Ontario Mushrooms

I was just looking at the stats for this blog and I could not help but notice that many of the visitors here came looking for information about foraging for wild mushrooms or cooking wild mushrooms. There have been searches for edible mushrooms, poisonous mushrooms, and of course there have been the usual searches for King Bolete Map Ontario.

After a couple dry summers, we’ve had our share of rain this year and rain is a key ingredient in the fruiting of mushrooms, so perhaps that’s why all the interest. A persistent forager can do OK in Ontario forests. It isn’t spectacular the way it is on the west coast, but if you’re willing to put in the effort (and put up with the mosquitoes and deer flies), you can pick a modest basket of tasty edibles from time to time.

Some people think I’m out to discourage foragers because of a post I made here some time ago called “no edible mushrooms in Southern Ontario”. I thought I was having some harmless fun, but  some people thought I was seriously saying there are no edible mushrooms in Southern Ontario. One reader corrected me:  I am sorry to say, but I believe you are wrong friend. You see, I think your absolute statement of not one edible mushroom across all the forests and belts of SO is going a bit overboard. 

Another reader, who chose to just call himself Mr. Goat was more aggressive in censuring me:

You ignore his very partial list of commonly found edibles in Southern Ontario and decide to use passive aggressiveness (which you call humour) – hippy dippy (what exactly does that mean – probably some outdated cliche about drug users – I wonder how many prescriptions you take..) to imply that Kevin is wrong. So on the record, you are either very ignorant or egotistical. Possibly a good helping of both. Your neck of the woods may have nothing (in terms of mushrooms to eat) , and you may want to educate yourself before you rant and post definitive key words that could confuse those that have not yet had a proper grounding in the basics of mushroom identification. Shame on you.

This was a valuable lesson for me. I learned that the way a post is received may not always be the way it was intended, and I appreciate that Mr. Goat set me straight.

My advice to those of you who are thinking about taking to the woods to pick some dinner, is to do your homework and be very careful what you eat. On an average day in the woods, you are likely to find many more mushrooms that will make you sick  than tasty edibles. I know some people who simply won’t forage because they are afraid of being poisoned, but I’ve met other people who seem to have a devil-may-care attitude about it.

A field guide helps but many times a photo isn’t enough to make an identification. Lots of times I’ll find mushrooms I haven’t found before and I’ll try to make an identification, only to find that I  just can’t be sure. I’ve had some mushrooms appear in my backyard that I’m maybe 90% sure are blewitts. They’ve fruited twice. I’ve studied them. I’ve taken spore prints. I’ve photographed them and shown the photos to others who are more knowledgeable than I am. Still I couldn’t be sure. SO I DID NOT EAT THE MUSHROOMS.

There are lots of questions to ask. What is the texture like? Does it smell? Does it change colour if you bruise or cut it. Does it have gills? Pores? Teeth? What is the colour of the spores (learn to take a spore print). Is the cap dry or damp or slimy? If you break a piece off, does a latex-like substance exude? Look closely. Look at the details.

IMG_1784With experience, you learn to easily identify a number of tasty and safe mushrooms that are common in our area. If you have a friend who is willing to take you out to the woods for an identification lesson, that’s a great head start.

All I ask is that if you are not sure of your identification, don’t eat the mushrooms. Don’t say to yourself, “it sorta looks like this one in the book” and then take it home and eat it. There are a few mushrooms in Ontario that will kill you beyond doubt and they are not uncommon. Every year I find a few mushrooms I know are killers. There are many more which will simply cause some nasty gastro-intestinal distress. The saying among foragers is there are old mushroom hunters and there are bold mushroom hunters, but there are no old, bold mushroom hunters.

If you pick mushrooms in the woods for consumption, please cook them. Some mushrooms are fine when cooked, but may give you an upset stomach uncooked. Others might be OK raw, but you don’t know what other forest critter has been crawling around your mushroom.

The next question is where to go. I recommend you find a forest near you and start looking. You have to start somewhere. No doubt some spots are better than others but the only way to find out is to get out in the woods and look. Last Sunday I visited 4 forests I had never been to before. A couple of them did not turn out to be very promising, but the other ones are places I’ll return to again.

Milo’s Garden Adventure

IMG_1791Milo is a senior cat who has had outdoor privileges for a long time. He’s been with us a few weeks now, and this afternoon he demanded I let him out. He rubbed against me, ran to the door, scratched the door and meowed. I let him out, and the first thing he did was enjoy a little grass in the garden – before disappearing. A couple hours later, he reappeared and joined me on the porch (I was practicing the banjo at the time).

Foraging….checking out some new spots

Today was an exploration day.  The dogs and I found ourselves in some interesting forests today, and as a bonus we found enough mushrooms for a couple dinners.

IMG_1788Mostly I found chanterelles. There were a few boletes around but they were mostly not in the best shape. IMG_1778IMG_1781In one forest we came across a creek. The dogs found it before I did and by the time I got there, they were already in the water.IMG_1770IMG_1775

 
The stump in the last picture was covered with small mushrooms. I have no idea what they might be. It was a striking image. IMG_1785

Salad bowl banjo – progress report

I’ve rough-cut the wood I’ll be using for the banjo neck. Next step is to laminate the pieces and then start the shaping.

IMG_1766IMG_1759

For the second photo I’ve laid out the pieces pre-shaping but you can imagine from the layout how the banjo will look when completed. The heel will go through the bowl and out the other side…for the photo I simply laid the bowl on top of the heel piece. Lots of work ahead shaping the neck.

The neck and heel piece are ash. The fingerboard is rosewood, and I’m putting a zebrawood overylay on the peghead and on the neck behind the fingerboard. The bowl, made by Jamie, is maple and the tailpiece is antler. I was going to use bone for the nut, but I’ve cut a piece of ebony and I might use that instead, or perhaps a piece of bone with a bit of ebony behind it as a decorative element.

Summer Wages

I could listen to David Bromberg sing  Summer Wages 100 times in a row and never get bored. Once in a while I like to have a look on the YouTube machine to see if there’s a version I’ve missed.

Let’s not forget it was written by Ian Tyson. Here he is with Sylvia and Emmylou Harris…

I recall being at that show back in the day. It was an “Ian and Sylvia Reunion” show. I think it was filmed at Canada’s Wonderland. The show was set up for TV, complete with big cue cards. I came to know Ian Tyson’s music in the early 80s and not from the Ian and Sylvia days. I finished university back in 83 and I was restless. I had a car that ran pretty well and a little bit of cash (back in those days, getting a university education wasn’t the expensive proposition it is today), and I took off for the west for a few months before facing the prospect of balancing making paintings and making ends meet. Radio stations in Manitoba and Saskatchewan and Alberta were playing tunes from an album of cowboy tunes by Ian Tyson called Old Corrals and Sagebrush. I suppose it was his re-emergence into the music scene singing cowboy songs. For me it was just what the doctor ordered and I cranked the volume and listened to cowboy music across the prairies.

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