Traffic going north yesterday morning was crazy, with weekend cottagers making their weekly pilgrimage. We avoided the 400 and took a leisurely drive up 27. I collected some edible mushrooms and we went for a long walk. When we got back to the car, George sat down about 15 feet from the car and refused to come when called. Instead, he got up, turned and walked back into the forest. Later, when we got home I bathed both dogs and brushed them out. They can pick up a lot of dirt plus burrs and stickers in the forest.
Today I met up with my friends Robin and Jamie for a walk in the woods looking for oyster mushrooms. Oysters almost always fruit right around this time, but this year with the long drawn-out winter, some things are late. We found a couple trees starting to show oysters, which should be fruiting in a week or so, but we saw none fruiting.
Although we didn’t find mushrooms, we did find all kinds of interesting things in the forest. For instance, Robin pointed out some beautiful Jack in the Pulpit.
Then there was this fascinating tree. I wonder what caused it to grow like this?
We didn’t notice them on the walk into the forest, but on the walk out we found a patch of ramps, and harvested enough for a couple dinners. Ramps, or Allium tricoccum,are also known as wild leeks. They are edible perennials which have a strong garlic-like flavour. Very good indeed!
Jamie and Robin came across a swallowtail butterfly which had just emerged.
It turned out to be a great walk. I had Memphis and Georgie along and my friends brought their pup Georgia, so the dogs had a great time too, especially when they discovered mud-puddles.
There is a small area of a big forest I visited today, where chanterelles really love to grow. It’s just off a trail, down in a little hollow. If you aren’t looking for them, you might well miss the mushrooms growing on this spot. When I’m there, I watch from the trail for the tell-tale hint of bright yellow. If I see yellow, I move slowly into the area and look closely, because the mushrooms are often partially obscured by the forest duff.
Monotropa uniflora is commonly called Indian Pipe. It’s one of the most unusual plants in the forest because it contains no chlorophyll. Instead it derives nutrients from fungi that in turn derive nutrients from trees – it’s a fascinating 3-way relationship.
There was plenty of Indian Pipe in the forests I visited today. It grows in clumps scattered here and there about the forest.
After I posted about oyster mushrooms the other day, someone asked me if there were any other mushrooms I might mistake for oyster mushrooms. In Southern Ontario this time of year, there isn’t much around that might cause confusion (although I say that, I also say that you should never consume any mushroom from the forest unless you can identify it with 100% certainty – always be sure!)
I usually see these low down on tree trunks. They are much firmer than oysters and have the characteristic brown on them. They also smell kind of like watermelon rind. I understand these are tough but edible, but that said, I know one naturalist who swears he ate some once and they made him sick. I’ve never tried eating these and don’t intend to try them.
The Weather Network has predicted normal summer temperatures this year, but in the Toronto area, higher than normal precipitation. This is good news for the amateur mycologists in the crowd. Last season started off well enough with plenty of morels and plenty of oysters but then a very dry July made it a poor year for chanterelles. Things picked up some later in August and into September. I found my share of hedgehogs, some good puffballs and some milk caps and as usual, plenty of lobster mushrooms.
I missed those chanterelles last year though. I’d love to see a warm wet July this year to get the chanterelles and the summer boletes off to a good start. Just sayin’.