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.
Okay, it’s bad when you are belated on your own birthday!!! But I’m so behind on everything that I thought I should just start here.
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.
Sautéed with garlic and olive oil, they were delicious.
If you are interested in learning about wild mushrooms, get yourself a good guide book and join a mushroom (mycological) group in your area. Please, don’t use these photos to identify your finds!!
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?
I’ve been organizing a fundraiser at my daughter’s school in conjunction with Earth Day. We are selling oyster mushroom growing kits through Back To The Roots. If you order one, Back To The Roots shares a portion of the profits with my daughter’s school in Brooklyn.
My husband gave me one of their kits for Christmas and they are really fun. C’mon, you know you want to try this! Just make sure to enter “PS58″ in the coupon code for the school to get credit. The offer expires on 4/20, which is our school’s Earth Day celebration.
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!
This past weekend was jam-packed with birthday fun. It was also a very mushroom-filled weekend. My in-laws gave me a pocket knife, and Neil gave me a collecting basket for mushroom hunting. On saturday morning, we christened both, by going to Stony Brook in Harriman State Park for a walk with my mushroom group. The weather was spectacular and the leaves were just starting to turn golden.
We walked along a stream and found lots of mushrooms, including delicious black trumpets. With all the rain we’ve had, this summer has been one of the best for mushroom hunting many people can remember. This is my first year, so I don’t have anything to compare it to. Here are some photos from the walk.
That night we went to see Zarkana by Cirque du Soleil. The production was spectacular. I would love to go back several more times to absorb all of the layers of scenery, costumes, performances, etc. If you can possibly go to see it, you should run now and get tickets. It was amazing. We got heavily discounted tickets, so were able to bring Lindsay. I think it blew her 7-year old mind.
Then Sunday, which was my actual birthday, I slept in. For those of you with young kids, you know how rare and wonderful this is. Neil cooked up the black trumpets with eggs and we had a nice breakfast. The day was beautiful, so we went for a walk in Prospect Park. Later that night, we met friends for dinner and came back to our place for drinks afterwards. It was a great weekend with family and friends and I felt very celebrated.
Yesterday we went to the Bronx Zoo. If you haven’t been there, you really need to go. They work really hard to make realistic and livable habitats for the animals. It is a far cry from the concrete jail cells that used to be common in zoos. All the money goes to support wildlife recovery efforts, education, etc. You can spend the better part of the day there and still not see everything.
So while I love the zoo and the animals, I have been bitten by the mushroom bug. Seriously, I can’t walk down the sidewalk in Brooklyn without peering into people’s planters to see if there are mushrooms growing. This season has been quite rainy, so there are mushrooms popping up everywhere. Even in the cracks of the pavement you will see mushrooms forming.
I saw loads of interesting mushrooms at the zoo. Well over 20 different varieties. Sometimes it was hard to tell if a shelf mushroom was real or a realistic fake in an exhibit. I have been on the look out for hen of the woods mushrooms as they are being spotted in this area now. We were on a monorail ride and I thought I saw some down below. In the rhinoceros pen. It was a dilemma…for a second.
And yes, those are mushrooms in the photo above.
This past Saturday I went with my mushroom club out to New Jersey to look for mushrooms. I mentioned to the people I rode there with that I have been trying to find a Chicken of the Woods Mushroom (chicken mushroom for short). On the walk we found loads of boletes, which look a lot like how kids draw mushrooms. You might know them as cepes or porcini. Most of the mushrooms in the photo below are boletes.
We were also looking for chanterelles, which are a bright orange color. We found a few, although many were past their prime. We also found some Jack O Lantern mushrooms, which besides being poisonous, also glow in the dark. So when one of my car mates spotted something orange from the trail, we thought it was probably a group of Jack ‘O Lanterns. I was absolutely thrilled to discover chicken mushrooms. These tasty little mushrooms cook up to taste like chicken. What’s really nice about them is that when you find them, you really have a meal on your hands. There are also really no other mushrooms that look like these, so they are a very safe mushroom for beginner hunters like myself.