A deep red wax coverd kidney shaped cap and stalk
An exciting exchange at The Mushroom Table at Islington Farmers Market introduced me to a new mushroom, the legendary Reishi. William and Mathew Rooney are two brothers who cultivate organic mushrooms and forage wild fungi in Essex. A shop and chat with either of these boys is tantamount to a session with a modern day shaman. Both are knowledgable and generous with their culinary and medicinal wisdom. I wrote earlier in the year about the billowing white cloud mushroom.
The photo above does not do justice to the lacquered waxy coating. It has a kidney shaped cap. The gills show that it is not dried as the texture suggests. I was almost afraid of cooking with this extra terrestial, which seemed to be way too knowing and aware. Mathew advised me to make a stock out of it, then marinade the mushoom in alcohol for a couple of months for a tot every now and then when one is below par.
The rieshi is a symbol of wisdom in Chinese culture. The wizzened old chaps you will see in Chinese art are most likely depicted carrying a reishi mushoom. Regarded as a tonic with potent medicinal properties.
I boiled the reishi for 2 hours as Mathew suggested. I tried a spoon and it was very bitter. I felt a strong sensation almost instantly in my sinuses. Momentarily I wondered if a scary mushroom moment was going to follow.
I called brother William up to discuss and debate this fascinating new discovery. He duely indulged me for 20 minutes as I received a barrage of fresh data and mind blowing reishi history and facts. Science, medicine, art, where it grows, what it's good for; how to cook it, marinade it, eat it, make a tea, concoction.
William told me that the sinus sensation was because I was unbalanced. I have just been ill, so the reishi knew! If only I could recall a quarter of what I learned; I chose to bask in the wonder that is the mighty reishi; to revere the knowledge that enthusiasts such as the Rooney brothers exude.
I delight that I know these eccentric mushroom men, who know their product in the same way an artist knows his instrument or paint brush.