Summer Mushrooms 2013

A mild, wet summer makes for a mushroom cornucopia! I’ve done this before, so I’ll try not to hit any repeats. I found all these in my local woods, Bald Mountain Recreation Area North Parcel, Lake Orion, MI, between July and August.

White Hedgehog, Hydnum albidium, purportedly edible, but I was flush with chanterelles at this point.

old man of the woods - Strobilomyces floccopus
Old Man of the Woods, Strobilomyces floccopus
Old Man of the Woods
White Coral Jelly Mushroom, Tremella reticulata. Heavily rotted oak stump.

Horn of Plenty - Craterellus cornucopioides
Horn of Plenty, Craterellus cornucopioides, also known as black chanterelle, black trumpet, trompette de la mort or trumpet of the dead. So velvety and beautiful. Again, could have eaten this but had a basketful of yellow chanterelles already.

And these are just the ones I could identify and take a decent picture of before the mosquitoes found me!

Honey Mushroom

Honey mushroom, Armillaria mellea, found growing at the base of a dead oak, Bald Mountain Recreation Area North Parcel, Lake Orion, MI.

This is what I had for lunch yesterday, sauteed with garlic and tomato on toast. It’s the mushroom my Italian great-grandmother Domenica referred to as “the good-a kind-a”, the kind she used to take her children and grandchildren hunting in the woods around St. Moritz Ponds in Quincy: i.e. the kind that was most abundant, easiest to identify, tastiest. My grandfather has been nagging me to try this mushroom for years.

Funny, then, that of the 4 books I’ve consulted (including an old field guide of my grandfather’s), only one referred to it as a choice edible. The Peterson Edible Wild Plants doesn’t even mention it. I am warned that honey mushroom has several dangerous near look-alikes, and that even when it is positively identified, it doesn’t agree with everybody.

I thought it was delicious–four generations of my family have thought so. But that’s all the more reason for me to give you the same warning I always give: don’t go eating any mushrooms you find in the woods just because I did. Do the research first. Find an expert. And if you’re going to do it anyway, cook them first at the very least. Please?

Broken My Fairy Circle Ring

Conifer mulch under hemlocks, Hemlock Hill, Arnold Arboretum, Jamaica Plain, MA. I’m not going to be able to positively identify the species… best guess is the deadly Galerina marginata.

O I am so neglectful of posting…these are from the end of May, nearly a month ago. I’d say I promise to get better, but it’s busy times. No dancing in fairy rings for me, not these days. Not that I’d do that. It would hurt the mushrooms.

Someone has drained the colour from my wings
Broken my fairy circle ring
And shamed the king in all his pride
Changed the winds and wronged the tides
Mother mercury
Look what they’ve done to me
I cannot run I cannot hide

—Freddie Mercury, “My Fairy King”


Pardon a short hiatus from the Guatemalan ramblings while I dig myself out from under this pile of work. In the meantime….

The word “soma” came into Sanskrit from some even more ancient Indo-European root tongue. I’ve seen it translated as “flesh of the gods”; it referred to a sacred ritual drink of the Vedic culture in the third millennium B.C. Little is known about it except that it was made from an eponymous and equally unknown plant, but I think it can safely be assumed to have been a psychotic doom hallucinogen of some sort. Occasionally I’ve come across the titillating but unsupported speculation that soma might have been Amanita muscaria. The Olmecs held a certain mushroom sacred too. These are the kinds of things that keep me up at night. Or at least give me interesting dreams.

And sometimes they work their way into my fiction. This month’s Apex Magazine #23, edited by the fabulous Catherynne Valente, features a rather dark story of mine about the beginning of time, “The Eater”, in which soma plays a passing role. Should you care to try it out, there’s a teaser here on the Apex site. Get the whole thing in print through the Apex store or in ebook form from none other than Weightless Books.

Veiled Lady

veiled lady stinkhorn, Dictyophora indusiata

In a clearing among thick brush under ceiba and palm trees, Quiriguá archaeological site, oh about 25 metres west of the ballcourt plaza. This may be the nicest mushroom picture I have taken. Look at the texture in the full size image. D. indusiata appears in tropical regions all around the world. In China it’s cultivated for cooking. I did not eat this one because I had no idea what it was at the time, and even if I had, they were blanket-gassing banana fields with pesticides on the other side of the forest.

But of course I’ll eat those bananas later.

Happy equinox.