I took the dogs out for a walk in the woods this morning, and was fortunate to find around 30 chanterelles. They’re a little hard to see right now. There is a lot of leaf litter on the forest floor and the chanterelles are just peaking out from under it. I had hoped to find some edible boletes too, but mostly just found boletes with red pores – not for consumption. I saw one bug-eaten lobster, a few yellow Amanitas and some red russulas and that’s about it. The chanterelles were the highlight.
Let me first assure you all that this post is a work of fiction. It must be because any old fool knows what you see here is not possible. There are no edible mushrooms in Southern Ontario (we’ve been through this before). The morels you see below are fictional mushrooms that were picked in a fictional land where edible mushrooms are abundant.
I’ll post some fictional video later. Some of you may say the video looks real, but as I heard many times on the news in the past week, video can be doctored so don’t believe anything you see.
Saturday is soup day around here these days. I wasn’t sure what variety of soup I was going to make today until we visited friends this morning who gave us some dried mushrooms. More specifically, these are Boletus Mirabilis, known as the Admirable Bolete.
I’ve never eaten these before, but they are reputed to be tasty mushrooms with a lemony nuance about them. The packaging assures me these were picked in Canada, and since I know these to be western mushrooms, it’s a good guess they come out of BC. These boletes were thinly sliced and dried, but still you can see these were really nice big specimens. I soaked a handful for half an hour while I prepared some other ingredients.
I started off with some Starsky’s BBQ bacon, a couple good slices diced up and added in a handful of chopped onions, some chopped up fresh thyme, and then after about 5 minutes, some celery root, carrots, and zucchini. I chopped up the soaked boletes and added them in along with loads of fresh creminis. I tossed in more fresh thyme and some dry summer savory and a little spash of soy sauce and some vegetable stock.
It’s simmering away on the stove and promises to be a very good soup.
Today, M kindly dropped off a bag containing a generous quantity of Chicken of the Woods. Wow, was that ever nice! She harvested a beautiful and huge chicken and I was thrilled to receive some pieces. Chicken of the Woods is a very tasty mushroom that grows on tree stumps. When you find one you are very fortunate indeed, because often they contain many shelves and you can harvest several pounds of mushroom from one stump. The younger they are the more tender they are. When you have one, the usual approach is to cut away any tough woody areas and just cook and eat the tender parts.
I made up a big bowl of pasta, featuring a sauce made with great quantities of “chicken” and some hot fennel sausage. It was really delicious, and even better, I have lots left for tomorrow!
In the last few days, an alarming number internet surfers have landed on my blog after searching for information on edible mushrooms in Southern Ontario. I would like to ease the troubled minds of these individuals right now. There are no edible mushrooms outside of grocery stores in Southern Ontario. None. Zero. Nada. Zip. Don’t even bother going out for a look. You won’t find any. Let me spell it out. Southern Ontario is a terrible place to go mushroom hunting. Ever since the edible mushroom blight of 2006, all edible mushrooms in Southern Ontario have either disappeared entirely or have been seen hitch-hiking to Quebec. As I mentioned in an earlier post back in the spring, Eastern Ontario and Quebec are both excellent places. I’ve heard North-West Ontario and Manitoba have their moments too. Here in Southern Ontario, though, I wouldn’t bother even trying if I were you.
I should also take a moment to remind you, gentle readers, that there are many species of deadly poisonous mushrooms in Southern Ontario. Many of those can be confused for the tasty edible kind. I don’t recommend you eat any mushrooms you pick from a Southern Ontario forest. The best thing to do if you pick some and you are not 100% certain what you have, is to give them to me. I’m willing to take one for the team and eat the ones I think are edible.
Finally, a special note to the guy who keeps doing searches for “King Bolete Map Southern Ontario” and “Porcini map Southern Ontario” and “edible mushroom hotspots Southern Ontario”, I love your faith in your fellow humans, your confidence that if there were king boletes in Southern Ontario (there are NO EDIBLE MUSHROOMS IN SOUTHERN ONTARIO outside of grocery stores), someone would draw you a map to them.
After all the rain, I expected to collect buckets of tasty edible wild mushrooms today. Arriving at my first spot, I discovered to my dismay that the local bureaucrats had declared the only reasonable access to the forest to be NO PARKING. On the other side of the forest, a housing development has sprouted up and the only way in from that side appears to be through some guy’s backyard. Damn.
Off to spot number 2. Spot number 2 is an “on the way” spot. I almost always find some good edible mushrooms in this forest, but I rarely find a lot of them. Today I quickly collected over a dozen fresh, clean beautiful Hypomyces lactifluorum (lobster mushrooms) then walked deeper into the woods to a place that often offers up a few chanterelles. Nature hasn’t coughed up many chanterelles this season, or last season either for that matter. Here it is the middle of August already and I hadn’t collected a single chanterelle. Today, finally I found one…..but just one. Usually when you find a chanterelle, there are others close by but not this time. This spot is also my most reliable spot for hedgehogs, but I didn’t find even one of those.
At spot 3 I was disappointed to discover that some other mushroom hound had been in picking before me, perhaps yesterday. I know this because I found some boletes sitting on a stump, picked then rejected. I would have rejected them too. They were quite bug-eaten and for sure past their expiry date. This spot is often very generous, but today, nada. I tried two other spots that are normally really good for lobsters and again, nada. The conditions were good. The forest were nicely wet, but no mushrooms. It’s a good thing I stopped by the “on the way” spot. Thanks to that, I have enough mushrooms for several meals.
Hypomyces lactifluorum, AKA the lobster mushroom, is one of the more common choice edible wild mushrooms in the Southern Ontario forests I visit. I’ve written about lobsters a number of times before. They’re unusual in that the mushrooms we pick as lobster mushrooms are in fact host mushrooms that have been attacked by another fungus. The attacking fungus contorts the shape of the host and coats it with a red crust. It also makes the whole item delicious.
Some people will not eat lobsters because they cannot identify the contorted host and they are concerned that a poisonous mushroom has been attacked by the known to be quite edible Hypomyces. Many articles suggest that the hosts for this parasite are are always Russula brevipes or Lactarius piperatus, two mushrooms that are not palatable prior to attacked by the parasite fungus. Can the parasite attack other possibly poisonous hosts? As Tom Volk suggests on his website, lobster mushrooms have been eaten for hundreds of years without known problems. In fact, I’ve seen dried lobsters in some grocery stores. I’ve been eating them with some regularity for a few years now without any issue.
There are at least a dozen lobster mushrooms visible in this shot, which was taken in a hemlock forest. You can see a couple of the specimens are a rosy red while others are more orange. Orange, red-orange or washed out red-orange are all good colours. By the time they get rosy in colour, they are almost always past their expiry date. When you see them in the forest, look for specimens that are firm. Don’t worry if there are a couple holes in the mushroom.
The only negative to lobster mushrooms is that they are a pain to clean. I start by cutting away anything that looks soft or pulpy or too red. Then clean the mushrooms under cold running water. These are dense mushrooms and will not be compromised by being washed in water. You might find a toothbrush is helpful in getting the forest floor off your mushrooms. Then slice your mushrooms up in slices that are about an eighth inch thick. Once you’ve done that, cut away anything that is not firm, white or orange-red-organge. If I don’t like the looks of it, I cut it away. The cleaned, sliced up mushrooms keep well in the refrigerator for a few days.
When you cook Hypomyces lactifluorum, they retain their firm texture and can even add a bit of crunch. Of course I know you will not be silly enough to collect, cook and eat wild mushrooms. If you decide to do so, remember that it is against my advice. Do as I say and not as I do.
July of this year, much like July of last year, has been a poor month for mushroom hounds in these parts. Why? It’s been way too dry. Buoyed by a little bit of rain that fell on the Enchanted Mushroom Forest a few days ago, I invited the dogs to join me for a walk in the woods. They informed me that it’s been too dry for mushrooms but they’d love to wander around the forest anyway. So off we went, stopping at a reliable spot for chanterelles. The forest was very dry, with no sign that that it had rained at all. There is one little area, beside a path, but not the usual path, that I think of as my barometer. If there are chanterelles around, I’ll find several in this one little area. Today I found 7 or 8 dried up, bug-eaten posts that once belonged to chanterelles. We had a closer look in a few other good spots at this stop only to find the same thing elsewhere, a few old posts, along with a couple remnants of old lobster mushrooms, also way past their expiry date. Ellie Mae gave me a look that could only mean, I told you so, stupid human.
Some time back, my brother the trout showed me a peculiar property down the road from the Enchanted Mushroom Forest, at the edge of a hemlock bog, in a place where the ground undulates deeply as if some restless God had scooped out bits of the landscape with a celestial ice cream scoop, just for kicks. We know this spot lovingly as The Malerial Bog. It stays wet way longer than anyplace else around and at times it can host many, many edible mushrooms. It also hosts a mind-boggling number of mosquitoes. I figured if I were to find mushrooms anywhere, it would be here. It was so dry there, the puddles on the old road, which rarely ever fully dry out, were fully dried out. It was so dry there were no mosquitoes around. There were lobster mushrooms there, but they were old and bug-eaten and crumbly. I lifted up one that from above looked good. This mushroom was hosting a family of large black beetles of some sort, who were not at all pleased that I removed their canopy. I carefully put it back.
Well, we enjoyed a nice morning walk in the woods at least. I think we need more than a thunderstorm to get the mushrooms fruiting. I think we need a nice sustained two-day rain.
A surfer landed on this blog today after making a search for where to find puffball mushrooms in Ontario. There are a number of varieties of puffballs but I normally come across three kinds, the giant puffball, Calvatia gigantea, the gem-studded puffball, Lycoperdon perlatum or the pear-shaped puffball, Lycoperdon pyriforme. Puffballs are have a pleasant mild taste and a texture that reminds me of firm tofu.
A few notes on identification. As regular readers know, I never recommend anyone eat wild mushrooms, and to those who insist on doing so, I suggest being very very careful what you eat because there are some deadly mushrooms in Ontario, and plenty more that may not kill you but will make you very sick. The giant puffball is an easy to identify mushroom, as they go. It’s likely the only mushroom you’re going to find that grows the size of a soccer ball, and looks like a dirty-white blob. If you cut one in half, it should be pure smooth solid whiteness inside. Until last year, I had only ever seen these growing in fields. However, last season I collected a few beautiful specimens from a deciduous forest. One of the most popular ways to eat giant puffballs is to cut them into steaks, batter them and fry them up, I think you’ll enjoy these cooked up anyway you like mushrooms. In Southern Ontario, giant puffballs appear around the end of August.
Pear shaped puffballs grow on wood, and typically, when you find some, you will find plenty. If you do identify these mushrooms and pick them for the table, only pick them when they are young and still firm and pure white when you cut them in half. Some nasty amanitas in their young form look kind of like a puffball, but if you cut one open, you’ll see a mushroom-shape developing inside. Anytime I collect puffballs with the intention of eating them, I cut every one of them in half to be extra sure each of them is a puffball. I try not to make assumptions, even when they are obvious assumptions.
Gem-studded puffballs have a similar shape to pear-shaped puffballs but they are covered in little bumps or “gems” and they grow in the ground rather than on wood. The same deal applies with these – cut each one open and only eat puffballs that are pure solid white inside. I normally find the gem-studded and pear shaped puffballs in September in our area.
A lot of mushrooms are good for drying but puffballs don’t reconstitute well. Some people dry them and then crush them into puffball powder and add that to soups and stews and whatever else. Personally, I don’t bother drying them.
Somebody landed on this blog after searching the question, “are blue-staining boletes edible”? I thought I should weigh in on this before the searcher goes collecting.
For those who don’t know what I’m talking about, boletes are those mushrooms that have pores rather than gills or teeth on the underside of the cap. Some boletes stain blue when they are bruised or cut. By that I mean they turn a deep shade of blue or sometimes greeny-blue where the injury occurred. If you slice one on the underside of the cap, for instance, the incision will turn blue, or with some, when you rub the flat of a knife against the cap, it turns blue.
The short answer to the searcher’s question is that some blue-staining boletes are edible but others are poisonous. Only eat a blue-staining bolete if you can identify what you’re eating and you’re sure you’re not going to poison yourself. It’s possible to pick boletes for the table without being able to identify the specific mushroom, by following a set of rules. (this is for educational purposes only – I’m not recommending you go and eat any wild mushroom) If you follow these rules, you won’t be eating any of the blue-stainers, as the rules eliminate all of them because some of them are poisonous.
Here are the rules:
1. Eat only fresh young specimens
2. Avoid boletes with red or orange pore surfaces
3. Avoid boletes that stain or bruise blue or green
4. Avoid orange-capped Leccinum species (if you are asking what the hell is a Leccinum, avoid any organge-capped boletes).
I think there is another rule that is not on the page I quoted. That is, If you’ve followed the first four rules and you think you have an edible bolete, cut off a wee piece and taste it. If you want to immediately spit if out because it tastes very bitter, then don’t eat it.
Ok, one more rule….if you’ve picked it in the wild, cook it before you eat it. It is dangerous to do otherwise.
All this assumes you can tell what you are looking at is a bolete. This also assumes you aren’t about to eat mushooms that come up in a toxic waste heap or other nasty environment.
My disclaimer: I am not recommending you eat any wild mushroom. I am not recommending you eat any boletes. If you must eat wild mushrooms, be very careful or you just might end up very sick or dead. Remember when you’re experiencing severe gastro-intestinal upset, I never told you to eat that mushroom. Just because I might be crazy enough to eat wild mushrooms, doesn’t mean you have to be too. Better safe than sorry. Finally, as the old saying goes, there are old mushroom hunters and there are bold mushroom hunters but there are no old, bold mushroom hunters.