Saturday, July 25, 2015

Chicken of the Woods

Yesterday late afternoon I took a walk to check on some small Chanterelle patches I found last weekend. I had left the little guys behind to grow and they just didn't, all of the patches are now totally dried up. Sad.

But, on my way back – BAM – there it was.

Chicken of the Woods

I have a post titled Log Lace from August 13, 2012 with a shot of a beautiful Chicken of the Woods specimen. I wouldn't be surprised if this is the same tree. Knowledge is awesome.

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I come from hardy stock. Polish, German, French Canadian and Scottish immigrants who came to America and wrestled with the earth.

As I acquaint myself with the world of wild mushroom foraging, years after being bitten by the mushroom love bug, it has slowly been dawning on me that my ancestors must have rocked foraging something fierce. Mushrooms and other things, of course, to get them through the hard Wisconsin and North Dakota winters and to spice up the limited food stuffs they were cultivating on their own long before there was a general store they could reach conveniently not to mention frugality (farming isn't a big money business for everyone).

It also occurred to me that this would have been handed down through the years and it somehow missed me.

While at dinner with my family last night I was showing off my Chicken of the Woods photos and telling them how it was edible and tastes like chicken. I asked my dad if he knew how to hunt edible mushrooms and his eyes lit up and he said in a quiet but excited tone: "Morels!"

One of the farms, family morel patch not shown. Now that I have a better idea of their habitat preferences I can think of a dozen other places to look as well. Exciting!

I had stumbled upon my Great Aunt in the middle of a morel patch on one of the family farms a few years ago, so I wasn't surprised. They're also what everyone talks about when you bring up edible wild mushrooms and so while I look forward to finding and eating my first, independently found and foraged morel, I've never been big on doing what's popular and so I replied a little testily: "Yes, but what other mushrooms do you know."

He didn't. He said something about, you know, the ones with the pointy caps but if I wanted to know more I should talk to one of my aunts (his sisters) or one of my great aunts (his aunts) as they go hunting mushrooms after it rains in the Spring/Summer/Fall and "know what they're doing".

And so there it was. The boys farmed and the girls foraged and I didn't know anything about it.

I wonder if my cousins know? I doubt it - unlike the recent discovery that all of my cousins and second cousins know how to swear in Polish thanks to my Great Grandfathers favored linguistic flavor I don't think things like foraging for wild edibles turned the corner in the same way back in the mid to late sixties.

Sad, but we're atoning!

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Little Guys

Maybe my new mushroom buddies can help me with identifying these. In return I will gladly hand over all the chanterelles I found this weekend but am too terrified to eat.

Sounds like a deal to me ;)

Same or different?

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Mycology, Who Knew?

Not me, and that's just ridiculous.

An old friend of mine from my college summer camp counselor days was in town from California last year and he brought his family over for dinner. During the brief house tour, he pointed at my mushroom studies hanging in my office (for my book Eleven Odd Mushrooms) and excitedly declared, 'hey! I'm a mycologist!'... I had no idea what he was talking about. I think I might have said something polite like, 'oh, that's very nice' until he further explained that it is the study of mushrooms.

He had pursued a career in the study of mushrooms which I did not know was possible. I had been fascinated with mushrooms ever since I saw some pottery that looked like mushrooms with feet which then inspired me to create my eleven odd mushrooms and write a book about their subsequent adventure, which I'm wrapping up right now.

early studies / sketches for the odd eleven, 2010

So after drawing mushrooms for about a year, well over 5 years ago, I actually started seeing mushrooms everywhere. Not mushroom related hallucinations, thank you. Real, diverse, surprisingly whimsically positioned mushrooms and I started taking pictures, hundreds of pictures.

sketches and photos (yes, I had them bound into books), 2010
I took this patriotic pic last weekend.

Well fast forward a year from this revelation that studying mushrooms was a thing, duh, I know, to my husband returning from the library with a book he said I had mentioned wanting to read quite awhile ago that he had just found on a recommended reading display.

I should have read this book years ago.

Revelations from the Weird World of Mushrooms
Eugenia Bone

Super readable and absolutely fascinating, Eugenia Bone is a skillful story teller.

And so now I must issue a sincere apology to the vast mycological community for abandoning every ounce of science in the creation of my odd eleven. If you prefer, try to think of mushrooms that walk as an abstract representation for the dispersion of spores their fruiting is intended for anyway. Yes?