YOU know it is Summer in the lowlands when incessant lightning and loud thunders precede the heavy afternoon rains. We fear lightning, especially because we stay in the middle of a grassland among tall trees. There are no tall coconut trees but these exotic acacia trees are even taller than full-grown coconut trees. At the same time, we look forward to the Summer thunderstorms because we learned when we were young that these force mushrooms to sprout.
It has been two years and a quarter more than we have been staying here. Two years are yet not enough for us to see all the mushrooms there are here. It seems like a surprise every time we see a new type.
First, I saw “bu-o,” which does not open. It just grows bigger each day and while waiting for it to grow as big as a fist, it suddenly bursts into a powdery brown puff.
We did not harvest these puff-ball mushrooms until recently. My brothers and mother did not know it was edible and they kept discouraging me from harvesting. Lately, though, I saw one big bu-o and as I sliced it, Nanay Nena kept saying it was not safe to eat something we did not know was edible. I insisted on wrapping it in banana leaf with garlic and sili. Plus a pinch of salt, I roasted it over live charcoal and it was so delicious, that my Nanay Nena could not help but have a spoonful. I felt I succeeded in introducing bu-o, but could not get over the thought that we had wasted a lot all this time.
One time, I saw a big pink mushroom under a malunggay tree. It was too beautiful to chop but I did cook it anyway.
There was one time in May 2020 when I chanced upon so many banana mushrooms – these filled a pail. Neighbors and siblings partook of my haul and we had mushrooms gathered from the same spot for several days. Even little children knew what it looked like and they volunteered to gather by themselves, with me at a looking distance.
The whole brood was expectant of a harvest of mushrooms since then.
The hint is the thunderstorm, and before long, we learned to appreciate the climatic event.
Wild Mushrooms from the prairie
It has been two days in a row that we had wild mushrooms for lunch. My big brother usually goes out to pasture cows in the open grassy fields not so far from The Happy Scion. My Nanay calls the mushrooms oong-na-siwit (bird mushrooms) because these must be growing in the prairie where birds feed on grass and leave their droppings to decay with grass.
Yesterday, the 86-year-old garden lady gathered ligaw na ampalaya leaves, and asked me to harvest some malunggay leaves. So we had mushrooms in soupy ginger and greens. I dropped a handful of dried alamang (tiny shrimps) and a little bagoong and the soupy dish went so well that we even forgot about the fried boneless bangus that could have been a combo.
Today. I sauteed the mushrooms in garlic, onions and luyang dilaw, added more water to dilute its natural juices and topped it with finely diced passion fruit tops. I also added finely chopped cassava tops but I did not announce I did lest I risk getting reprimanded for disturbing the root crop. It was as yummy as yesterday.
I wonder how I will cook another batch of wild mushrooms tomorrow.
As I was expecting, Kuya brought more mushrooms for lunch. It was Nanay who volunteered to cook it with malunggay and some greens. This time we had alugbati leaves. Today’s oong billit was cooked dinengdeng style.
Again, like the other two previous dishes featuring oong billit, our malunggay with mushrooms was so yummy although it was quite overcooked and a little bit salty. Nanay wanted the malunggay and alugbati mushy and everything melted in our mouths. At 86, her sense of taste is already problematic that she cannot not tell salty from saltier. How I wished mothers did not grow old.
Oong na siwit is small. It is no bigger than a ten-peso coin. Some are even as small as the 25-centavo coin. It is like creamy white sampaguita cookies brushed with golden egg yolks at the center. While other mushrooms appear after a thunderstorm, this one just shows up daily on the same spot during the rainy season.