The new camera, for those who care, is this, not a digital SLR but a budget 12 MP Kodak point and shoot the first thing I did on which was reset the resolution to 10 MP. It has a big long zoom that, without stabilization, shockingly works not all that well, and a wide angle that lets me be 3 inches from the mushroom, which is old hat to most people but is new and wonderful to me. I’m still learning the semi-klunky interface, but it takes a nice picture when I let it.
Haydenville, MA, mixed hemlock, eastern red oak forest, 20 yards from a beaver swamp.
A poisonous mushroom the size of my head with the texture of freshly lab-grown human flesh. This is the same mushroom from two angles. Click the thumbs to look at the full-size photos.
I’m finally halfway learning how to use the manual focus on my camera, which is no doubt clear from the encroachment of blur into these photos. Thing looks like some kind of crazy colony of sentient interdimensional alien mushrooms manipulating the fabric of space-time.
Still fuzzy about F-stop.
Graves Farm Sanctuary, Haydenville, MA, mixed hemlock, white pine and birch forest.
The suillii were everywhere in the woods this week—the driest, hottest week in awhile. The chanterelles, which thrived on practically the same ground just a few weeks before, were barely in evidence.
I’ve eaten painted suillius many times, prepared several ways—raw, as a pizza topping, sauteed in olive oil and butter and chilled for summer sandwiches–and I prefer them to every other mushroom I’ve tasted. With the possible exception of porcini pickled in light vinegar. Raw, they taste like what I imagined the ideal wild mushroom to taste like before I ever had one: nutty, earthy in the way of a portobello, rich like slightly burned butter, yet light in texture. The earthiness they impart to a robust, chunky pizza sauce…well, mmm. And sauteed, they turn creamy dark brown and become thick and chewy like a sauteed portobello. I make myself drool thinking about it.
Still, though—don’t go eating mushrooms you find in the woods, even if they look exactly like this, unless you actually know what you’re doing. Thanks.
Chanterelles, after truffles and morels, are among the most sought-after of wild edible mushrooms. I have seen them for sale at Whole Pocketbook for $50 a pound. I have seen them used on Iron Chef. And I’ve seen them growing in Western Mass—on moist but not swampy ground, in deep shade, almost exclusively within 20 yards of a stream or pool. They appear starting in late June and are gone by the end of September, and by virtue of their creamy, pale orange color, I’ve been noticing them in the woods ever since I moved here. I had not, until this summer, dared to pick any myself, because they have a vomit-inducing near look-alike, the Jack o’Lantern Mushroom, Omphalotus olearius.
The differences between the two, I have finally learned sufficient to be confident of not picking the wrong one, are as follows. Chanterelles have forking gills, Jack o’Lanterns don’t. Jack o’Lanterns are likely to be found growing on tree trunks, stumps, and partly-buried roots. Chanterelles are more likely to appear on open ground. And Jack o’Lantern gills, or so I am told, glow in the dark.
So I picked some, finally. And ate them. When raw, they are lemony at first, with a peppery/bitter finish. Once cooked, they are milder, earthy. One of the things for which they are so prized is their firm texture, which allows them to stand up better to more robust compliments.
I put them on a pizza:
Note: Please don’t take the above as any kind of justification for going out and picking mushrooms without a guidebook or guide. I will not be responsible if you poison yourself.
These are smooth and soft to the touch, firm like a piece of cork. They grow pretty exclusively on hemlock—living wood or rotten. They’re inedible, but are ascribed medicinal properties when taken in the form of a tea or extract. Have not tried that yet.
I also read of one guy who puts it in his homebrew. Haven’t tried that either.
Yellow-Orange Fly Agaric. Mind-shatteringly toxic.
Amanita muscaria formosa, in false button and full veil stages.
Under hemlock in the bed of a recently-dried puddle, Graves Farm Reservation, Haydenville, MA
It’s mushroom season in Western Mass. After all the rain we’ve had they’ve been popping up everywhere.
Berkley’s Polypore Polyporus berkeleyi
Mixed black birch and hemlock forest, Mt. Toby State Reservation These things can grow up to 50 lbs. And they’re edible. I had a taste: very much like steamed shredded chicken, except, you know, a mushroom.
Painted Suillius Suillius pictus, with slug.
Mixed oak and white pine forest, Mt. Toby State Reservation
update—turns out painted suillii are also quite good eating. After taking this picture and doing the necessary identification research, I found an absurd cache of them on an island in Pawtuckaway State Park, NH, tasted a couple, found them amazing, and subsequently devoured a whole lot of them as salad components and pizza topping.
Giant Puffball Calvatia gigantea
Grassy lawn, Sunderland, MA
Puffballs are dee-licious—firm and chewy on the outside, spongy and soft on the inside. As you can see I took this one home. I sliced it, sauteed it in butter until golden brown, and ate it for lunch!
Amanita muscaria formosa
Found these growing in spongy, mossy soil, a mix of pine needles and oak leaves, at an altitude of about 500 feet, on the east side of the Pocumtuck Ridge.
If you haven’t read the Wikipedia entry for fly agaric, do it. Crazy and fascinating stuff.