It’s about mushrooms – golden chantrelle mushrooms.
“They’re very common in Calhoun County and in Alabama,” he said. “Most folks just don’t know about them. They cost $39 a pound at the Farmers Market in Atlanta.”
They’re also common in Europe. Duncan was born in the East German city of Breslau, and some of his fondest memories of him and his family picking and eating them. In Germany, they’re called pfifferlinge. Duncan and his family had to leave during World War II before the Russians arrived or they would have been sent to work as farm laborers, possibly in Siberia.
Nowadays, a license is required to pick them in Europe because for the past 34 years they’ve been pulled up by the roots until they’re almost gone.
He learned they were prevalent in Alabama from German friend, Heinrich Mueller.
“Heinrich called me one morning about 30 years ago and asked me if I wanted to pick some pfifferlinge with him,” said Duncan. “I told him that we didn’t have those in Alabama, and he corrected me. We went out one morning and I was hooked.”
It didn’t take long for Duncan to get his brother Pete hunting them. He and Pete often find them together now.
June and July are the months to look for them. They’re found in low lying areas where it’s moist, along creek banks and in the Talladega National Forest. This year has been a good one because of the rainfall and humidity.
“If you talk to people down here about mushrooms, they’ll tell you to leave them alone, that they’re poisonous,” said Duncan. “Some are poisonous, and you have to be careful. Never hunt them alone. Always go with someone who knows what they’re doing. There are more than 100,000 species of mushrooms worldwide and most of them you can eat. Alabama is blessed with golden chantrelles.
Duncan said it’s not only a wonderful hobby, the mushrooms have a good taste. He and his wife, Sandy, put them in bags and eat them in the wintertime. They eat them in scrambled eggs and mashed potatoes. Some prefer to dehydrate theirs.
Duncan said that to prepare them, put them in a sink with a little soap, wash them three or four times to get all the dirt out, then dry them. They can be sauted in butter, salt, pepper and onions. Bacon can be added.
Several years ago Duncan took a friend to hunt the mushrooms. She ate one on the spot, starred at him, and when he didn’t collapse, she ate one. She’s been eating them since.
One day he ran across an unexpected companion – a four-foot rattlesnake.
“They don’t bother you until you disturb them, so we let him go,” he said. “He went on his way.”
He does, however, advise everyone to keep a watch for snakes.
Duncan said more and more people are becoming interested in mushrooms. He often has people ask him to take them out. Anyone who would like Duncan to accompany them on a search can contact him at 782-2991.
“It’s the fear of the unknown,” said Duncan. “People in Alabama don’t know what they have over here. They have a gold mine. This is something we like to pass on for other generations to come. You never know when you’re going to need food.
(Contact Margaret at firstname.lastname@example.org.