Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A Walk on the Wild Side of Mushrooms
Written by Laura

It's fall, and what better to do than to take a walk in the woods. I set out with my two daughters on a little family adventure. We live about 20 miles northwest of the FFP farm. Our primary goal was to find some edible mushrooms. I decided to search a near by woods where, earlier in the year, I had found many hedgehog mushrooms. We did find some fungi, but nothing I was willing to put on our dinner plates.

Turkey tail was our primary find, as usual. Although nonedible (its leathery texture would certainly cause a stomach ache) and nonpoisonous, this mushroom is highly medicinal. We also came across Amanita muscaria, a highly toxic, but beautiful mushroom. Puffballs (Lycoperdon pyriforme) on a log turned out to be the highlight of the day for the girls. What kid doesn't love smashing these little things? I'm not gong to lie, I even like doing it. The puffballs are edible, but not when they have turned brown and produced spores. You have to find these things when they are still pure white inside and out. The giant puffball (Calvatia gigantea) would probably be more worth your time though. Beware, never mistake a young Amanita for a puffball!

 Amanita muscaria, should never be eaten.

After taking this picture all of these puffballs were squished.

Aside from mushrooms we saw a black squirrel and a tiny orange frog. I had also kicked up several white-tail deer, but the vibrant colors of the fall leaves were by far the greatest part of my day, visually. Exhausted, the girls found a place to sit and take a break. Our walk took place during the early evening, and the sun was in just the right place for picture time.

What a great fall background!

After the walk I decided to search a little closer to home. Most of the edible mushrooms I have been finding this year are right in my back yard. Early in the summer I had found a huge patch of Chicken of  the Woods on an ash stump. I was lucky enough to get even more from that same location this fall. Morels (not in the fall), Shaggy Manes, Oysters, Reishi (used for tea), and Hericium all grow very close to my house. These are all wild varieties too. The only mushrooms I have growing at home that come from FFP spawn are Wine Caps.

This flush of Chicken of the Woods, Laetiporus sulphureus, was found in the early summer.

Hericium coralloides growing on an old maple log in the woods next to my house.

The same log, Hericium higher up from the ground was pink in color (not uncommon).

Reishi, Ganoderma tsugae, can be seen from my living room window growing on hemlock stumps and downed logs.

My girls have learned to eat mushrooms in just about anything without complaint. Our dog Charlee has even learned to love them, but she does prefer them cooked in butter, never raw. More importantly, the girls have learned a whole lot on mushroom identification. In searching for mushrooms they are learning about their surroundings and everything that nature has to offer them. Unfortunately, they have also learned to complain: that my walks are way too long and difficult. I generally follow no path making them crawl under and jump over various logs. It's good for them, and I'm sure that someday they will thank me for our walks together.

Shaggy Manes are no stranger to my yard this time of year.

A pile of maple and beech logs which were supposed to be cut for fire wood have become one of my favorite mushroom hunting grounds. Oysters primarily grow here.

Edible wild mushrooms are not uncommon at the FFP farm either. Sure, we could eat only the ones we produce here at the farm, but that takes the thrill out of hunting for them. Comparing flavors, size, textures etc... is fun for us. This time of year two favorites to find are Maitake (Grifola frondosa) and Wood Blewit (Clitocybe nuda).

Mary Ellen holding a wild Maitake.
Caution should be taken when trying to identify the Wood Blewit.
Please know that although I have learned some things about mushroom identification, I am by no means an expert. I am lucky enough to have Joe and Mary Ellen around to help me out whenever I'm in doubt. Mushrooms are fascinating, but then again so are lions. Be realistic when it comes to mushroom hunting. Stay within bounds and never cross the fence.


  1. Anyone know if there is information on or has experience in consistent consumption of Ganoderma Tsugae? I have experience with G. Lucidum in TCM and there is a species which grow on Tamarack-type trees that is ingested in China as well. I was wondering if it could be the same for G. Tsugae on hemlocks with no ill effect.

  2. Greg A. Marley wrote a book called "Mushrooms for Health." In it he includes a section on Reishi which talks about both G. lucidium and G. Tsugae. While he differentiates between the two when it comes to habitat and ecology, he chose to lump them together as one for their medicinal use. He states that recent studies show that "the section of genus Ganoderma that contains both these species is now recognized as a complex of closely related and difficult-to-distinguish species." I suggest reading his book. It will not only answer more questions on these two species, but many other highly medicinal mushrooms.

  3. It sounds like your mushroom-hunting expedition was a roaring success! I’m sure your girls will come to love it as much as you do with time. It’s cool how much you know about mushrooms already. But, I think you were right to bring along friends who are knowledgeable on mushroom identity and toxicity. You just never know what could happen if you pick up the wrong mushroom!

    -- Mack Shepperson