Taking a break from packing for my upcoming return to Belize, I joined a group of old friends from the Georgia Mushroom Club in a foray near the Georgia/South Carolina border. Fresh air, a walk in the woods, good company, and foraging for mushrooms – what better way to spend a morning?
The weather has been warm and wet, great conditions for mushrooms and we were happy to find patches of chanterelles. As we searched we talked about Chan Chich Lodge and Belize, and that we’re in the midst of brainstorming collaborations with the staff and local community who carry the ancestral knowledge of the old Mayan and Belizean foodways, and chefs who focus on foraging in the creation of their menus. We’ve recently discovered a variety of foods that are plentifully available from the Chan Chich forests, and are excited to incorporate them into our culinary story.
They were particularly interested in hearing about the Maya Nut that Crist wrote about recently. More of a seed than a nut, it’s botanically in the fig family, and apparently the Chan Chich Lodge Reserve is filled with it. Although not endemic to the Yucatan, the Mayas planted it thousands of years ago as an important food plant. The seeds are prepared in numerous ways: boiled; stewed; dried, ground and used to make a flour for tortillas; as well as roasting them – each form highlighting a different aspect of the flavor.
Alana and Emily, our two Cornell interns, will assist in this process of including these foraged ingredients into our menu. Based on all the information, there are numerous ways to do this, from the simple tortilla option, using the flour to make baked goods, stewing or boiling the nut for a mashed potato-like option, to various drinks. It appears to be highly versatile and I look forward to having creative options that help to tell the story of this heritage food.
A quick wash, and the alchemy of heat and butter will turn these chanterelles into a delicious treat, which I will enjoy as I ponder what forays around Chan Chich Lodge Reserve can bring.