Fungus Debriefing #3

Walking ’round Waptus River for a few days in October

A mishmash of mushrooms grew from the dampened earth, but only a few were of the edible sorts. Saw one gigantic bolete, but so had the worms!

Flushes of amanita muscarina were seen along the way with their vibrant caps adding a toadstool touch to the kaleidoscope of fall color.

Amanita muscarina, viewed from above in the header picture, is an easily identifiable mushroom in the fall forest. In spanish these toxic toadstools are sometimes called “matamoscas” , which loosely translates to “fly killer”.

Mosca is spanish for fly, and originates from the latin musca, from where we get, muscarina.

In English the mushrooms are sometimes called fly amanitas or fly agaric.

The term agaric comes from ancient Greek and refers to a broad group of mushrooms which bear a cap, gills and a stem.

Basically an agaric is what 99% of people would draw if they got mushroom as a Pictionary clue. Close your eyes, think ‘mushroom’. Yep, that one.

…but why the fly?

Seems that in ye olde dayes, the colorful mushrooms were dried and sprinkled into milk which would be left out to spoil. The poisonous curdled concoction would then draw the little moscas in for a drink of doom.

Anyway, that’s a little bit about muscas, moscas y muscarinas… Not that you asked.

Later wandering led to the discovery of some intriguing white mushroom buds erupting from the forest floor in a rather straight line of staggered clumps.

These were collected and later identified as Matsutakes. Bonus!

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11OCT2018

Went for a jaunt around a favorite haunt…

Lot of inedible russulas springing from the duff, some had sprung well before I got there, probably with the recent rains. Now they decayed where they stood.

I got fooled by more than a few big leaf maple leaves that fit the right color and shape of a chantrelle, starkly gold against the shade of the heavy forest canopy. At least from a distance.

Despite the maple’s ruse (I bet that ol’ tree was just laughing it’s mossy wooden ass off!) I managed to pluck a few handfuls of chantrelles from the duff as well as a surprise trio of lobsters.

Got home and threw the whole lot of em into the dehydrator! Destined to be added to backpacking soup!

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Fungus Debriefing #2

23SEP2018

Happened upon a handful of Lion’s Mane mushrooms while hiking around the Mountain Loop…

As I passed each one, I thought “I’ll grab it on the way down, save them some trail beating”.

On the way back down, all but a pair had been cut!

*welp… you snooze you lose I guess!

I’d seen a couple patches of little chantrelle buds in a few places, but missed them in darkness that had fallen upon our return trip.

Before the dusk started to settle in, I spied a King Bolete that looked ok, but upon closer inspection was pretty wormy.

24SEP2018

Roamed around the flanks of Bessemer Mountain for most of the day in a fruitless search…

Only one tiny chantrelle was discovered amongst a forest full of little orange wannabes.

Some few odd specimens of boletes and dead wood loving polypores were collected for further examination.

We followed a trail up from the CCC road that turned out to be a backwoods downhill bike track.

It was clear a lot of work was put into the course’s construction, but it’s current state suggests that the zenith of it’s use may have passed.

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Land Lobster

Woodland seafood seems to me like a rather dubious thing. I remember being introduced to Rocky Mountain Oysters as a kid via the classic “The Great Outdoors” (still one of my faves). In “Fear and Loathing” I remember when Gary Busey mentions the Land Crab, though to this day I’m not exactly sure what Land Crab is, it sounds like a distinctly bad word.

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A modest bounty

Lobster mushrooms might sound weird, and they certainly look weird, but so far as woodland seafoods go, they are on the level.

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Bursting forth from the ground… A Land Lobster

Once you get an eye for these delicious fungi they are difficult to miss, their bright, vibrant color leaps out of the dusky forest floor, and after you’ve been properly introduced, you are unlikely to ever mistake this guy with anything else.

Lobster Mushroom is actually something of a misnomer, as it is actually a parasite of other mushrooms,

Mushroom Parasite that is Lobster colored doesn’t quite roll of the tongue as nicely though.

Lobster Mushrooms usually attack russulas or lactarius mushrooms, transforming them from inedible to edible in the process.

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The white one is the host species

There is a a lobster mushroom on the east coast, Hypomyces hyalinus that parasitizes Amanita mushrooms (some of the most deadly mushrooms) turning them into a pimply or warty upright club, but this species is unknown on the west coast.

That being said, it seems there are no known poisonings by our local lobster, Hypomyces lactifluorum.

It is interesting to note that in my experience the taste of these mushrooms varies greatly depending on what the host mushroom was. I have had the range from very peppery in flavor to quite innocuous, but always of very appealing texture and edibility.

Lobster Mushrooms often seem to burst right out of the ground, and because of this, they are often pretty dirty, sometimes even seemingly impregnated with little bits of forest floor. They seem to also be a favorite of the woodlands own mushroom connoisseurs, the beetles, flies and mushroom maggots.

It takes a bit of work to clean up a lobster mushroom, and for this reason I encourage you to look your quarry over well before snatching it from the woods, sometimes they are just too forlorn to do anything culinary with and are best left to disperse their spores to make future generations of lobsters.

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An aged specimen dispersing it’s spores

Ok, so you’ve found yourself some Land Lobster, now what do you do with it?

First and foremost, be absolutely sure of what you have. The internet is a great resource for sure, but I highly recommend field guides and even better and experienced mushroom hunter. There are two books I’ll highly recommend here “All the rain promises and more….” and “Mushrooms Demystified” both by David Arora. The first one is a great pocket guide and the second, which is often referenced by the first, is an expansive tome that you will certainly want should you delve further and further into amateur mycology.

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After the first cleaning

Second, lets clean up those lobsters! You’ll need a bush, something with moderately stiff bristles as some of the grime is tenacious. I start with a good superficial brushing before storage and then, when ready to prepare, I’ll cut the lobsters up into more manageable chunks to really eradicate the crud.

It’s best not to get the mushrooms wet, as this can really make them soggy, and to go back a few paragraphs, if they are SO cruddy that you’d need to wash them, maybe they are best left in the woods.

 

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Chopping

Lobster mushrooms and be cooked immediately or dried for future use. Drying, so it’s been said, can concentrate the flavor making for savory soups or whatnot.

On the drive home an image came to me, it was a heavenly image of sauteed lobster mushroom served over noodles and white sauce.

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The Sautee-ing

So I went to cleaning,

and cleaning again,

and chopping (some onions and garlic too)

and then sautee-ing (for 10mins on medium give or take)

and the Voila! I had my Woodland Seafood Pasta!

Lobster mushrooms are versatile in the kitchen, fun to find and a good beginners fungi for that first step into the wonderful world of mycology.  That being said, I’ve got a surprise day off today so I’m heading off to look for more, Happy trails and happy hunting!

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Dinner!