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The other day one of my colleagues spotted some shaggy manes growing on a lawn across the street from where I work. They are delicious mushrooms and there were lots of them. Unfortunately, I wasn’t going to be able to use them that day, and shaggy manes are ephemeral. These are mushrooms that spread their spores using deliquescence. They dissolve themselves into black ink of their own creation.
I’m hoping there is going to be another flush of them one day soon. I’m ready to pop across the street on my lunch break to do a little harvesting.
A fellow named Jamie commented here at the land of milk & honey….he was interested in finding someone to lead a little mushroom walk at his cottage. I’m no pro-mycologist but I can identify a good number of tasty edibles and quite a few assorted other mushrooms, and it sounded like a fun idea. This morning I met him a the marina on his lake. Memphis and I hopped in his boat and off we went.
Yikes – those mushrooms are not blewitts! Field guides can be dangerous things. You see a photo and a short description and it seems close to what you’ve found in the woods. Not so fast. There are look-alikes out there. You have to be certain if you plan to eat wild mushrooms. The field guide also lists the spore colour – if you aren’t certain of the ID, take a spore print.
Memphis made a friend – a pup named Georgia. They had a great time together this afternoon.
Among the more interesting finds of the afternoon were two different edible toothed fungi – combed tooth and bear’s head tooth. These were both found growing on downed trees, a short distance from one another. Another edible mushroom found on dead wood was a chicken of the woods. If he’s lucky, Jamie will have another chicken in the same spot next year. A few other edibles were found – two varieties of Suillus – and also a few pear-shaped puff-balls and some honey mushrooms as well.
I had a fun time this afternoon – I got to make some new friends, enjoyed a great walk in the woods. We found some interesting mushrooms, and I had a chance to pass along some of my knowledge to others.
I was contacted recently on this blog by a fellow looking for someone to lead a mushroom walk up in cottage country. It’s getting right toward the end of our season here, but I agreed to do the walk on Saturday, and hopefully we’ll find some interesting mushrooms and some tasty edibles. I am not a mycologist. It’s just a hobby for me. I enjoy trying to identify mushrooms and I enjoy collecting tasty edibles for the table. I can identify quite a few species but there are hundreds and hundreds of different species in our woods. I’m sure we’ll find all kinds of things I won’t be able to identify – and a bunch of mushrooms I’m familiar with as well. These folks are pretty smart in seeking out someone to help them ID mushrooms. Even though I’m not a pro naturalist or mycologist, I’m sure by sharing some of my knowledge and experience, I can help a few people begin to learn for themselves.
Quite a number of people have found this blog by searching for info about Ontario mushrooms. I’d like to take a moment to remind people to be really careful about eating any mushrooms you pick in the woods – unless you’re 100% sure you know what you’ve got and you know it’s safe to eat. Also, even mushrooms known to be generally safe can cause stomach upset in some people, and certain edibles are more likely to do this than others. If you have identified a mushroom and you’re sure of the ID and you want to eat it, but sure you first cook up a little bit and eat that, and see how your body reacts – before enjoying more of the mushrooms.
This morning, Memphis and I headed up to the Enchanted Mushroom Forest to see if we could find some tasty edibles. Ellie Mae really wanted to join us (for those who are not regular readers, Memphis and Ellie Mae are our Newfoundland dogs) but with her recently injured leg I thought it best she stay home to rest it. She was not impressed, and later when Memphis and I returned, Ellie didn’t even acknowledge us, that is until I produced a delicious jerky treat.
Our first stop is a forest that often yields both hedgehogs and lobsters (and in mid-summer the occasional chanterelle). This time there was no sign of any lobsters in the forest at all, but I did pick up about a dozen choice hedgehogs. We then hopped back into the car and continued on our way. My plan was to visit a patch that is very reliable for lobsters. Unfortunately, I arrived to find that the prime bit of forest is now posted. I found some nice lobsters in a nearby bit of public forest and then Memphis and I hiked down the trail quite a way. At an intersection with another trail, I noticed what looked like a hedgehog beside an oak tree. On closer inspection, there were a few. Looking all around the oak and nearby oaks, I found quite a few nice small hedgehogs.
I also came across quite a few pear-shaped puffballs but most of them were well past edibility. If I was there a week earlier, I could have brought home quite a number of them.
Memphis had a great time splashing through some deep puddles and sniffing about in the woods. I had a nice hike – and as a bonus, I came home with a good basket of tasty mushrooms.
A number of people have found this blog recently after asking that magician Mr. Google for the location of King Boletes in Ontario. For those who don’t know what I’m talking about, these are the tremendously tasty edible forest mushrooms also known as Porcini. I have a message for those searchers. If you do find that secret location you’ve been looking for, remember that you’re going to need someone to validate the ID of those mushrooms, so I suggest you send the locations to me immediately. I’ll make sure you don’t eat anything you ought to stay away from. Thank you.
I’m off work for a couple days so this morning I asked the dogs if they’d like a car ride to a forest. It turns out they were quite excited by the prospect, so off we went. There was a particular forest I had in mind, but there was a traffic problem on the highway, which I heard about on the radio, so we opted for another forest a little closer to home. Since we’ve had some rain over the past couple days, I thought we might find some hypothetical tasty edible mushrooms. I say hypothetical because any old fool knows there are no wild edible mushrooms in Southern Ontario.
It turned out that this was an excellent choice of forest. The first place I look in this particular spot is by a little saddle in the hillside, not far from where I park the car, a spot that features several oak trees. Here is the first thing I noticed.
This is a familiar site in this little part of this forest. The distinctive orange-tan irregular caps are a dead give-away. Hedgehogs!
These firm, toothed mushrooms are very tasty, and these are choice specimens. I found 16 or 17 of them, mostly in the same area. Two or three came from another spot, over on the other side of the trail, that is also fairly reliable for these mushrooms.
The part of this forest I visit also has quite a few hemlocks, and I always take some time to thoroughly look in and around the hemlocks because sometimes there are Hypomyces lactifluorum – lobster mushrooms. This morning I found around two dozen of them, and they were mostly fresh and choice.
And here’s a shot of this morning’s bounty!
Here’s a short video I shot in the forest yesterday. I was finding hedgehog mushrooms. I believe these were Hydnum repandum, with the lumpy cap. I also found some Hydnum umbilicatum, with the flatter cap and the belly button.
Hypomyces lactifluorum is also known as the lobster mushroom. In fact it is the product of one fungi attacking another. The host mushroom is either Lactarius piperatus or Russula brevipes. The attacking fungus is a sac fungus, or ascomycete. It’s the red stuff. It colonizes the host and when that happens, the host tends to contort in shape and it turns the colour of cooked lobsters – hence the name. It also makes the otherwise unpalatable host into a delicious edible mushroom. When you find these in the woods, they’re often partially obscured by leaves on the forest floor. Sometimes the colour isn’t as intense as the one in the photo. If it turns from red-orange to more of a crimson, that’s usually an indicator that it is past its prime.
Bugs and slugs and worms love lobsters and so they require some special cleaning. First of all they are very firm and can be washed under running water. The next step is to slice then into roughly eighth inch thick slices. Then it’s a matter of cutting away anything that isn’t white or red. It’s worth the extra work to do this. Lobsters also dry up nicely in a dehydrator and are excellent in soups and stews. Even after drying and rehydrating, they retain their firm texture.
I have to remind you here to be exceptionally careful when foraging any wild mushrooms for the table. If you can’t identify a mushroom with total certainty, don’t eat it. Don’t take risks. There are some nasty mushrooms in the woods. If you’re interested in mushrooms, start with a couple good field guides but even better, find a friend who has plenty of experience who can teach you. When I started, my brother helped me out and I learned way more from him in a short time than I could have by studying books.
In the forests I visit, I mostly find smallish chanterelles – one over two inches tall or with a cap over two inches wide is uncommon. Yet today I found a cluster of chanterelles, all in one hollow, that were much bigger than the norm.
Today I was fortunate to find several Hydnum umbilicatum and Hydnum repandum- the hedgehog mushrooms, sometimes also known as the sweet tooth. In our area, the Hydnum repandum tend to be larger. They have a rounder cap and they tend to be more pale in hue. The Hydnum umbilicatum is flatter, and sometimes has more orange on the cap. It also has a belly-button shape in the top of the cap, hence the “umbilicatum”. I find both varieties taste the same, both delicious and similar to chanterelles. Of course both varieties of hedgehogs have their signature teeth.
I know one forest that reliably fruits these mushrooms (and a couple other forests in which I occasionally find them). This forest is a “stop on the way” forest for me. It’s a large forest but I normally only find edible mushrooms in one small area of it. It’s on the way to other forests I like, so I stop on the way and spend 15 or 20 minutes poking around. I find a few lobster mushrooms there, and an occasional chanterelle and sometimes a few boletes, but the hedgehogs are the prize of this spot. When they’re fruiting I can sometimes find a dozen or more in just a few minutes.
Hedgehogs are among the easiest edible wild mushrooms to identify but still, if you aren’t 120% sure what you’ve got, don’t eat it. Not even just this once. Remember there are old mushroom hunters and bold mushroom hunters but there are no old, bold mushroom hunters. Please be careful.