Monthly Archive for: ‘June, 2012’
(written before it stopped raining for 2 weeks!.. please let me know if there are mistakes, especially with the taxonomy )
The rains have been kind. Some areas of town are seemingly carpeted with chanterelle buttons which will be ready for harvest any day now. This week I would like to mention taxonomy, the technique of naming biological organisms for identification and classification. In the mycological world (the world of fungi), the classification of a species can change from one year to the next- a speed at which amateur foragers such as myself find difficult to keep up with. Mushroom names may be different from book to book depending upon the year of publication, be careful. For example, last week’s article mentioned Coprinellus Mycaceus, which appears to be the current name of the species, while all my books list it as Coprinus Mycaceus.
Mushrooms are identified using a system of two Latin names. The first word of the name specifies the genus. The second word identifies the exact species. An example of an easy to identify mushroom genus would be Amanita. In general, Amanitas have a large bulbous base, gills, white spores, and a veil. There is a large variety within the genus Amanita, from the delectable Amanita caesarea to the deadly Amanita bisporigera. Bisporigera means two spored Amanita, based upon specifics of the mushroom’s reproductive system. Amanita caesarea is Caesars’s mushroom. This variety was highly regarded by the Romans, and stories I have heard say that any of this choice edible found was to be saved for the Caesars. Our local variety of the Caesar mushroom is actually named Amanita jacksonii. To the untrained forager, it looks nearly identical in size and shape to the Destroying Angel, but has different coloration.
The most common Amanita along the edge of our roads and under pine trees is Amanita muscaria var. formosa, also known as the yellow fly agaric. This may be our most easy to spot local species. It is toxic! Death from ingestion is rare for humans, but nearly certain for house pets. This species grows along the edges of many roads throughout town and our pets seemingly k
now to stay away from them. The yellow fly agaric is a very large, yellow, and white mushroom with white scales on top of its yellow cap. The cap can be the size of a dinner plate! The stem, or stipe of the mushroom is usually six to ten inches tall, and sprouts from a bulb at the base.
Not found locally, the red fly agaric has been used for religious purposes by shaman for millennia. Scandinavian reindeer herders would feed Amanita muscaria to their reindeer, collect the urine, boil it down and drink it. That is not exactly my cup of tea! Did you ever wonder where the story of Santa, little elves, and flying reindeer got its root? Try an internet search for “fly agaric reindeer” to learn more about the fascinating mythology surrounding this red variety.
You should not attempt to identify and eat any species without being certain as to what it is, especially an Amanita! While I do now make omelets with Caesar’s mushrooms and white truffle oil, it took me years before I had the confidence to eat any Amanita. They are the first mushroom genus you should learn to identify, as they are one of the most dangerous in our woods.
. In the words from a poster I saw in a Vermont state park this weekend, “Have fungi, be safe!”
This is a copy of the article for week two, again these articles are meant to introduce people to the wonderful world of mushrooms!
Are you missing the sunshine yet? Mushroom foraging is educational, and for me personally it is extremely exciting. A few solid days of soaking rain in the beginning of June brings out a plethora of mushroom species. Over the next few weeks, hundreds of different varieties will be pushing up through leaves, popping out of decaying wood, and magically appearing in our yards overnight. Coprinellus micaceus, the “inky cap” can be found in many local yards, growing in large clusters. By the time most notice them, they are a pile of black, slimy liquid and mush as they digest themselves quickly at the end of a fruiting cycle. If you have ever seen a “fairy ring” of mushrooms in your yard, they could very well have been Marasmius oreades. Oyster and chicken mushrooms are due to make their appearance soon, and can sometimes come up as early as April, more on the those delectable fungus in the future.
The Golden Chanterelle, Cantharellus cibarius
The first mushroom I look to forage in June, and one of the easiest to find, is the Chanterelle. We have already found several of the golden yellow buttons pushing their way skyward out of the duff. This week’s rains should increase everyone’s ability to locate these amazing morsels of mushroom magnificence. Sauté chanterelles with some onions and put them on a good burger, and you will ask yourself why you ever bothered with those bland white button mushrooms.
How do I find them? Go outside! Walk around the edges of the yard first, then maybe a few local pathways (hint hint), a good stream or river’s edge, or near the shoreline of certain large bodies of water! While I will not tell you where I pick them, they do grow in many places in and around Wolfeboro. They are mycorrhizal, meaning they grow associated with the roots of plants and trees and can be found in the same spots year after year. There are a few distinct features that when all present help identify this species. First, they are bright yellow! Chanterelles are pleasantly fragrant. Pick one, bring to nose, and inhale deeply. Apricots! Next is the gill structure. When examining the gills, they should be lobe-like folds, and not look like typical mushroom gills at all. The overall shape should be that of a typical mushroom, not a cone shape. Last and most importantly, if you intend to eat them, ask someone who knows for sure what they are! A certain person reading this is likely remembering their three days of misery a few years back when they ate Omphalatus illudens (the Jack o’Lantern) after mistaking them for chanterelles.
While this mushroom isn’t as cool by glowing in the dark like a Jack o’Lantern, it is commonly confused with the chanterelle due to its color and the lobe like gills apparent across almost the entire mushroom. The “wooly chanterelle” is very common locally, and due to its large size and bright orange coloration it is highly likely you will spot this species before you find golden chanterelles. Once you see the two species side by side, you will unlikely confuse them again. Gomphus floccosus is much larger than a mature chanterelle. It also looks like an upside down traffic cone. If eaten, you will experience severe gastrointestinal upset of both the north and south varieties, similar to the aforementioned unlucky eater of the Jack o’Lanterns.
If it is sunny, head to the lake, and if it is raining, head to the woods! Find something interesting? Email it to redacted for antispam 🙂 . Always be 100 percent certain of what you eat, read the internet, get a book, and ask someone who knows. When in doubt, throw it out!
I have wanted to write about mushrooms for a while. The goal of these articles are to encourage appreciation of our thousands of local mushroom species. These are not meant to be a picking guide for anyone, just a method of introducing the general public to amateur mycology.
Morchella esculenta– The common morel. Morels can be found in large quantities in the Midwest during the springtime. In the Lakes Region, common is a relative term, being the most commonly found species of morel, while morels in general are an elusive mushroom with a very short growing season. I find them between the 2nd and 4th weeks of May, after some warm weather and plenty of rain, usually in the same areas every year. Look for apple orchards, ash trees, black cherry, and old elm. Morels grow in soils with a higher PH than much of our local pine forest. They look like a conical irregular sponge popping up from the leaves, and can be grey, black or yellow in coloration.
Gyromitra esculenta – The False Morel
These are considered a poisonous look-alike to the common morel. They are often found in sandy soil, under pine, and can look like a large exposed brain! These mushrooms are very toxic, and can remain toxic even after cooking. Symptoms of ingestion include vomiting, dizziness, diarrhea, coma, and even death. Stay away!
Never attempt to pick and eat wild mushrooms without proper training. There are no general rules for mushroom safety. While coloration, taste, smell, and shape can be used to identify a species, the wives tales of using a silver spoon or a coin are false! Have a mushroom you want us to try to identify? Send an email.
New Hampshire Mushroom Company
Check back regularly, this website should come alive soon! After nearly a year of hard work, it is time to begin the really hard work! Check out the pictures of what we expect to be the home of NHMC!