Posts Tagged ‘Mushrooms’

The final mushroom foray took place in September, and I finally made it to this one. Last year things just didn’t work out, so I’m glad I got the opportunity this time around. It was a fantastic foray with tons of finds and, best yet, tons of food!

We were mostly looking for hen of the woods at this foray, which is a gigantic mushroom that people are always after. Having had some at the last foray, I can attest to the fact that it’s delicious.

At this foray, we found tons of mushrooms — most of which I can’t identify. Most seemed to grow on trees or fallen logs…

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That last one looked super cool. I’ve never seen so many grouped together like that! I feel like there were puffballs of all sorts all over the place. It got to the point where I was so sick of seeing them — it was like they were everywhere you turned!

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Some puffballs you can eat, but not if they look like this on the inside:

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They need to be pure white!

We didn’t just find mushrooms, either. I saw this cool tree and just had to take a picture of it. It reminded me of something out of Lord of the Rings.

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And when we were walking near the edge of someone else’s property, these dogs came over and barked at us. The white one is a Great Dane, which is my favorite kind of dog ever. Ugh, I want one so bad.

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The group’s haul when we got back to base was pretty amazing. Look at all those mushrooms!

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All I could think about was the food and how much of it I was going to eat. This was just my first plate…

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They had the black trumpet cream cheese spread there that I can never get enough of. I could eat that stuff by the spoonful.

Some awesome mushrooms that were found include the massive one below and the little orange blobs beneath that. So cool.

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There were tons of these gem-studded puffballs, too. This is seriously only a tiny, tiny fraction of what was out in the woods.

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I was pretty proud that I found one of these, too. They’re called russula compactas, and I really had to dig for the one I spotted!

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Another mushroom I found was this amazing amanita (very poisonous). I wasn’t allowed to dig it up (bummer!) because someone was doing a study on them and we had to preserve it right where we found it.

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That’s wraps up this year’s foray posts. I’m sure I’ll have more once spring/summer 2014 hits. If anything, I think my obsession with mushrooms is getting worse. Have you found any cool mushrooms recently? What about other things out in nature? As writers, we tend to coop ourselves up with our computers most of the time, but it’s just as important to go outside and get inspired that way, too!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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This post is part cake pop disaster, part mushroom foray, and part birthday celebration.

It began with a cake pop disaster. For those of you who don’t know, cake pops are pretty much what they sound like: little cakes on sticks. You basically bake a whole cake, crumble it up, mix in some frosting, mold them, freeze them, then dunk them in chocolate. They’re horrifyingly sweet in the best way possible, and actually quite good.

So, since our August foray happened to fall on my dad’s birthday. I decided to make mushroom-shaped cake pops. Yeah! They were going to be so awesome! Yeah! And everyone would think I was clever and cool. Double yeah!

But…that didn’t happen.

Basically, I started off with the crumbled cake. (Yummy!)

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And I balled them up. (How cute!)

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And then I laboriously shaped them into mushrooms. (Okay, this is getting harder.)

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And then I tried dipping them into chocolate. AND IT WAS A DISASTER.

I don’t have pictures of this step because I was about ready to knock the house down with my bare hands. It was 10:00 at night the day before, and I had five — I repeat, FIVE — cake pops that were done and not ruined. So I changed tactics. I wrapped up those cake pops and gave them to Dad, and made some cupcakes and brought them to the foray instead.

It worked out in the end, but it was a letdown. I so wanted to share those cake pops with everyone! Oh, well. At least Dad liked them. Here’s one of the better ones that I made:

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But otherwise, we had a blast at this foray. We were looking for hen of the woods and chanterelles mostly, and we got to eat both, along with some more sulphur shelf, which we got to eat at another one too.

Here are the two tables we filled with all the mushrooms we found.

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Here are the chanterelles we found. They were so yummy!

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Here’s just a little bit of all the food I ate. It’s always mushroom heaven there.

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And here are some of the cool mushrooms I saw.

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This one is called a rooted ootie (or something to that effect — I can’t find it online!). Pretty wild, right!?

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Coral mushroom….looks like coral!

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A type of amanita. These are deadly!

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Hen of the woods. These get huge! (And they taste good too!)

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Another type of amanita.

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All in all, Dad and I had a great time. (Just look at the mud on my boots. You know I was having fun!)

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And I got him this super awesome walking stick for his birthday, featuring a wood spirit and a morel mushroom! It’s hand carved on hawthorn and is absolutely GORGEOUS.

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And sometimes, when he holds it, he likes to pretend he’s Gandalf. And I can no longer claim that I’m adopted. We’re just too similar, you guys.

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The first mushroom foray of 2013 has concluded, and I found diddly-squat. Well, that’s not true. I found some stuff, but what I found was pretty worthless.

It was a lot of…”Hey, I think I found something! Oh, no, never mind. Just a leaf.” *sigh*

But still. I had fun. And that’s sort of the point, you know? It’s like a treasure hunt. You’re not always going to find the treasure, but sometimes the act of looking is just as entertaining. I disconnected myself from the internet for the majority of a day (gasp!) and I got to walk in the woods (what is this thing called sunshine? it buuuurrrrnnnsss!).

So, what were we looking for? *points to the right side of the page*

These are called morels. They’re edible and pretty rare. They grow from about mid-May to about the beginning of June. It’s a pretty short window, so you need to be out there quickly to look for them.

I know what many of you are asking right about now…how do they taste? Pretty good, actually. I don’t find that mushrooms have a very strong taste to begin with, so a lot of times they’re fairly bland to me. But with some added ingredients, they can taste pretty fabulous. And these did.

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We cut them in half (—>) to clean them out and to double check that they were the real morels. There are false morels that are NOT hollow on the inside. You don’t want to eat that kind.

After we did that, we cut them up and added some onions and wild leeks (basically, more onions), and then cooked them up in a pan and added some white wine and a couple other things. Then we just ate them like that! Wow, they were really flavorful. And they would’ve tasted sooo good on a steak.

It’s too bad we didn’t find more of them, but they are pretty rare. We’re lucky we found these! Some years you can find a lot, and some years they’re just not there. It depends on the weather, especially how much rain we’ve gotten up to this point.

But we all got a taste of the morels, and it was fun looking for them anyway!

Next up we had some Dryad’s Saddle. This is another edible mushroom, but only when you catch them young and small enough. If they’re too old and large, they get really hard and inedible.

That’s what you see below, in the pan. The wild leeks are on top (the green stuff).

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I didn’t like these nearly as much. They were kind of bland, but that’s really nobody’s fault. Sometimes mushrooms just taste that way, and you can only fix it by taking the time to cook them up in a sauce or by adding them to something else, and we had limited time.

But still! Mushrooms are mushrooms, and I wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity. These are mush less rare, but getting them young enough can be a bit of a challenge. We found more of these than any type of mushroom, but the majority of them were HUGE and inedible. You’ll see them in the picture of our findings down below.

We found some other things as well, but those were the two main ones. This was a good hunt, but my favorite one is still the third foray of the year. Last year I found dozens of different types of mushrooms. Not all of them were edible, but it was a lot of fun finding types I had never seen before. Some of them came in awesome colors like bright yellow or purple.

Our next foray will focus on finding black trumpets. You’ll get another post them, sometime near the end of July.

Till then, check out some of the other pics I snapped:

Our loot. Look at all those mushrooms!

Our loot. Look at all those mushrooms!

Everyone brings a dish to pass, and the food is GOOD. I made broccoli salad.

Everyone brings a dish to pass, and the food is GOOD. I made broccoli salad.

Probably the most exciting thing I found. Because, you know, the deer is so elusive in this part of New York.

Probably the most exciting thing I found. Because, you know, deer are so elusive in this part of New York.

Fiddle head ferns! These are edible as well, but only if you grab them earlier enough. These are too old.

Fiddle head ferns! These are edible as well, but only if you grab them earlier enough. These are too old because they’ve already started to unfurl.

My haul. Pathetic. A couple dried up puffballs, a few common mushrooms (no idea what they are), and a couple of fiddle head ferns.

My haul. Pathetic. A couple dried up puffballs, a few common mushrooms (no idea what they are), and a couple of fiddle head ferns.

Have you ever found any mushrooms in the forest? Did you know what any of them were? Would you ever eat a morel if someone offered it to you?

If you’re new to my blog, you might not know about my interest in mushrooms.

Or that interest is an understatement.

I’m kind of obsessed with them. Don’t ask me why, because I have no idea. I used to hate them. I never even wanted to touch the things. Then one day I decided to give them a go. I didn’t mind them, and soon I found I was craving them.

MorelsNow? I go crazy for them! If someone brings me something with mushrooms on it – or just mushrooms by themselves because, hey, I’m not picky – I tend to declare my undying love for said bringer of fungus-y goodness.

And, no, that’s not an exaggeration.

I kind of wish it was, because this is turning into an issue. (Also an understatement.)

I’m a part of my local Mycological Society (yay, other fungus lovers!), and each year they hold four mushroom forays. We strap on our boots, grab a basket, and head out into the woods to look for any type of mushroom we can find – edible, inedible, and poisonous alike.

When we find edible ones (like the morels pictured above), they clean ’em, cook ’em, and we eat ’em! It’s a lot of fun to mingle and learn some new things, plus it’s a great excuse to go walking in the woods.

Why am I telling you all of this? Well, this Saturday is our very first foray of 2013, and we’re going to be looking for morels, among others. I’m going to be posting pictures and stories after each foray, just like I did last year. If you want to check out my previous entries, you can find them under the ‘mushrooms’ tag.

The first one will probably be up on Monday if everything goes according to plan. I hope you guys enjoy them as much as I know I will, and that you’ll be able to learn a lot and maybe gain a better appreciation for mushrooms.

Yay!

You may remember that my last mushroom foray was a little bit of a disappointment. It’s not that it wasn’t fun, just that we didn’t find too many mushrooms. The year had been dry up to that point, and that doesn’t bode well for fungi-obsessed folk.

But this foray was incredible. We found so many mushrooms, it filled two entire tables. And they weren’t small tables. I love searching for mushrooms because it’s like a treasure hunt for me. How many can I find? How many types can I fit into my basket? There’s always a little spike of excitement every time I see something I’ve never seen before.

And this foray was filled with tons of those moments!

I started the trip off right away with this beauty:

No idea what they are, but the tree was just covered in mushrooms. It was too neat not to take a picture of it.

You know what else we discovered right away? A beehive in the ground. That got our blood pumping early in the morning! It’s a good thing I can run faster than most of the other people in our group. 😉

One of my favorite finds was this cool purple mushroom. (Disclaimer: This time around we found so many mushrooms that I can’t even begin to tell you what most of them were. About 99.9% of them were inedible anyway.)

We also found tons of Russula’s. This one is a very nice specimen (don’t I sound smart!) because it was still quite young, very vibrant, and hadn’t already been partially eaten.

About the time I found this one, one of the guys from our trip showed me another mushroom. It was white and he cut it open, then told me to touch the tip of my finger to it and taste the liquid that came out of it. At first nothing happened, but a few minutes later my tongue started burning just a little bit. It tasted a bit like pepper and was just a tad spicy. That stayed with me for a good half hour at least. It was kind of neat!

It’s a wee bit blurry, but this one is called Old Man of the Woods. This is a young one, which is quite light still.

Here’s a picture of an older one that’s a bit darker.

I liked these because they were really soft and fuzzy!

We also found whole patches of Crown Coral mushrooms.

And here’s just a neat picture of two different colors of the same (?) mushroom.

Here’s a nice picture of the gills of a mushroom:

And these are some GIGANTIC puffballs. I’ve never seen them this big before! Some varieties of puffballs you can eat, but not these ones.

These are chanterelles, which is what we were really after. I didn’t find any (bummer!) but we got a nice handful here. No tasting-testing this time though, because I had to leave early. 😦

I also found this crazy mushroom on a tree. No one was really sure what it was, but it was HUGE!

And Dad found these itty-bitty guys. Aren’t they cute?

One of the guys in our group found this thing. No, you’re not seeing some strange new mutation of mushroom. That’s a skull. I think it fell out, but the reason why he picked it up was because a mushroom was growing inside of it! Anyone have any idea what it could be from? They thought it was a raccoon at first, but if you look along the bottom portion, it actually has a tusk!

Wasn’t that just loads better than the last foray? I walked away feeling proud and satisfied by how much I found. And considering there were about 20 people in our group, we came backs with TONS of mushrooms. Check out these tables:

I didn’t get a picture of it, but the best part was when the president of the mycological society showed us a “blue staining mushroom.” It’s whitish-yellow on the inside for just a split second when you cut it open, but then it turns blue! I’m not even joking!! You can see it in real time in a video on YouTube right here.

Now tell me that’s not about the coolest thing you’ve ever seen?

So, what do you think? Quite the haul, right? Which one did you like best? Have you seen any of these varieties before?

If you read about my first experience with a mushroom foray, then you’ll know about my odd obsession with mushrooms. I won’t embarrass myself by raving about them again.

Instead, I’ll just tell you all about the second foray I went on!

Our goal this time around was to find some black trumpets. They were supposed to be pretty easy to spot. They looked like trumpets. And were black. But – spoiler alert – we didn’t find any. 😦

But the actual act of foraging for ‘shrooms is only half the fun anyway. I love it because it feels like a treasure hunt. I feel like a pioneer or a Native American. It’s nice to just wander around in the woods and get away from society for a while. Plus, I always learn so much on these trips. And I’ve met some really cool and interesting people.

For this specific foray there were two options. The first was the lower (easier) trail. We’d stay pretty close to camp and just walk around the woods nearby. The second one was the upper trail. This involved an apparently death-defying ride in the truck and a harder trail at the top of the hill. Dad and I decided it’d probably be safer to do the lower trail for our first time!

And this time we were smart enough to bring along a basket. Here’s our first find:

These are called Indian Pipes (everyone at the foray was calling them Indian Stovepipes, but it’s the same thing). And guess what? They’re not actually mushrooms! They’re non-chlorophyll  plants. Believe it or not, they’re related to rhododendron, dogwood, and wintergreen. They don’t need sunlight to survive and tend to thrive in moist areas (which is why they’re often mistaken for fungus). These are kind of funny looking ones – most of the ones I’ve found on the internet are pure white.

Next up I found this cute guy. He’s called an Eft.

After looking up some information about him, I found out that an “eft” is a life-stage (considered a juvenile) and that this is actually called a red spotted newt. He’s pretty cute!

The only other mushroom I found was this thing:

Nothing spectacular to me (and definitely not edible), but the president of the society seemed pretty excited about it. Not sure what it is, but I collected it anyway!

Everyone on the lower trail seemed to be finding mini-mushrooms. Everything was so small! There were no black trumpets and nothing else edible. We were kind of disappointed, but I had fun searching anyway. The only other find we had was this cool bright yellow mushroom:

Everyone on the upper trail seemed to come back with gargantuan sized mushrooms. They were kind enough to share with us though.

The next two pictures show the two different types of sulphur shelf, which is edible. This is also called chicken of the woods because – that’s right – it tastes like chicken!

Here’s a picture of the same mushroom all cooked up. I can attest that it tasted like chicken! It has that same plain-ish taste, and the stringy texture of chicken meat. The only difference is, this is a bit more watery (which makes sense!).

Someone also found jack-o-lantern mushrooms. These are actually poisonous (they won’t kill you, but it won’t feel good) and glow in the dark. How cool is that!?

They found a few other mushrooms, but I don’t know what they were:

But the best part, by far, was the food. Oh, my God. It was so yummy. Here’s a picture of my plate:

That thing at the top was some sort of taquito with mushrooms inside. Down below that was a mushroom fritter (the chef made up the recipe the night before!) with some crazy interesting mayo concoction on top. The kielbasa to the right of that was the best I’ve ever had. Then there was the pasta salad with mushrooms, and the various dips with mushrooms. The pepper at the bottom was stuffed with provolone and prosciutto.

I ate good. I ate so good.

I also got to try black trumpets that they had left over from the year before, but I didn’t think to take a picture of them. They were yummy too! Not too much flavor and fairly small. I think they’d be good to try if someone didn’t particularly like the texture of mushrooms. If you look at the picture of my plate, all the way to the right, there’s a white dip with bits of black in it. That had black trumpets in it.

So, over all, not a super successful foray. But it was really fun! We’ll definitely be going on the next one. Hopefully we’ll have better luck.

What do you think? Have I convinced you to go on a foray yet? Did any of that food look good to you?

I love mushrooms. Like, a lot. I mean, I really, really love them. This is ironic because I never used to. When I was younger, I wouldn’t touch the things. Not in a million years! Then, one day (or so it seemed), I suddenly craved them. I remember being at the salad bar in college, eyeing them. Should I or shouldn’t I? It’d been a while since I tried them and I was feeling brave. Plus, I wanted to eat healthier (hence, the salad). Sure, why not?

Okay, so they weren’t amazing. But I actually didn’t mind them. The next day I tried more. And then I started looking forward to eating them (yes, I’m one of those weird types of people that gets excited about food and wakes up thinking, Yay! Breakfast time!). Then I suddenly wanted them on everything – salads and burgers and steaks, oh my! And in every which way – raw and cooked and in piles of onions.

Long story short, I really, really like mushrooms now. So much so, that I get a little sentimental when someone brings me pizza or salad that has mushrooms on it. I tend to profess my undying love to said person in situations like these. (And no, I’m not exaggerating here. This really does happen.)

So, what do you think my answer was when I found out that we had a mushroom society and that they were going on a foray in mid-May?

I answered that question with three of my own: when, where, and CAN WE EAT THEM???

I found out that it was on May 19, that it was about 20 minutes away, and that YES, WE CAN EAT THEM!!!

I was sold.

So, my dad and I piled into the car and drove into the sunrise (okay, it wasn’t that early, but I hate mornings) and toward the Susquehanna Valley Mycological Society’s meeting place. When we got there, I was a little intimidated. It seemed like a lot of people already knew each other, and we were newbies. Luckily, someone nice (who was also a newbie) came over and started talking to us. Yay, friends!

When the ball finally got rolling, we got a lesson in what we were looking for: morels. They were the biggies, the diamonds in the rough, the oasis in the middle of the desert, the…well, you get the idea.

(ALL pictures come from SVMS’s website and ALL credit goes to them! Also, these are all from previous years.)

Morels look like this:

Weird, right? These things are hard to find. We found them under ash trees and apple trees, but there are some other spots where they pop up. In all the places we found them, there was typically only a group of two or three. We spent a couple of hours in the woods and only came back with 16 of them. It was worth it though! (Even if I didn’t find any myself :(.)

Next up, we have Dryad’s Saddle.

These are definitely way too big to eat.

These are typically found on dying elms. (Note to self: learn different kinds of trees, will make finding edible mushrooms easier.) They can get HUGE. They are edible, but you really only want to eat the smaller ones, as they’re much more tender than the big ones. We could just barely tear off a chunk on a big one, so imagine what it’d be like to try to eat it – yuck! (And I found a group of these all by myself, whoo!!)

Oh – and we found a few oyster mushrooms too. They threw them in with the Dryad’s Saddle.

The last main type that we stumbled across were called rubber cups. I found some of these too! Dad picked one and handed it to me to hold onto for a minute. And then I threw it. On purpose. In my defense, there was a nice sized spider sitting on my hand and I wasn’t thinking clearly. Luckily, there were enough that we could pick another one.

I lied. This is actually from the Wiki article because the pictures from my foray aren’t online yet.

These are generally considered inedible around here, but apparently they eat them pretty regularly in Malaysia.

So, I had tons of fun! The people were all fantastic – very welcoming and knowledgeable. I doubted anyone felt out of place once we all bonded over the hunting process. Looking for mushrooms in the forest is like going on a treasure hunt, and I can tell that this is quickly going to become an obsession for me. Also, the food there was incredible. This isn’t your typical get-together. These people can cook. And of course pretty much everyone made something with mushrooms in it. (I brought chocolate chip cookies – lame.)

If that year was anything like this year, there would be another table laden down with food in addition to this one.

But I know what you’re thinking right – what about those mushrooms? Those mushrooms that you pulled from the forest and ate. What did they taste like? Well…nothing, really. They weren’t slimy or chewy or weird in consistency (and more so than your typical mushroom). They had a slight taste to them, but it wasn’t anything overwhelming. They would be better suited for putting into other dishes than just eating them on their own. Either that or they could’ve used some serious seasoning. But, in the end, I liked them and I would definitely keep trying new varieties.

Here are some lessons I learned:

  1. I know nothing about mushrooms, except that I like them.
  2. Bring a basket. Plastic bags aren’t good (they don’t spread the spores so more mushrooms can grow).
  3. I definitely ate a wider array of mushrooms on this day than I have in my entire life.
  4. Wearing my Hunger Games t-shirt made me feel invincible, even if no one knew what it was.
  5. Plan all other events around the weekends of the forays, because this is going to become a regular thing.

So, there you have it! That’s what a mushroom foray is like. Next time – oh, there will be a next time – I’ll be more prepared. And I’ll take my own pictures. And I’ll have another post for you guys.

Do you like mushrooms? If not, how come? If you do, what’s the weirdest looking one you’ve eaten?

(P.S. Please do your civic duty and add one more page view to their website. It’s totally worth it. Check out all the pictures, and the great commentary the photographer has on just about every single one. You’ll get a good laugh, I promise.)