Black Trumpet Mushroom

Black Trumpet Mushroom

Friday, December 25, 2015

Slow Growing Maitake

Taken Sept 30th, Oct 8th, and Oct 17th.
The dry weather pattern I alluded to in the previous post never left us and the 2015 mushrooming season that began with so much promise ended with a whimper not a bang. 

Three years of above average Spring/Summer rain and below average late summer rain has led to a cycle of anticipation and disappointment. But in spite of the dry conditions I did manage to find a few. Its funny, some of my most reliable spots didn't produce but there's this one gnarly, old oak stump not far from my house that did - although I wasn't sure about it at first. Take a look at the first photo in the sequence taken Sept 30th...A small, knotty lump of mystery fungus. I wouldn't have thought much of it except that that stump had produced maitakes in the past so I kept watch on it. Sure enough a small Hen of the Woods slowly took shape. After 18 days the growth slowed and there was a hard frost forecast so I gathered it.

In more favorable conditions I've seen maitakes appear and reach full maturity in a few days. I guess it depends on the season and the tree. 

Another observation: Larger maitakes have noticeably better flavor than these small ones. Not that I'd ever turn one down.  

The final tally this year was 3 small hens (similar to the one in the photos) and one medium sized one. Each rainfall brought renewed hope but it was never enough for any significant fruiting.

Fall foraging is always enjoyable. The colors are out and the bugs are gone. My dog Fred gets energized by the chill in the air and expresses his joy by madly dashing about in circles. Yes, good times...Of course it would be a lot better to come home from these forages with a bag full of delicious mushrooms but how can you complain when the worst case scenario is that you've had a lovely walk in the woods. 

Thursday, August 20, 2015

A Splash of Orange

Chicken of the Woods, 8.23.15
After a crazy wet June and a average wet July it's been dry dry dry in August. So it was surprising to see several fresh Chickens popping up. Apparently Laetiporus sulphureus (Sulphur Shelf, Chicken of the Woods) needs just the right moisture content before it will fruit. Not too dry but not too wet either. This is the 3rd fresh Chicken I've found in the last 5 days so it can't be a coincidence. Interesting.

All well and good for Chicken of the Woods - a colorful but, lets be honest, mediocre tasting mushroom - but what about my beloved Maitakes? The dry weather is worse than either of the dry late summers we've had in Upstate NY the past 3 years and it's killing me. Just tonight we had a storm that was supposed to drop over an inch of rain but we didn't even get a 1/2 inch. If the forecast holds up August rainfall will be well below average. 

I remind myself that the Chanterelle's have been amazing this year. My freezer is full of zip-locked bags of sauteed chanties. Besides, I've found fresh Maitakes as late as mid-October. There's still time.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Early Edible Variety in Summer 2015

Black Trumpet, Chanterelle, Lobster, Hedgehog. 7.19.15 Upstate New York.
A motley crew of edible mushrooms all found in the same area on the same day. 

What a year we're having and it's only mid-July. Chanterelles first appeared over a month ago, since then I've found so many that I've started leaving many behind - I've already given away a bunch and my fridge can only hold so much. 

Trumpet have been a different story...My cousin found 5 lbs of these July 4th weekend before I even put them on my radar - I usually consider black trumpets more of a late July/August mushroom. But like several others mushrooms they've been fruiting early and often this year, not that I was finding many. That changed today as I managed to forage well over a pound of them. Sweet!

Lobster mushrooms are more interesting to describe than to eat in my opinion. They're created when a parasitic spores infect certain mushrooms (most likely a milk-cap as there were many nearby) and turns them into the firm red mushroom you see. Very cool. However I find the flavor to be pretty meh, also they spoil quickly and are hard to clean. I still collect them though, they're just too cool looking to pass up. 

Lastly there is a personal favorite of mine, the underappreciated hedgehog. Like the trumpet I considered the hedgehog a late season bloomer. I have a post about them dated Sept. 24th two years ago. 

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Early start for chanterelles...

Young chanties, 6.15.2015
I was all set to start the 2015 season with a post about the king boletes I've been finding but then I was out walking the dog yesterday and discovered these chanterelles just starting to poke though the undergrowth. Last year this same patch started fruiting on June 27th and I thought that was early. It was quite surprising, usually I wait for the beginning of July before I put on my chanty goggles and go looking.

But then this has been a crazy year of weather. Winter's record cold gave way to a warm May and a wet June. We've already had a more then a months worth of rain (4.2") and the extended forecast calls for consistent rains through the end of the month. Its all adding up to what could be a historic mushrooming season for central New York.

And now about those boletes...

Ever since my bad experience with bi-colored boletes* I've been hesitant to gather any boletes. What I do find are usually bitter boletes, a very common lookalike. This year I've been finding kings literally in my back yard. There's a small conifer forest there that has proven to be a very good spot. The only problem being the difficulty getting to them before the slugs do. For such a notoriously slow moving species its amazing how quickly they can find and devour a fresh bolete. I've seen boletes less then 2 days old already completely infested. I often collect them before they're fully grown for this reason.

The flavor is quite nice. Woodsy, rich, with a spongy dense texture. Not on par with say chanterelles or maitakes in my book but I can see the appeal. Oddly enough they are milder fresh then they are dried and rehydrated. This is a good thing. Using dried boletes can quickly overpower a dish if you're not careful.

*Reading about it just now I see that there are 2 boletes commonly referred to as bi-colored (red cap, yellow stem and pores). One is edible, one is poisonous. Both bruise blue but the edible one takes several minutes to bruise whereas the poisonous one will bruise immediately. I don't recommend you bother with them, even the edible ones are considered to be just mediocre tasting. Admire their beauty and leave them as a tasty meal for the slugs.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

The puzzling variance of reishi fruiting

Look closely at the photo what do you see? Spread around the base of this stump there are 8 or 9 copper colored reishi mushrooms sadly missed and left to rot from last year (2013).

Here in upstate NY reishi's start fruiting as early as May and by July its usually over. This large hemlock stump that produced such a prolific bounty of reishis in 2013 was completely barren in '14 as you can see in this June 28th photo.

What's puzzling to me is the pattern of rainfall in the summer's of '13 and '14 were so similar, both had above average rain in June and July which led to a great chanterelle season for both years. But the difference in the reishi harvest was night and day. In 2013 I had grocery bags full (too bad I didn't understand how to properly prepare them - but that's a post for another day). Last year I found exactly one.

All this tells me that I need to start keeping better notes when I forage; the date of first fruiting, previous rainfall, location, etc.

Note: The species here is actually a north american sub-species of reishi called Ganoderma tsugae but they are very similar and are believed to have the same beneficial medical properties.

Winter Fungus

Honey Mushrooms 1.2.15
January Mushrooms?

I wasn't expecting to see any living mushrooms in the middle of winter. But when I pulled back the bark from a dead ash tree there they were, a beautifully sinuous mass of honey mushrooms still fresh enough to be collected and eaten if I was so inclined. In hindsight I wish I had just so I could say I dined on fresh mushrooms in January.

The south facing along with the residual heat of decay must have been enough warmth for this late growth. January turned sharply colder after this so I can't imagine they would have stayed alive much longer.

Friday, November 21, 2014

How I learn to stop worrying and love the shrooms

Destroying Angels - Beautiful but deadly
When I mention my passion for foraging edible mushrooms to the uninitiated the reactions run the gambit from enthusiastic to polite interest to complete abhorrence, ‘You take mushrooms you find in the woods and eat them??’ with the unspoken and sometimes spoken ‘Are you out of your mind?!’ 

With this last group I've found that trying to explain that most of the choice edibles are not difficult to identify doesn't convince them in the least. 

It goes something like this...
"But how do you know? How can you be sure?"
"Once you find a few chanterelles its hard to mistake them for anything else. Their only look alike is the Jack O' Lantern mushroom but..."
"Jack O'Lanterns? Are they poisonous."
"Well only mildly...They wouldn't kill you." 

This only serves to increase their mycophobia. All they hear is the uncertainty inherent in this hobby and I can see that I've lost them. 

So this time I’m going to try a different tack. I’m going to start off by showing you the deadliest mushrooms out there, what they look like, and what they can do to you.

The two mushrooms responsible for the great majority of fatal poisoning in North America are the Destroying Angel and Death Cap. Both of these mushrooms have an extremely toxic enzyme that, once ingested, will attack and break down your liver and kidney functions and lead to a bad case of well, death. Even will all modern medicine can do only 50% of the people poisoned by Destroying Angel survive.

Here’s a fascinating survivors story that occurred right here in Ithaca…

Terrified yet?

Well you shouldn't be and here’s why…Take a look at the photos. Note the obvious similarities. They're both white and gilled, right? Now here’s a simple truism that will keep you alive for years of mushroom foraging: Nobody but nobody should ever collect and eat a white gilled mushroom! Sure there are a few experts out there who know some edible lookalikes but even these people will do careful analysis including spore prints. Furthermore, there’s no reason to even be tempted because there are no choice edibles that look remotely like these so why would you bother? 

Now to be sure, I'm not advocating going out there and indiscriminately eating any non-white mushroom. There are a whole host of mushrooms out there that will give you a bad belly ache and even worse.