So, while all of this medical shit was going down, there were mushrooms. There was the first flush of oyster mushrooms back in May, as you might recall. Then, there was a second flush. And then a third. But, as always, things didn’t quite go according to plan.
The plan, of course, was to eat the mushrooms. But when the second flush appeared, as discovered by the 3YO, who seems to be developing a greenish- brown tinge to his thumbs, we were in the middle of making our getaway to the Cape for Memorial Day weekend and mushrooms were the furthest thing from our minds. Still, I was delighted to note that there were four times as many mushrooms as before.
A long weekend, however, was too long. Upon our return, all of these mushrooms had curled up into sad little husks. Damnit! I went off and sulked. The mushroom instructions mentioned nothing of a third flush, so I reluctantly moved on to other distractions. A few days later, I noticed that these disgusting little wormy things were crawling all over the mushroom remains. Whatever. I figured they’d compost themselves and we’d try again next year.
Then came June and the rain. And the rain and the rain and the rain. The sun may have come out once in three weeks and, on that day, the 3YO checked on what he was now referring to as “his” mushrooms since he was doing all the work. Look what he found among the shriveled remains of the last crop:
Whoa! “His” mushrooms were HUGE, and instead of presenting as little individual umbrellas, as mine had, they were stacked and layered, seemingly clinging to the side of the bucket for dear life as the floods subsided. Maybe two or three pounds worth, they were exactly what oyster mushrooms should look like (except for maybe the ass-shaped one).
Wow, I thought to myself, this is my kind of crop! The more you ignore it, the better the yields. My mouth was watering. I conjured up a mushroom risotto in my mind, something with brandy, beef stock, and thyme. It would be the last meal I would prepare before my surgery, and it would be spectacular.
I could hardly wait to harvest them. I got a paring knife and a paper bag at the ready and cut the top one off at its stem. Right away, something didn’t look right. Instead of the smooth, ivory texture I associate with mushrooms, the stem where I had cut it looked spongy inside, like bread. I waved away a small cloud of bugs in annoyance. And then some more bugs. God, what’s with all the little flies, I thought? Slowly, I turned the palm-sized mushroom cap over in my hand and saw it. Every single one of the ribs housed at least one adult fly and large cluster of eggs. On closer inspection, tiny mushroom-colored larvae were crawling out of every orifice. What I held in my hand, I realized, wasn’t actually a mushroom at all but a mushroom-shaped conglomeration of squirming, miniature maggot-like worms. I flung it to the ground. It crawled away. I passed out.
That picture doesn’t even do it justice. In my semi-conscious state, I dreamt I got Monsanto corporate headquarters on the line: “Hello, Monsanto? I take back what I said. I need a case of Roundup, stat.”
At some point, Husband came around with the watering can to revive me. Then, I faced the bucket once again, hand clamped over my mouth to contain the vomit. I harvested the rest, one by one, to see if anything could be salvaged. Not a single thing. Total infestation.
God, this kind of thing can break your heart. I wonder how farmers deal with the emotional effects of crop loss on a large scale?