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.
Fall is the time to look for hen of the woods mushrooms. They are also known as maitake. They are be found under oak trees. A few weeks ago I was poking around the oak trees at one of the gardens I work in and saw this. It is the very beginning of one of these tasty mushrooms. You can even see the acorns in the lower corner. As much as I wanted to pick it right then and there, it just wasn’t ready. I asked for permission to come back in a week to get it. Only problem was that a week later someone else had beaten me to it. Grr. That is why mushroom hunters are so secretive about their spots. It is too frustrating to know there is a delicious mushroom there and then have someone else take it.
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!
There are many things we love to do when we’re up in the Berkshires. Taking hikes is at the top of the list. It is still a bit early (snow and mud on the ground) to go on the more ambitious hikes, so we decided to take a simple walk along Ice Glen road. At the end of the hike we ran into a woman walking with her puppy. We stopped to talk with her and discovered that she keeps chickens and raises or grows all her own food. She also has a flock of alpacas and spins and weaves the fiber. I mentioned that I spin and she invited us to walk over to her house, where she gave me a trash bag full of her alpaca fiber.
It was crazy how much we had in common with her. She mentioned that she has a son who’s a photographer in Brooklyn. But what put me over the edge was when she said that I could dye the white alpaca and mentioned that she picks wild mushrooms to dye her fiber. She uses turkey tail mushrooms to dye her wool blue. I’m going to have to keep my eye out for them this year.
My new challenge is to process the fiber. I usually buy fiber that has already been washed and carded. I am going to borrow equipment from someone in my spinning group to card it. I’ll post more when I work on the fiber.
I am excited by this new challenge. It was so unexpected to meet such a nice woman and come away with gorgeous, soft alpaca fiber.
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.
On my birthday, Neil and I decided to play hookie. It was a little drizzly, so we just put on the rain gear we bought for our trip to Iceland and went for a hike. There is a park in the middle of crazy, urban Queens, NY called Forest Park. And it is just that. A forest. It’s really a weird feeling to be walking in the woods knowing that you are in the middle of NYC.
Neil and I started learning about and hunting mushrooms last year. We’ve been lucky enough to find some delicious edible mushrooms. However, we were disappointed last Fall not to find hen of the woods (aka maitake). They generally grow under oak trees in the Fall. As we walked, we kept our eyes open for these mushrooms, and were lucky enough to find a few clumps of them.
They are beautiful mushrooms without poisonous look-alikes, which makes them quite safe for beginners. (Okay, now I must add that if you are ever going to hunt mushrooms, please consult a guide, an expert, or both. Do not go off the photos on this blog!!) These mushrooms have been described as resembling flamenco dancer’s skirts. Love these colorful descriptions!!
I asked some of my mushroom friends how they prepare hen of the woods. We decided to pull them apart like broccoli florets, brush them with olive oil, sprinkle salt and pepper and grill them on the bbq. They were delicious. What a lovely birthday present!
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.