Tag Archives: armillaria

Mushroom drought

This drought. It is not just the corn. It is not just the trees.

I have no pictures from my recent reconnaissance at Picnic Point. If I did, you might weep.

I know of a stump right next to the trail which, for the past two years, has overflowed with honey mushrooms and maitakes. Nearby are several trees which have been reliable sources for more maitake than most enthusiasts could even fit in the freezer.

What I saw on this trip was a single bloom of maitake, as brittle as crackers; a couple sparse bunches of honeys, already too old. Hard to imagine that honeys are some of the biggest organisms on the planet, looking at these sorry specimens. Some of them had been taken. Normally I’d pout, but in this case I was glad that someone had gotten something.

I have never seen a fall this dry.


The Forager gets the Halloween spirit: Food that glows

glowing mycena lucentipes credit cassius stevani

Mycena lucentipes. Credit Cassius Stevani of the University of Sao Paulo. Via http://www.nsf.gov.

Science Mag reports that San Francisco State University’s Dennis Desjardin discovered some new green-glowing mushrooms, Mycena luxaeterna, in Brazil. While Desjardin et al have been night-hunting Brazil for glowy mushrooms for several years, we norteamericanos could likely track down some foxfire here, too, if we stayed up late enough.

Those liver-flavored honey mushrooms I’ve been telling you about — Armillaria complex, common around here — glow in the dark. Not the fruiting bodies, but their root-like rhizomorphs. So do the fruiting bodies of various species of delicate little Mycena mushrooms. And the well-named jack-o’-lantern mushrooms, Omphalotus, which Madison has plenty of, and various other fungi that are busy consuming rotting wood.

I have always loved the bioluminescence. Who wouldn’t? In the Chesapeake Bay, I dove into black water only to be surrounded by the green glow. On Coronado Island off San Diego, the waves crashed green and any disturbance of the sand, e.g. throwing it at someone, produced a brief, exciting flash. And in central Africa, a fungal glow kept me company on a fearful dark night when I was stuck in the forest.

A brief biology lesson. Continue reading

Recipe: Honey-mushroom pierogi

Honey mushrooms are named for the color of their caps, not the taste. Because “liver mushroom” just doesn’t sound as nice, does it?

A few days ago I cooked them in chicken drippings and added a half-bottle of wine, and they just added a thick umami flavor to a dish of barley, pine nuts and greens. This time, sauteed in butter, essence of liver said a very loud hello. Before you turn away from my post in disgust, I should say that the translation of liver from one kingdom to the next changes the experience. In its animal form, that smooth, dense meat with a musky iron flavor is unbalanced and overwhelming—though I love it. Liver’s honey-fungus form is lighter, more moderate, with a bite to it. But not delicate.

You could always use some other mushroom, if you’re frightened.

On dumplings (following up from my last post): The ‘tubes got a lot to say about pierogi dough. Doughs of sour cream, cream cheese or potatoes; doughs with no eggs or three. My Polish grandma always made ’em straight from the box, so she was no help. I’m posting this one so you’ll know it’s good.

Recipe: Honey-mushroom pierogi. Continue reading

Honey bunches of mushrooms

Yesterday I fulfilled my foraging instinct at Goodwill with $4 sweaters; today, more wholesomely, I headed back to a Madison-area forest. An hour in, I had confirmed that the edges of young dryad’s saddles taste, oddly, like cucumber; I had collected quite a few little brown mushrooms, Coprinus and friends, to mull over later, if not eat. But I wasn’t finding anything for dinner, or anything new or strange.

Instead of despairing, I stopped to eat lunch. And just as with fishing, stopping to eat or pee is virtually a surefire way to find what you’re looking for.

Darling, sweetie-pie, sugar-muffin, love-spud honey mushrooms. Armillaria something.

Darling, sweetie-pie, sugar-muffin, love-spud honey mushrooms. Armillaria somethingoruther.

Not everyone loves them, but W. and I deemed them Most Delicious Fungus in a saute dominated by hedgehogs and chicken-o’-woods the other day. [Correction: W. says I made that up. It was true for me, anyway. Keep me on the straight and narrow, baby.]

Despite the confusion and variation in Armillaria species, plus the fact that these look little like the ones in my book (George Barron’s Mushrooms of Northeast North America), I’m certain about them because the good fungus experts of the Wisconsin Mycological Society showed me how different they can look, even in one area.

For now, I don’t presume to know what kind of Armillaria I’ve got, although it looks a lot like good old Armillaria mellea, the classic honey. I need a microscope … sadly low priority until I’m back to a positive cash flow.

Now how to cook them? I’m intrigued by an Australian recipe for squab with honey-mushroom sauce, but unsure how to procure pigeons at this late hour.

And should I dare, I’ve also got some orange peels—an edible sac fungus, Aleuria orantia, among today’s miscellanea. It doesn’t look delicious, but maybe as a garnish.