George hadn’t had a good run since his neuter surgery and he has really needed one, so I loaded the dogs along with my mushroom basket into the car and headed for a forest not too far from the city. George and Memphis know this spot well, and they love it because there is lots of forest to romp around in.
These days Memphis sticks fairly close to me in the forest. George on the other hand needed to run so he barrelled through the woods out of sight and a moment later came bounding back toward me from a different direction. With his size and weight he’s like a locomotive running through the forest. Ten minutes of this and he settled right down, and while I wandered about looking for mushrooms, they sniffed about, rolled, explored, happily goofing about among the trees.
This particular spot is reliable – that is to say I almost always find some edible mushrooms there, but on the other hand I don’t usually find large quantities of mushrooms, just enough for a dinner or two.
My first find consisted of a few hedgehog buttons, and one strangely deformed hedgehog mushrooms. This mushroom was trying to grow out from under a log, and the cap didn’t develop properly. The teeth appeared to be on the top of the cap. For someone with no experience I can imagine this would be confusing. The pictures in the field guides don’t look like this.
In fact a photo in a field guide shows how the specimen could look, or did look under particular conditions. In the forest, you see all kinds of mushrooms that just don’t quite look like they’re supposed to. Always be careful with your identification and if you aren’t sure, don’t eat the mushroom.
Most of the mushrooms I found today were lobster mushrooms – Hypomyces lactifluorum. There has been quite a bit of interest in some earlier posts I made talking about how to prepare these mushrooms, so I’m going to touch on it again. Lobsters are often found partially under the forest duff. They sometimes look dirty and other times they get partially eaten by forest critters .
The first thing I do is wash a lobster mushroom as best I can under running water. I’ve often thought that a toothbrush would be handy for cleaning them but I never use on. Once the mushrooms is as clean as I can get it, I cut off any obviously unappetizing parts.Then I cut the mushrooms into roughly eighth inch slices. My basic rule for lobster mushrooms is that I keep anything that is white or red and cut away anything brown or unappetizing.