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Meritage Chef Forages for Mushrooms

Meritage Chef Forages for Mushrooms

Wild chanterelles.

Mat Schaffer | Boston Herald

Daniel Bruce loves mushrooms. So much so that, at least once a week from April to November, the executive chef of the Boston Harbor Hotel gets up before sunrise to search for wild mushrooms he will use at Meritage restaurant and share with family and friends.

“My first memory of foraging for mushrooms was when I was about 16 years old,” said Bruce, whose father is a registered Maine hunting guide. “My interest spiked because I became a chef and saw all these mushrooms I could cook with.”

Over the years, Bruce has located hundreds of wild mushroom patches across New England. He typically forages solo.

“I don’t take anyone out because it’s like a great fishing hole,” he said. “You take someone to the fishing hole and the next time you come back, there’s nothing left. Because one person tells somebody and they tell somebody else.”

One recent August morning, Bruce set out in pursuit of black trumpets and chanterelles – wild mushroom varieties that would cost $15 to $20 a pound retail, should you be fortunate enough to find them in the market.

He drove more than an hour out of Boston to a wooded spot where he’d successfully foraged in the past.

“Mushrooms only grow in certain areas,” he explained. “Once you find an area, you have to get back there every year, because that specific species of mushroom grows in that area every year at the same time, more or less.”

Bruce climbed over crumbling stone walls, pushed aside branches and waded through streams. He carried a sharp knife to trim stems and a cardboard box to carry his swag.

While the novice would be unable to differentiate between black trumpets and dead leaves, Bruce could spot trumpet patches through thick underbrush from several yards away. Golden chanterelles were easier to identify, when you knew what to look for.

“If you don’t know what you’re doing, don’t go out alone,” Bruce warned. “Go with an expert. This is difficult.”

After several hours, he had collected 14 pounds of edible fungi.

“This is a good time of year for walking in the woods and looking for black trumpets, chanterelles and all types of boletus,” Bruce said. “Chicken mushrooms. Puffballs. There are a lot of species out there right now.”

Next Page: Daniel Bruce’s Sauteed Chanterelles, French Green Bean, and Red Endive Salad