|Taken Sept 30th, Oct 8th, and Oct 17th.|
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.