The Partners and I took off this morning for one of our favourite activities, foraging for mushrooms. We started at a small forest where a friend tipped me to several perfect giant puffballs.
The puffballs were in a beautiful 80 acre forest close to my friend’s home. In the same forest, I also found 1 nice lobster mushroom, and saw several Lacterius deliciosus which were well past their prime.
We had quite an adventure in the forest, after the dogs jumped into a swampy pond. I couldn’t see what was going on in there due to the brush. Ruby came out fairly quickly, covered in muck, but George disappeared. I called and called but there was no sign of him. A half hour later, George was safely back with us, but he gave me quite a scare. Normally, he sticks quite close to me. I can only imagine he became disoriented in the pond and crossed it to the other side.
Our next stop was a bigger forest further north. This particular forest has one productive area for mushrooms and usually it’s reliable for a modest bunch of edibles. Today though, it was more productive than I’ve ever seen it.
This forest produces hedgehog mushrooms in two very specific spots. Occasionally I’ve found the odd one elsewhere, but usually they grow in the same place season after season, starting in mid-August. There are two species, Hydnum repandum and Hydnum umbilicatum. This spot has both, but the repandum are almost always in the best shape. Both are choice edibles. They are easily identified by their tan caps with teeth on the underside. The Hydnum umbilicatum, as the name implies, have a belly button in the middle of each cap.
Even though these mushrooms are often half hidden under forest debris, they are still easy to spot if you focus on looking for the tell-tale strong tan colour.
Not all the mushrooms I found today are edible. For instance there were quite a few of these boletes with red pores. I don’t know the species but there are a set of rules for edibility in boletes, and one of those rules states that boletes with red pores are poisonous.
There were also quite a few ash boletes around. When these mushrooms fruit, they are usually plentiful, and they’re easy to identify by their irregularly shaped caps. These are edible mushrooms, but most resources suggest they are not very palatable. A few sites online suggest they are ok if you remove the pore layer and dry them before eating. My brother the trout, Salvelinus fontinalis has tried them and says depending on where you picked them, they can be OK. They don’t look very appetizing to me though, and I’ve simply avoided them.
This forest was particularly generous today with its lobster mushrooms.
By the time we left, my basket was overflowing, mostly with lobsters. These odd-looking orange mushrooms are the result of a parasitic sac fungus attacking an edible but not palatable host. Once the sac fungus takes hold, the resulting lobster or Hypomyces lactifluorum become a choice edible.
This afternoon, I made some neighbours happy with some puffballs, then cleaned up all the lobsters and hedgehogs. I have the dehydrator going tonight, with all 5 drawers filled with lobster mushrooms. These are an excellent mushroom for drying, as they hold their texture when re-hydrated.
As is often the case, foraging can be feast or famine. All the recent rains have brought the mushrooms out in force. Hopefully this will continue through the month.