Here’s a lovely scene from our Mother’s Day hike at Harriman State Park. The apple trees were blooming and the fragrance was heavenly. I was hoping to find morels, but there wasn’t one in sight. There hadn’t been any rain in weeks, so it wasn’t that surprising.
I have been watching for morels for weeks. I thought I had my hunting timed perfectly, but with the cold winter, the morels were slow to appear. We came up to the Berkshires 2 weeks ago, which was way too early.
But this weekend was perfect. We took three different hikes and found morels at two of them. Yesterday we went to a place where we found them last year. We found about a half a dozen. I was hoping for more. Today we went out and found over twenty! There were a few other people carrying bags with mushrooms, so we knew we weren’t the only ones out looking.
It was hard not to shout when we found one, so we shouted “pickle!” to let each other know when we found one, without alerting other mushroom hunters. Super sneaky, eh? Bet nobody could crack that code!
It was fun to spend so much time in the woods. Now we have to figure out what we’re going to make with them.
After pressing cider, we decided to go on a hike. We have a favorite place to hike where we also find a lot of mushrooms. Today we brought a maitake (hen of the woods) mushroom kit a friend had given me. A little known fact is that no matter how much I like finding and eating mushrooms, I am hopeless at growing them. I have tried and failed with both oyster mushrooms and maitake mushrooms.
Maitake mushrooms like to grow near oak trees and fruit in the fall, so we chose trees a little off the path to host our mushroom spores.
We continued our hike and saw lots of fun things.
Here’s a chicken pot pie in which no chickens were harmed in the making. The chicken used is a mushroom called chicken of the woods. It is a gorgeous bright orange, and when cooked has the flavor and texture of white meat chicken.
The recipe was adapted from Smitten Kitchen’s chicken pot pie. Instead of making individual pies, I put all of the ingredients into an oven-proof casserole dish and covered with the pastry. It was absolutely delicious and I would definitely make it again, although I would cut the quantity of butter down drastically.
Lindsay was a great help cooking. We made the world’s best s’mores using Little Schoolboy cookies instead of chocolate bars and graham crackers. Lindsay learned how to make a box oven in Girl Scouts and we baked brownies. To make one, you just line a cardboard box with aluminum foil and punch some holes. You place charcoal briquettes in a pan on the bottom (it’s about 30 degrees per piece, so you need about 11-12 coals to bake a normal cake)
And we found loads and loads of choice edible mushrooms while hiking!
We just got this funny-looking bag in the mail. What is it you ask? Okay, you don’t have to ask because the title of the post gave it away. It’s a kit to grow maitake mushrooms. Otherwise known as hen of the woods mushrooms. The kit came from Fungi Perfecti. They mail out the kits when the temperature goes between 70-50 degrees F, which is the ideal growing temperature for these mushrooms.
In the wild, these mushrooms start to appear in the Fall, and are generally found under oak trees. Learning to mushroom hunt also includes learning your trees as many have symbiotic or parasitic relationships. I thought I knew my trees pretty well, but never thought about identifying trees when there were no leaves on them. Much more challenging!
These kits come sealed in a plastic bag, which gives them the right amount of moisture. The instructions say to wait until golf ball sized growths form, and then cut the top of the bag open.
I am excited to see what happens with this kit. Once the mushrooms grow, you can “plant” the kit outdoors for future fruitings. My in-laws have many oak trees in their yard, so it will be fun to see if we get subsequent fruitings of mushrooms in their yard.
Last summer was my first summer learning about and hunting mushrooms. What I didn’t know at the time was that it was a special summer, filled with rain and mushrooms. This summer has been extremely dry, which has resulted in almost no mushrooms. We have finally started getting some rain here and there and you can practically hear the mushrooms bursting out of the ground. City trees have reishi mushrooms popping out of their trunks and various mushrooms are peeking out of the mulch.
We went up to the Berkshires this weekend and were able to get in a short hike. I found 2 different trees with bright orange chicken of the woods mushrooms growing on them. These are delicious mushrooms that have the taste and consistency of chicken breast. Unfortunately the ones I found were just past their prime, so we didn’t pick them. It’s very, very hard to leave a choice edible mushroom behind, but you can get sick from eating an old mushroom.
We left our hike empty handed, but on the drive back to Neil’s parent’s house, I wanted to stop and look at a tree I noticed on our drive to the hike. Sure enough, it was covered with lovely oyster mushrooms. There were many that were past, but we were able to harvest a pound of nice, fresh ones.
This Saturday Neil and I went on a morel foray. Although the spring has been extremely dry, it rained recently and we were hopeful that that would lead to some good morel hunting. Nope. Between about 60 people, only 4 morels were found. I wasn’t one of the ones who found one. Bummer. And it doesn’t help that a good friend from Seattle is practically tripping over morels in her garden. And doesn’t believe me when I tell her they are real morels. So she doesn’t eat them. Wah.
But, it was a beautiful sunny day out of the city. I can’t disclose the location, although with such poor results, I doubt anyone will be banging my door down to tell them. And I saw a turtle. You have to get excited about something, right?
This past Sunday we went for a walk with my mushroom group up in Van Cortland park in the Bronx. The temperatures were in the mid-40s and we found over 40 different species of mushrooms. We even found a killer tree!