Monday, September 27, 2010

Pine Ridge Mushroom Walk...

Had anyone told me beforehand that I would be willingly waking early on my birthday, I probably would have told them that they were crazy! But I did wake up early (not without the aid of a pot of coffee) and enjoyed myself immensely!

We went out towards Blairsville to go on a mushroom walk at the Pine Ridge Park with the Indiana County Chapter of the Western Pennsylvania Mushroom Club! It was our first time mushroom hunting and were a little unprepared, but had fun nonetheless. Since it was our first time, we mostly took pictures of as many different kinds we could find and brought back samples for identification at the end of the walk. We did not know enough about mushrooms (and which ones were safe to eat) to gather any for consumption.
I was surprised by how many different types of mushrooms we came across. The forest provided excellent conditions with lots of decaying plant matter and fallen trees for mushrooms and other fungi to grow around. The one of the left, that looks like a stubbly breast, is a "gem-studded" puff ball. Apparently these are safe to eat while they are white and marshmallowy on the inside. When they darken and turn to spore, they are no longer good to eat.

About midway through our walk, we ran into the leaders of the club, Bob and Ginny. We had a piece of the "yellow chicken" or Laetiporous sulphureus and the above picture. Apparently these are edible and highly desirable. We didn't know what it was, but upon showing them the piece and the picture, they implored us to go back and harvest the rest.

We did end up taking this one back home for breakfast the next morning. Many people who have tried it say that it gets its name because it "tastes like chicken" but I've noticed that many of those recipes include chicken stock, which would most definitely make the mushroom taste like chicken. However, where the mushroom gets its name probably originates when it is pulled apart. The flesh of the mushroom very much looks like the slightly stringy meat of cooked chicken.

I sauteed the cleaned mushrooms in butter and seasoned it with a little bit of curry, cayenne pepper and smoked paprika. I added the cooked mushrooms to caramelized onions with a sprinkle of balsamic vinegar. This mixture was spooned on top of scrambled eggs. I must say that the yellow chicken mushroom was very delicious!

The most found mushroom of the day was the honey mushroom or Armillaria mellea (also known as pidpenky or pipinki). These are commonly referred to as the autumn mushroom since they are abundant during fall. They usually have a dusting on yellow on top (which is sometimes bioluminescent and probably where it gets its name). It's important when harvesting these for food, that a spore print be made. If the print is white, then it is edible. If it comes out grey, brown, or slightly purplish, the mushroom is actually a toxic Galerina!

In the center are turkey tails (or Trametes versicolor). It's a common polypore mushroom with many look-a-like species. It can be distinguished from other similar looking varieties by the pores on the underside. This common fungus is also used in Chinese medicine and has immune system boosting agents and has been used to fight cancer.

At the end of the walk, everyone laid out their finds to be identified. It was interesting to see the different kinds. I was in awe of just how many there were and made eager to learn more about mycology. Bob also had some interesting information about different fungi that attacked other fungi and produced what are called Aborted Entoloma. Sounds like the premise of a science fiction movie, no?

One of the other members found the globs to the right. They are a species of plasmodial slime mould called Wolf's Milk Slime or Lycogala epidendrum. When smashed, they produce a gooey, pinkish, orange slime!

It was really fascinating and fun time. It was also really helpful in learning more about what is edible and what should be left alone. *I think it's highly important to consult experts whenever foraging for wild mushrooms for food purposes. All too often there are types that look almost identical to edible varieties.*


AJ said...

What a cool post... love all the mushroom pictures! Sounds like you had a great time :)

Sally Anderson said...

I did this once many years ago and was amazed by it all. This post was even more amazing because you found so many more kinds of mushrooms. It sounds like a really fun and interesting day.

Lynn said...

You have no idea how sorry I am that I wasn't there. I love finding mushrooms hiding all around me in the woods.

Emma said...

How cool to go on a mushroom hunt in the woods, I would love to do that. Nice pics as well.

Cynthia Thornton said...

Beware the destroying angel! azalea and went outside the house and found loads of different fungi. Not surprising since our property is almost always in shade. We found chicken fungi near the driveway, fly agaric by the path, and some other white mushrooms that look all too common (i bet they are deathly poisonous). I also found some bird nest fungi (tiny nests with itty bitty eggs) so cute! I think it shriveled up when i picked it. You should look up tree shells, folks use them in jewelry, because they are hard and colorful.