Monday, October 18, 2010

Black Trumpets (finally!)

Craterellus something--fallax, cornucopioides, I don't know which, there's some taxonomy games going on about these. And I don't have a microscope.
I've been dying to find some of these, after reading about how hard they are to find, how intense the flavor becomes when they're dried, how great it tastes to flavor wine with them by dropping a few in the bottle and leaving it overnight, how crazily expensive they are, etc. So much intrigue! I did find a tiny handful of them in the spring, but then it all looked pretty discouraging. But then me an' Rob were hiking around recently, and we wanted to go up there to check out that big dead tree, and suddenly they were everywhere. I froze, and yelled "TRUMPETS! Black Trumpets! Oh my gawd, they're everywhere!"

There's at least 20 in the image above. They're about 2" tall.

These are nice and dark because they're nice and wet because it had rained nice and hard the day before, but I'm telling you, these things shift between dimensions or something. You don't see them, and then suddenly you see them. And if they're not conveniently darkened from recent rain, they are EXACTLY the color of a dead leaf:

Here's me, for some perspective:

Anyway, we happily picked them for about an hour, I was thrilled, we got 3-4lbs of them, and oooh, when you've got a whole bunch of them together in a bag, the smell is intoxicating, if you like the smell of sweet, gamy, mushroomy earthy things.

Then a fellow mushroom freak reported finding some over where he hunts, and he picked 9 lbs one day, 7 lbs another day, 11 lbs another day...he said he thought there might be "hundreds of thousands" of them. Incredible.

Then I read some stuff about them, and learned (as much as you can call it "learning" from reading a single blurb on a commercial website) that 12 lbs fresh make one lb dry, which explains something about why they're so pricey. They are very thin-fleshed, it's not like you can really get a good chewy mouthful of them, they're more about flavor (which gets stronger when you dry them). I threw what I thought was kind of a lot (of fresh ones) into a pan (w/ butter of course), and they went "Shp!" and shrunk down to nothing in 2 seconds. Smelled wonderful, though, and what there was of them tasted wonderful. REALLY smelled wonderful.

Then there was no more rain and the whole world dried up. 

Stream, hill, leaves, rocks--and worm castings.

From right: rocks with leaves on them and water with leaves on it and rocks with moss on them and a hill with leaves on it and trees with leaves on them.
I'm sure it was beautiful, even if I couldn't take a decent picture of it because it wasn't 2" away from the camera. There's an awful lot of really beautiful little scenes like this all over the parks that are 10 minutes from where I live.

And then I found this
Worm castings from wild, free-range worms!
They were grey, and on grey rocks, and it looked black-and-white. The lighter ones are drier.

Sycamore bark, worm castings, stone
The texture got me.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Bearded Tooth in my backyard!

In my back yard!!!

I drove into the little parking area in back, turned off the engine and sort of idly noticed that there was a new section of fence over there, and there it was, a lovely little Hericium erinaceus just sitting there in the tree next to the storage shed. It's an urban area, I tell you! Lots of college students in rented houses. House/driveway/house/driveway neighborhood.

Not a house in the country

That white dot on the tree is it

In my backyard!

About the size of a nice orange.

It was in my back yard! When I saw it, I felt like I just realized I was holding a winning lottery ticket. You may think I exaggerate, but I do not.  I wish I understood why I find it such a thrill to find choice edible mushrooms. I can't even think of what to compare it to. I wouldn't necessarily say it's the absolute best feeling I've ever had, but there is something kind of addictive about it. Someone should do a study.

You know why I found this in my back yard? I'll tell you why. It's because mushrooms are everywhere, that's why.

Marbled Orb Weaver (don't look if you think spiders are gross)

As I crash through the woods, there's this one kind of spider that I always run into, unless I see it in time and manage to stop half an inch before I walk face-first into the web. This is not it.

Marbled Orb Weaver, Araneus marmoreus
Marbled Orb Weaver, another one
Yet another one, quite a bit bigger than the first two
Another view, all tangled up in the leaves. These are all females
I didn't see these at all until mid-September. Now they seem to be all over the place.

The markings in the black-and-yellow zone look just like batik, to me. Their red-orange legs are so bright in the woods.

A few more Chicken of the Woods finds (extra deluxe)

These images are in hard-to-believe colors, but it's all true. The first one (below) we found the day after a good hard rain, and it was young and vibrant anyway, but I'm telling you, we could see this sucker from light years away. This was shot in the sun, which is rare for me. Also, it was juicy and succulent, nearly dripping as we harvested the most tender outer edges.

Laetiporus sulphureus
But this one, this one was the most perfect one I've found all season, tender enough to simply slice thin and saute and serve solo. And its pore surface is this incomprehensible yellow, and it comes in these wonderful shapes.

Happy Birthday to ME!
(FOUND on my birthday, not POSTED on my birthday)

So, mushrooms can be gorgeous, and you can EAT some of them! To hell with flowers!