Surely, said California friend Peter, I could find something more interesting than oyster mushrooms here.
So I did.
I can’t say I picked all these; I was with the Wisconsin Mycological Society’s Madison Interest Group—a small bunch of knowledgeable, kind and obsessive people.
My brain, at the end of the hunt, was completely full of fungus names, shapes, oddities of behavior. Instead of wondering about each strange new mushroom I found, I’d simply bring it over to one of the gurus. “Hygrophorus,” he’d say. “Clitocybe. Oh, I haven’t seen one quite like this.” At which I would get a little thrill. I have too many mushroom pictures to post, and almost too many to eat, but the best find of the day was a flock of hedgehogs—wait, I’m told the collective term is “prickle”—all on a single root line, a half-pound or more. Each of us came home with several.
The only thing I don’t like about group-hunting is the odd competitive tingle I get whenever someone finds a mushroom more interesting than mine. Among my own finds were honey mushrooms, in all of their many short and fat incarnations; perfect lemon-colored Amanita citrina; rusty-capped Russulas; a field of white-tipped coral mushrooms, which look like undersea creatures on a strange forest vacation; bright-yellow, slimy little waxcaps; a yellow puffball that had already blown its spore wad; frilly Hygrocybes, which look edible but sadly aren’t. And many others that smashed into an icky sandy duxelles in the bottom of my purse.
The hedgehog, Hydnum repandum, is a meaty toothed mushroom. It loses quite a bit of water upon sauteing and is mild and unremarkable in flavor. I suspect people love it because it’s so huge. I wholeheartedly agree.
(This may require more study. Last night a hedgehog stuffing on top of baked salmon was not, I’m sorry to report, delicious. But I blame myself, not the mushrooms.)
Another picture I like:
Addendum. This probably ain’t the usual chicken of the woods—Laetiphorus sulphurus, aka sulfur shelf. The chicken-o-woods species were split pretty recently (according to Wisconsin mushroom professor Tom Volk, who was involved) … this lighter one, growing in a rosette at the base of a tree, is more likely Laetiphorus cincinnatus. So I’m told.