December 3rd, 2012
It's sometimes hard to tell whether I am just noticing the fungi more, or if it is actually is a good year for mushrooms. :)
At any rate, this fall has been wet and relatively warm, and we've been seeing a flush of mushrooms of all sorts.
Learning, it seems, comes in waves. For the past 4 years I have been studying and learning about fungi and developing the skills to identify them, and the land-knowledge that a healthy relationship with them is based upon.
Amongst the bounty of mushrooms this season I have been out and about, identifying, picking, and photographing our fungal friends.
Below I offer a photo-journalistic documentation of these expeditions into the mushroom filled forest. Enjoy!
Obviously, before you go out a pick a whole bunch of mushrooms that you intend to eat, you should figure out if they are edible!
This is not necessarily an easy task. There are numerous look-alike mushrooms, and even the best mycologists can have a difficult, if not impossible, time getting a positive ID on a mushroom without genetic testing.
It's important to know that you are always taking a risk when eating mushrooms. Particularly in a modern world when the land-knowledge of what mushrooms are good, not-so-good and deadly to eat does not exist.
If it is all so uncertain, how did I manage to get an ID on the mushrooms I found? TO be honest, I do not have a positive ID. I have a darn good guess, and reasonable assurance that, even if I am wrong, the likelihood of serious illness or death resulting from eating particular classes of mushrooms is relatively low.
If you have more good IDing protocols that you'd like to share, fabulous! I would benefit from hearing them and you can email me at windward(at)gorge.net
now, to the process.
I started by taking stock of the primary characteristics in order to narrow the the search field. I knew it was a bolete (having spongy pores instead of gills on the underside of the cap). The pores are also very tightly packed. The cap was dark red to cream/yellow in color and covered with a sticky slimy substance. I also saw no presence of a veil. It was (obviously) growing in the pacific northwest under a Ponderosa pine, Douglas fir woodland under a more of less mature canopy condition (ie not out in a field or in more open woodland)
I cross checked these with all that in mind the choices became very narrow. I then learned that one of the most distinguishing features of this particular bolete was it's short stature and that it's stalk is more of less the same diameter (ie it does not narrow or fatten at either end.)
Next I did a spore print to confirm. Spore prints are generally a good indicator of the genus of a mushroom. The spores were cinnomon brown as the picture below shows.
Michael Kuo, Ph.D. of MushroomExpert.com has this to say about the Suilus genus:
-Growth under conifers
-Glandular dots on the stem
-Large pore openings that are often arranged radially
-A partial veil that leaves a ring or tissue hanging from the cap margin
The problem is, few of the Suillus mushrooms know they are supposed to manifest all of these features at once. This makes some of them a little difficult to identify to genus--but once one gets a feel for what is "Suillusy," it is a fairly easy genus to identify in the field. As a general rule of thumb, I usually expect any potential Suillus to demonstrate at least three of the features above. - http://www.mushroomexpert.com/suillus.html
The website Northern Bushcraft states that:
All in all, I cannot get a definitive ID on these mushrooms but I am confident that I'll not die when eating them! That's about all the surety that the land, and these mushroom resources can provide.
Karen, a member of Windward currently based out of Portland, came up for a visit. As we walked and talked I took her on a mushroom hunt.
The process and end result of dehydrating
We came back with about several pounds of the anonymous Boletes mentioned above. Actually I found two or three distinct kinds, with different textured caps and stems, some with bovious viels and others without. I think a few were were actually King boletes, if the photos to not betray me.
In order to process the mushrooms, we first washed them off. Being careful to save the rinse water in a tub. You will see later on how we use the water.
We then cut them into length-wise sections (julian) and put them in a food dehydrator.
At the end of it all, the boletes shrunk to about 1/10th there weight and size. Where we harvested a paper grocery sacks worth of wet boletes (appx 12 LBS), the dried the mushrooms fit into a 2-quart container.
Over the next several weeks I continued to harvest and identify other edible mushrooms. Slowly I have been storing away the bountiful harvest.
The wash water from the mushrooms is likely filled with spores. With a little bit of fore-thought as to where to pour it out, this inoculated water can spread spores into areas that are closer to home.
For example, the Boletes we're working with supposedly form mychorhizza associations with Ponderosa Pine in the forest. So, we located a mature Pine near the kitchen that had a good layers of humus around it.
The wash water was poured out there. We will see if anything comes of it in the years ahead.