Candy Cap Moss Truffles: Mycelial Connections and Ancient Mosses
The first thing I notice in spring’s earliest arrival is the glowing emerald of the mosses waking up from hibernation. They feel like the perfect representation of the energy right now: a reminder of microcosm and macrocosm, of ancient magic and mysterious discoveries. This time of year, too, the subtle threads of life can be readily noticed: the threads of time wound through ancient organisms like mosses and ferns, the soft network of mycelium revealed as a fine web on the surface of the earth as the snow melts, the connections we feel with our communities as we come out of the hibernation of winter and start socializing again. Right now, the forest floor is soft and spongy, saturated with the dampness of melted snow and the humus of decaying forest.
The death of an old tree gives birth to new life. Mushrooms act as the intermediaries, breaking down the wood and converting it back to soil so that a new generation of stately trees can emerge. If we zoom out of our present-moment time-keeping to a geologic timeframe, we can see trees grow, fall, and decay in a matter of moments. If the life of a tree is one big, slow inhale, the fruiting bodies of the mushrooms surrounding it look like glittering sparks, appearing just barely long enough for the mind's eye to register. And so the cycle continues: just as we breathe in and out, so, too, does the landscape. The mycelium, a living network of fungal life, holds the texture of the soil together while decomposing matter and recycling nutrients, allowing for the breakdown of old life to nourish new. We are not above this natural cycle, we are in it. We just view it at a different pace than the trees do.
A web of time spins around us, with ancient magic and some of the first organisms connecting to our momentary experience of our place in this landscape. Threads stretch out from us to our loved ones and communities, bringing us back together after a long winter of introspective alone time and internal focus. And below all of this are the miraculous threads of mycelium, connecting all of the living beings in a forest to each other. Mushrooms are full of magic.
One of the most magical mushrooms I have ever tasted are the candy caps (several closely-related members of the Lactarius family) that grow along the West Coast. Fresh, these mushrooms just smell like the familiar deeply woodsy and earthy scent of many other mushrooms, but dried they take on a whole new dimension. They have a maple-like scent strong enough to perfume an entire room from within a sealed plastic bag. Their warm maple sweetness is a welcome addition to many recipes, from custards to cakes to, yes, truffles. And there is something particularly sensual about these particular mushrooms too, as writer Eugenia Bone in her book Mycophilia can attest to:
“The candy cap was a revelation to me: redolent with the smell of maple, marvelously silky and spongy in texture, earthy and meaty and sweet. When you eat a candy cap, your skin smells like maple sugar. When you make love after eating a candy cap… well, I leave that to the imagination, but… yes.”
So as the days grow longer and your energy levels rise, reach out some threads to your loved ones and reconnect with your communities. Take long wanders in the woods to soak up the sunlight of early spring. And then share some of that deep forest magic with others through these candy cap mushroom moss truffles, a sugar-free treat spiked with whiskey and flavored with the intoxicating flavor and aroma of these mysterious mushrooms. And if you catch a whiff of maple on your friend’s skin a while after you’ve shared these mossy bites, you’ll know it’s just the candy caps working their magic.
Candy Cap mushroom moss truffles:
Recipe makes about a dozen
1/2 c. cocoa powder
1/2 c. dates
1/2 c. almond meal
1/4 c. raisins
1 Tbs. whiskey
2 Tbs. coconut oil, melted
pinch sea salt
2 1/2 tsp. ground candy cap mushrooms
culinary matcha and/or pistachios, to roll in
- In a small bowl, soak the raisins in the whiskey and 1 Tbs. water for an hour or two until soft.
- Mix everything but the matcha and/or pistachios in a food processor until smooth. Roll into small bite-sized balls. If you are coating them in pistachios, roll immediately in finely-chopped pistachios. If rolling in matcha, let chill in the fridge for several hours first, then roll.
- Serve immediately or keep chilled in the fridge for up to one week.
A note on ingredients: members of the Lactarius family are notably difficult to properly identify; therefore it can be best for a novice forager to purchase Candy Caps rather than forage them. These truffles are still absolutely delicious without the candy cap mushrooms; instead, you can add 1/2 tsp. maple extract and enough almond meal to hold the mixture together enough to roll.
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