Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Wild Mushroom Hunting

So I’ve taken a (very) strong interest in wild mushrooms. A year ago my I saw on my son-in-law’s facebook page pictures of morel mushrooms that he, my daughter and two of their friends went hunting for. My curiosity was piqued as I am a nature-loving hiker. What a great combo, I thought: hiking with a purpose. I told my daughter to let me know the next time they go as I would like to join them to see what I should be looking for. Since morel grow in the spring the opportunity to search for them is limited and was passed at the point I asked to join them.

I googled morels and read up a small bit on edible wild mushrooms. Then one day this past September, shortly after the heavy rains here in the northeast U,S. of Tropical Storm Lee my husband & I went on a hike to a scenic overlook with a pasture-like setting near the Susquehanna river. Coming back down the hillside to the car I spied a giant puffball mushroom and plucked it from the ground remembering what I’d read about this type being edible. It was absolutely divine after I sautéed it then added it to our roast beef gravy. Needless to say, I’m hooked.

Now I had to educate myself as to how to identify the edible from the poisonous. Hubby is way more cautious than I and falls into the easily-scared off category concerning my mushroom finds so I usually have the majority to myself.

Several books later and numerous hikes since, I have found & sampled Hen-of-the-woods (too bland), Chicken-of-the-woods (too chewy/tough-may have been getting old) and my latest find: Bear Head Tooth or Lions Mane mushroom. We were on our bikes on a paved trail that borders the river near Marietta, Pa. All of this area was underwater for several weeks following Lee so I thought it may be wet enough to foster an outcropping of mushrooms despite a lack of rain. I was having no luck other than finding small artists conks – inedible bracket fungi that grows on the trunks of trees and a few others that I thought were probably poisonous but now suspect (I only took one so I could take a spore print) were honey mushrooms.

So this trail is about 2½ miles one way & the first time we ever went from one end to the other. About 2 miles in & on the way back I was going slower and really paying attention when I spotted a huge stump with the side covered in these bright white growths that look like ice formations.
I suspected what they were instantly and hopped off my bike to investigate. I ended up using a broken portion of a Styrofoam cooler to cradle my huge find and had to balance it on my handlebars to get it back to the truck.

After cleaning it I looked up how it should be cooked: broken up into nugget-sized pieces and sautéed in garlic butter. Yum! The description was correct, it has a bit of a seafood taste.

Apparently I was very lucky as my find was a rare one. Usually they grow up high on dead tree trunks so maybe the river flooding brought this particular hunk of tree trunk down to my level.

I’ve yet to find any chanterelles of horn-of-plenty’s but hey, I’m just getting started!

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