The deep wood on this old estate are home to many a fine stand of mushrooms. So naturally there are hunters of them here…
Well, here we are, are you ready? Oh, I’m sorry, I thought you were among my fellow mushroom hunters! How d’you do? My name is Kate, I’m one of the Assistant Cooks in the kitchens here, and I’m all dressed like this to go mushrooming — oh yes, in Oberon’s Wood! Mrs. Ware has the most divine receipt for risotto with morels, just for this time of year.
Oh me, no, we never go mushrooming but in groups, and it’s the Head Gardener who leads us only. At least, in Oberon’s Wood! The King himself has given us permission to mushroom in his woods, so long as Mr. Eldridge invites him for one of the morel dinners, but it’s still quite a dangerous place. Only the Head Gardeners know all the ins and outs of getting in and out with the morels, and any group without the Head Gardener with them will run all the risks anyone does in the Wood.
We’re still waiting for Patrick to come back, you know — he was one of the under-gardeners about a century or so ago. They went mushrooming, he got separated from everyone else, and one of the Fey took a fancy to poor Patrick. The Head Gardener back then went to the Fey Court to protest and to try and get him back in one piece, but the most he could get was a promise that Patrick would be returned to us when his Fey was tired of him. It’s almost been a hundred years now, I believe, and that’s about the usual time, so the gardening staff has been on the lookout. I’ll bet Patrick’s gardens there are quite nice by now . . . I hope he’s not gone mad as a hatter.
Old Gus, our Head Gardener now, knows all the things to look out for, where the sweet spots are where the morels come back dependably, or as dependably as any morel patch does . . . and all the regular mushrooming things, of course, plus there’s the extra bits of mushrooming in a fairy wood. Mushrooming is dicey enough, what with poisonous ones and mushrooms that look like other mushrooms but aren’t, and all. Oh my, no, I don’t know all that, I go along to learn about mushrooms and mainly to help carry morels and other mushrooms back.
It’s rather dangerous, being one of the bag carriers, actually, so one of the senior Under Gardeners are always among us to take a look at the shrooms as people gather them and hand their bags over. There’s always little creatures in mushrooms, for they like them as much as we do, but the creatures from a fey wood are sometimes a tad more dicey to chase around one’s kitchen, especially if they’re angry for being doused in salt water when we soak the mushrooms. The King’s given the Cook a charm for the kitchen, but every now and again someone or something doesn’t get the hint, and sometimes we have to call one of our resident Fey in to help clear the kitchen.
There’s a story that the King once got a morel dish at dinner here with a fey creature in it — supposedly it jumped out of his dish and bit him on the finger, not realizing whose dish it was in. That was when he gave our Cooks the charm, see!
Mrs. Ware makes a lovely polenta with mushrooms, and that risotto with morels is Mr. Eldridge’s favorite, so he always gets to pick who shares that meal with him. The best recipes are the simplest — morels sauteed with a bit of butter are probably the very best, really. I like them in eggs though, for breakfast!
Oh, here comes Gus and the rest of our little party, boots and all — see you later, be sure to be here for dinner tonight, there’s bound to be morels!