the website, the class covers when, where and how to forage for gourmet mushrooms along with identification, habitat, preservation and cooking.

A second session started June 24 and continues Wednesday and July 22. 

‘We did one a couple of weeks ago and it sold out, so we figured we’d better do another one,” Trent Blizzard said.

He said missing a class is not a problem as recordings will be made available to people who sign up.

“We will be recording the class and providing the recordings for people because a lot of times people can’t attend all the classes or they move too fast and they want to watch them at their leisure. So as people come in and miss the first class it’s no big deal,” he said.

The class will cover Colorado’s popular and lesser-known mushrooms.

A morel looms in the foreground as Kristen Blizzard forages in back.
Trent Blizzard

“In Colorado we talk about the easy to identify [mushrooms as being] morels, porcini, chanterelle, puffball and hawkswing. Those are generally the big ones here in Colorado that people chase that are very easy to identify. Oyster mushrooms are also probably on that list or would be the next one you would add,” he said. “The class will talk about each of these mushrooms as well as more difficult ones, too, what you look for to identify them, and what are some of the key lookalikes you might want to be aware of or look out for.”

Knowing which mushrooms look like edible mushrooms but are not is very important.

“If you’re identifying mushrooms and you’re not aware of what the lookalikes are, you’re not identifying them properly,” he said.

Certified experts

The Blizzards are Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment certified wild mushroom identification experts, which is not an easy certification to get, Trent Blizzard said.

“Colorado has a certification for wild mushroom experts. You go through a process with that. It’s a fairly difficult process. There’s only a few people in the state I believe that have completed it. Kristen is — I think — the only woman to have completed that process. It’s difficult, that’s why there’s only a few people that have it in the state right now. … You basically have to have a scientist write a letter listing each mushroom that you’re qualified to identify,” he said.

Personal faves

So what mushrooms do the experts like?

“It’s tough not to love Colorado’s porcini the most (Boletus rubriceps) for the thrill of the hunt and their versatility in the kitchen. My favorite wild mushroom to eat is the chicken of the woods (Laetiporus cincinnatus), which does not grow in Colorado,” Kristen Blizzard said.

While many fungophiles revere morels, Trent Blizzard said he can’t eat them.

“I personally am allergic to morels. … I pick huge quantities of them and I can taste them, but if I eat more than a couple I get pretty sick,” he said.

Kristen Blizzard said one particular day foraging stands out as special for her.

Kristen and Trent Blizzard show off a matsutake mushroom.
Provided

“Oh, so many adventures. Last year in Colorado was quite special, though. I think I would say it was then, when we found a hillside of matsutake here in Colorado. Special because we had yet to find any matsutake in Colorado, and because of the sheer number of mushrooms we stumbled into,” Kristen Blizzard said.

cwertheim@postindependent.com


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