Time really flies when you’re brewing beer and making food. Our restaurant and brewery has already been open over six months, but I think most of our staff would say it feels more like six weeks.
In celebration of our half-year mark, the Forbidden Root team took a day to spend time together out in the very nature we derive so much inspiration from, learning more about each other and the amazing plants and fungi of the Chicagoland area.
Rob, a.k.a Chicago Mushroom Man, took us on a foray into the Campground Road Woods in Des Plaines, IL where we learned how to identify the “Foolproof Four.” These edible mushrooms don’t have poisonous lookalikes and are therefore great mushrooms to first learn how to identify:
- Puffball (Calvatia gigantea). Found in fields and under light brush, this mushroom is often the size of a basketball. It is bright white with no internal gills showing. When squeezed, it emits spores that look like puffs of smoke.
- Chicken of the Woods (Laetiporus sulphureus). A bright orange to yellow polypore whose shelf-like appearance makes it easy to spot from a distance. When cooked, its texture and taste is surprisingly meat-like.
- Chanterelle (Cantharellus sp.) A yellow to orange mushroom whose cap has upturned and wavy edges and is found in rich forest floor soil. This rhizomorphic mycelium needs four distinct factors to produce a mushroom, including a bacteria that’s only washed from treetops during heavy storms!
- Morel (Morchella sp.) Anywhere from 1-12 inches, this mushroom has a greyish brown cap with ridges that look like honeycomb. In the Midwest, it’s found in springtime when ground temperatures warm to mid-50s. Delicious.
There were many other types of mushrooms we identified. An unfortunate amount of trash, too, which we picked up along the way.
We also learned how to identify edible greenery like American Ginger (zingiber officinale, which you may recognize from our Sublime Ginger six-pack), Lambs Quarter, Wild Grape, and Hog Peanut. We made sure to soak up a little sun, too.
After our walk in the woods, we headed to Oak Park where we met up with Dave Odd of Odd Produce who took us around the city block to point out some edible flora, like Day Lilly and Hosta blossoms, that grow in our own urban backyards.
Along the way, we found an injured baby squirrel. Dave wrapped it in a hoodie and took the little guy to a nearby rehabilitation facility where he got all fixed up.
We finished the day over lunch at Carnivore, an Oak Park butcher shop offering locally sourced and responsibly-raised meats, seafood, and produce. There's little better than sharing a delicious meal and refreshing beers in the company of good people you enjoy.
We can't wait to see what the next six months has in store for our Forbidden Root family.
For more information on mushrooms and the rich flora of Illinois, visit Rob’s website, Chicago Mushroom Man. We used it as a resource to recap our field day in this post. Photos were taken by head brewer, BJ Pichman.