Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Huge Flush of Chicken of the Woods

A nice flush of chicken of the woods (Laetiporus sulphereus) This particular flush had a different growth form than the mushrooms I found at a different site last year.  They were much thinner,  and had wavier margins with much less yellow (Photo by Jenna Crovo).
      Last year, I wrote about finding chicken of the woods, also known as the sulphur shelf (Laetiporus sulphereus), in the smokies.  Two weeks ago, I returned to the same area to conduct the annual fish survey, and hoped to find more.  Often times, our hopes only dissapoint us, but not this time!.  I have always said that foraging is part knowledge and part serendipity.  You must be knowledgeable about what you are searching for, because if you are searching during the wrong time, in the wrong place, or in the wrong habitat, you aren't likely to find what you seek.  However, even if you are armed with a lifetime of knowledge, you can still find things when you aren't actively searching for them.  That's why it always pays to be observant of what is around you.  Such was the case with these chicken of the woods mushrooms.
      I can't say the find was completely serendipitous because I had found the mushrooms a year earlier, but, I was working so I wasn't trekking through the woods searching for the sulphur shelf.  I did, however, tell all my coworkers to keep their eyes out for any orange mushrooms growing on hardwoods.  On a gravel road through the mountains, Alice spotted a large dead "log covered in orange."  I couldn't bear the possibility of passing up potential wild edibles*, so we took a quick break to climb down the ravine and get a closer look.

Here is what you could see from the road at the top of the ravine (this is with the camera's zoom).  It looks promising, but one can't be sure.  For example, the could be jack o' lanterns (Photo by Jenna Crovo).
      The short break was worth it!  The huge beech log was covered with chicken of the woods!  There were so many, you could see the spores in the air as the wind blew!  I'll let the pictures speak for themselves.

It was hard to get the whole log in one frame. (Photo by Jenna Crovo)
What looks like a blur in the picture is actually spores blowing off the mushrooms. (Photo by Jenna Crovo)
Another angle.  Note the bright colors.  (Photo by Jenna Crovo)
      Despite the fact that the majority of the mushrooms on the log were a little too old for culinary purposes, we were still able to fill a couple of pillowcases with mushrooms!  As we continued towards other survey sites, I kept my eyes open and noticed a couple other clusters.  I guess I was in the right place at the right time.

Here is the growth form I'm used to. (Photo by Carol Johnston)
A closer shot. (Photo by Alice Best)
I also used opportunity to educate children about harvesting mushrooms and properly identifying mushrooms.  I also emphasized the idea that they must NEVER eat any wild mushrooms without consulting a trusted adult first. (Photo by Alice Best)
Abbey was happy to help harvest.  We only used the shopping bag for very short term storage. (Photo by Carol Johnston)

Here is the last clump we found.  The colors are a little different.  Like most mushrooms, sulphur shelves can be quite variable (Photo by Alice Best).
A picture of a small portion of the mushrooms we found.  This was a nice clump.  (Photo by Carol Johnston)
      I ended up with so many mushrooms that I was able to give a bunch to friends, saves some for myself, and sell some to a local restaurant.  I had never sold mushrooms before, but it was very exciting.  The chefs were just as excited as I was to see such beautiful mushrooms.

*Note: It is your responsibility to correctly identify any fungus you plan on eating, and to consult a local expert and/or accurate field guide.  Do not eat any wild fungus unless you are 100% sure of its identity.

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