Winecaps (Stropharia rugosoannulata) are among the tastiest wild mushrooms: firm and meaty, with a taste of the nutty/smoky quality that makes porcini so special. They’re also large, easy to clean and almost as easy to grow as potatoes. Bill wrote a complete how-to last year.
This is the year of earliness – from the heat wave that hit us at the end of March (March!) to the apple blossoms opening at least two weeks ahead of schedule. I found the very first black morel on April 14.
It just goes to show how the collecting season varies here in the Northeast.
In Maine, where we had a poor mushroom season all year, the beginning of October brought with it a flush of Honey Mushrooms (Armillaria mellea complex) and the attendant Aborted Entoloma (Entoloma abortivum). The Hen of the Woods (Grifola frondosus) has not yet appeared on trees that I know and those that are found in Farmers Markets are pitiful fist sized, dried out specimens. I anticipate the big flush in the next week to ten days, conditions permitting.
Meanwhile, in the Hudson Valley and Catskills of New York, which had a fabulous mushroom year, the Honeys began in Mid-September, right on cue, but most of the Hens remained in their underground coops for another fortnight.
They are out now: succulent, fragrant, and large – with what appears to be an attendant flush of young chicks following big momma. Bring your basket and go get ’em.
A lot of wild mushrooms have delicate flavors that are easily overwhelmed. And a lot of them are typically found in small numbers or purchased in even smaller ones (except by the possessors of large dollars). As a result, a lot of wild mushroom recipes have what might be called a reverential attitude about the signature ingredient.
Nothing wrong with that – except that it tends to carry over where it isn’t essential, as in the case of sulfur shelf, Laetiporus sulphureus, aka chicken of the woods. When you find that, you generally find many pounds, plenty enough to play around with.
I put “of the woods” in parentheses because I’m sure the curry would be good – albeit not this good – with genuine chicken. The shortcut is prepared spice mixtures and the multi is Indian and Thai. Cooking the mushroom in coconut milk without a preliminary saute is what brings out the reds and pinks.
one of the (so far) few harvest delights that’s appropriately abundant, and very welcome it is. Here’s the lowdown from out resident mushroom expert:
BRIGHT HARBINGER OF FALL, Laetiporus sulphureus: AKA The Sulfur Shelf or Chicken Mushroom.
What a dismal summer! Here it is Labor Day and farmers have yet to complete their first cutting of hay. Late blight destroyed many a tomato crop and those not affected have all of the taste and consistency of wet cardboard. Corn here in Maine is but knee high.
Behind the fields the fruits of the forest have also languished. Perhaps it was the long stretches of cool wet weather that put a stop to the saprophytic mushrooms, for few litter- decaying fungi of any species appeared in the coastal forests near us. Scant too were the usual mycorrhizal species of summer: the Amanita, Russula, and Lactarius.
But in the last few days, walking along the bench of a nearby mountain, and again at the edge of a large lake, there came a sight that warmed my heart and seemed ready to fill the cusp of autumn with promise and pleasure: Sulfur Shelfs, bright as neon, sprouting buds with flesh as tender as brie, scent fragrant as a ripe peach.
Can any mushroom better announce the approach of the equinox than the Sulfur Shelf? It heralds the end of summer with a burst of beauty and energy that stops us dead in our tracks. “Here it is. Here I am” it seems to say. “Get ready, we are about to turn that corner into a bright and bountiful fall”.
Regular readers of this blog (and newcomers who put “mushrooms” in the search field) know we are enthusiastic wild mushroom collectors and consumers, and that one of us – Bill – is an expert who writes and lectures on mycology and is a consultant for the New York and New England Poison Control centers.
Calls are coming in almost daily, mostly concerning pre-verbal children exploring things before their parents can stop them, most of them, thank goodness, turning out fine. But as the recent Leccinum Warning shows, sometimes not so fine and that led Bill to ask me whether we’d ever posted the elementary rules of safe mushroom eating. Now we have.
Rules for the Eating of Mushrooms
By Bill Bakaitis
There are old mushroom eaters, and there are bold mushroom eaters, but there are no old and bold ones!
Here are 5 rules that the prudent Mycophage might employ:
2. TEST YOUR OWN REACTION TO EACH MUSHROOM BY EATING ONLY A SMALL PORTION OF A SINGLE SPECIES AT A TIME. REPEAT A FEW DAYS LATER TO TEST FOR DEVELOPED ALLERGIC REACTIONS.
3. MAKE SURE THE MUSHROOM IS THOROUGHLY COOKED BEFORE YOU EAT IT.
4. WHEN TESTING YOUR TOLERANCE FOR A NEW SPECIES, DO NOT CONSUME ANY ALCOHOL WITH THE MEAL OR FOR A FEW DAYS AFTER.
5. KEEP A FEW UNCOOKED MYSHROOMS IN THE FRIDGE FOR IDENTIFICATION SHOULD A TOXIC REACTION DEVELOP.
Why do these rules work?
One of the nifty things about mycology (the study of mushrooms) is that the field is still largely unexplored, new finds and findings turn up all the time. This is a less-nifty thing about mycophagy (the eating of mushrooms, particularly wild mushrooms). It too is still largely unexplored, and new information about bad reactions turns up — not all the time, but frequently enough. Here’s the latest from our resident mushroom expert.
On July 14th, I received a call from New England Poison Control Center at Maine Medical center. An elderly man was in a New Hampshire Hospital with a severe, life threatening, illness contracted after eating Mushrooms. No specimens were available for imaging, but there were only two mushrooms involved, both Boletes. One was described as a ‘King Mushroom’, possibly in the Boletus edulis complex. The other was probably a Leccinum. Both identities were initially determined by two of the mushroom eaters, all of whom were self described as “good, knowledgeable mushroom collectors”
Two of the three people who collected and ate the mushroom developed GI symptoms three to five hours after the meal. One of them, an adult woman, sought treatment at the emergency room for her distress that evening. The elderly man, developed GI symptoms somewhat later, did not go to the hospital and felt a general malaise the next day. The third person, an adult man, had no symptoms at all.
Three days after the meal the older man was admitted to the hospital in poor condition.
They’re out, just about right on time.
In spite of the deluginal rains, not too many mushrooms have come up yet, and a recent visit to a favorite spot was not very productive, so we weren’t expecting to come upon them.
Dumb. If you want to collect a lot of mushrooms, always expect them.
As usual, they were hiding – but visible to anyone who was on the alert for a glint of orange
Bill has already written a super guide to chanterelle hunting, so my contribution comes from the kitchen
As we were spooning in the eggs with asparagus and black morels I was just going on about yesterday, Bill mentioned that he should maybe say something about how to find the blacks – they’re a bit trickier than the main season blondes, but they have a special savor for being the first.
“Have at it! ” said I; and so here is some more from our resident guide to wild mushrooms:
THE FIRST MORELS OF THE SEASON
The first morels of the season are the hardest to find. They are not Morchella esculenta, the blonde varieties standing tall under elm and apple but the Eastern Black Morel, M. elata/angusticeps/conica complex.
These early morels usually will begin to fruit near the end of April in the Mid Hudson area, just as the forsythia blossoms fall to earth, the maples begin to leaf out and the black flies begin to bite. I found my first of this season on Saturday, April 25, as the spreading heat wave pushed the thermometer to the record breaking 89 degree mark.
Also old-faithful walking onions, always the first to appear, and a handful of garlic chives, currently taking over the side bed that’s due for renewal and therefore has not been weeded at all.
Here in our part of the Hudson Valley, this year spring is on toast in more ways than one. I’m in the office with, I confess, the air conditioner on because none of the shade trees are leafed out yet and it’s 89 **!!@^%! Degrees. Same as yesterday and tomorrow and then on Tuesday it’s supposed to get hot.
The red tulips had one day! Truth. Buds cracked in the evening at bedtime on Friday, full open by noon Saturday, then exhausted by eveniing, just like the rest of us. The pink ones, admittedly, had been open for 2 days but I was rather enjoying them.
So. Looking at the forecast made this morning a nightmarish recap of fall, when you rush around picking all the flowers that will be blasted by frost. Read More…