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Making room for ‘shrooms
Ancil Jacques of Swampy Appleseed Mushrooms forages for living treasure

AS WE begin to peel back more and more layers of what our food industry can and will eventually look like, we find more cross-sections of culture and community than most of us locals can even imagine.

As chefs and food lovers alike begin to see the importance of eating and shopping with ingredients that represent the flavor of our area. I’ve been watching as we have slowly been ridding our city of the corporate chains that have defined food to our tourism market, and in their place will be, in an ideal world, shops and restaurants that reflect what it means to be a local in this city.

Let me also make sure people understand that the “Coastal Empire” is a lot bigger than Lowcountry boils and oyster roasts. Locals have the responsibility of making sure we support the local chefs and farmers who are representing how we believe our city should be represented.

The farmers market is a large tool for us to use in this transitional period of us defining our food culture. The market allows us as a community to be able to appreciate what local farmers are spending their time growing, and the difference in flavor and quality when things are homegrown instead of shipped here from a massive grow facility.

Markets allow us to take control of what we put in our bodies in an even more personal level, and gives us a deeper appreciation for the food that we consume. I know that farm to table has been a term some would consider “trending” (which it is in a good way) but the concept came from a genuine place of chefs attempting to give us have a chance to relate to our food on a much deeper level.

Fortunately for me, and for you all, my partner has a friend that is a regular at the Forsyth Farmer’s Market, and who once in awhile (weather and conditions permitting) allows his customers to get a look into his world and his passion.

Mushroom hunting is something most people don’t even think about being a possibility on a Saturday afternoon. But if they knew Ancil Jacques, they would know that is is something that if the conditions are right, would be something they could look forward to.

Foraging for mushrooms are something you have to have a lot of knowledge and experience in, but if you have the know how, you can bring home dinner for the family by simply knowing what to look for.

Hiking through nature, as you are scanning every inch of the ground, every dead tree, as you listen to the complexity that these fungi bring into our world on a microscopic level.

“Mushrooms are very good at what they do,” Ancil explained. “One of the most well adapted organisms that this earth has produced, one mushroom could easily expel ten million spores that could be picked up with the tiniest drift, and be carried across continents and large bodies of water.”

To think about the fact all of our clothes and every breath that we take as humans contains mushroom spores really puts things into perspective when you can comprehend how endemic they are to our environment.

“After flying dormant for sometimes up to year, the spores will find water on whatever their host is, and begin to germinate and create a large network of tendrils that are the body of a mushroom. If the actual mushroom is the fruit just like an apple, the mycelium is the tree of the mushroom, which is usually located underground,” Ancil says.

“If we did not have this fungus, we would not have any of these large forests we have today because the mycelium is responsible for germinating all of our seeds and allowing our trees to communicate about their environment.”

Mushrooms seem to be the unsung heros of the environment. It is ironic how something so small and microscopic could be responsible for how we shape the world around us. From forest communicating, to making sure the population of certain insects remains under control, all the way to the germination of most of our plants and trees that help us breathe everyday.

Mushrooms can be a great source of sustenance for a vegetarian looking for something fleshy to sink their teeth in.

Mushrooms seem to be, if you know what to look for, something you could lean on if you needed to eat while camping, or if you just wanted something different to incorporate in your at home cooking.

Or if you are a chef looking to add something local as a special to your menu, going through Ancil, or even foraging with him, will open up a door that changes the scope of how we engage with this fungus we all sort of like to forget about.

Opening up a different perspective about something we all sort of love to forget about, allows us to continue to transition into this new phase of our food industry. Ancil is just one of the many passionate people out there attempting to try and change things from within, and are doing what they love everyday.

If you are interested in going foraging with Ancil or are interested in finding out more information about the mushrooms and other ingredients he has to offer, visit him at his Facebook page or make sure to visit him on Saturdays at the Forsyth Farmer’s Market.

Let’s keep stirring that pot, people.