Third Issue, December, 1998
Published about twice a year from Greenville, California
by Herman Brown
Back to HOMEPAGE
This fall was not quite as fruitful for finding mushrooms as last year, but I found many new ones that I had never seen before. I found my first White Chanterelle and identified several new mushrooms I discovered that were both edible and good! Plus, I was very surprised that even after the first snow, I was still able to find edible mushrooms.
I want to emphasize that, no matter what I say about the edibility of a mushroom, it is easy to misidentify non-edible varieties and to find new mushrooms that, though considered edible, may make some of you pretty ill.
I am far from being an expert on mushroom identification, but I do feel confident enough, after several years of hunting and sampling mushrooms, that the ones I do try for the first time are not dangerous to me. I have yet to find any that made me ill, but that doesn't mean they won't make you ill. I personally will NOT try any of the so-called edible amanita, as I have been told by a botanist friend that the edible ones could mutate to become poisonous. I may be missing a taste treat, but while there are so many fine tasting mushrooms around here, why take the chance?
I do have a few friends who do eat one or two species of the amanita. One said "If I ate one and don't get sick, will you try one?" "NO!", I said. In a few of the species, by the time you feel the symptoms (which could take days to weeks), it's too late! Too scary for me!
When the picking's good, you usually end up with too many mushrooms to be able to eat them all before they get spoiled. When this happens, you need to preserve and store them.
There are many ways to preserve mushrooms, depending on the type of mushroom, how long you want to store them, and what you plan to do with them later. I will briefly discuss three of my favorite methods:
Perhaps the easiest way to preserve mushrooms of any type is to prepare and cook them as you would for a recipe and just freeze them. Mushrooms frozen in this manner will usually last up to 6 months.
Another way to preserve them is by drying them. Dried and well sealed mushrooms will last up to 3 months. To increase the storage time, try storing the dried mushrooms in a freezer. Mushrooms that are both dried and frozen can last up to a year. I will not go into detail about the various drying methods other than to say it is easy!
Some mushrooms, such as most boletes and morels, actually get an enhanced flavor after drying. The sponge layer under the cap of the Boletus edulis (and other similar boletes) can be removed and dried separately and used to make a broth which David Arora calls "The Essence of Edulis", as described in his book, All That Rain Promises and More..., published by Ten Speed Press, Berkeley:
Others, such as chanterelles, do not dry well - they can become tasteless and tough.
Pickling mushrooms is another choice for preserving most mushrooms. My favorite recipe for pickling mushrooms is called "Magnificent Mushrooms". I am not sure where I originally got the recipe, but it has probably been modified through use.
1 lb. fresh
1 lb. fresh
Put mushrooms in jar. Combine ingredients and mix well. Pour over mushrooms. Seal and store in refrigerator. These will keep several weeks.
There are several other methods that can be used to preserve them, including drying and making them into a powder, by preserving them in salt, by parboiling and freezing them, by cooking and making them into a purée, by boiling them for 45 minutes in a mixture of water, wine, soy sauce, and herbs and extracting the flavorful liquid, and by preserving them in vodka or oil. All of the methods are described in detail in the book, The Ultimate Mushroom Book (pages 130-135), by Peter Jordan and Steven Wheeler, published by SMITHMARK Publishers, Inc.
This fall I think my most memorable hunt was when I found my first chanterelles close to home.
In early October I went out to check out an area near town and found what at first looked like a Scaly Chanterelle (Gomphus floccosus), but without the scales. The mushroom was pretty dirty, and it broke up when I brushed off the pine needles. After closer inspection, I felt it might be a real chanterelle (Cantharellus).
Later, in another spot nearby, I found two more of the same, and this time I recognized them as a Cantharellus, although they were much lighter colored than the Golden Chanterelle (Cantharellus cibarius) I used to find in Santa Barbara. After obtaining a white spore print, I identified them as the White Chanterelle (Cantharellus subalbidus).
The next day, my wife Cecelia and I went back to the same spot where I had seen small patches of chanterelles. She found the first one, about 8" in diameter, right on the side of a dirt road. It was actually a cluster of them. She found the second cluster and the third. Right near where she found the last cluster, I finally found a few.
In subsequent searches, we filled the basket with the beautiful (and tasty) morsels more then once!
I guess every time I returned with a full basket of them was a memorable hunt!
In the last issue, I chronicled my findings for most of this Spring, Summer, and early Fall. Here is more information about some of them, plus some from the last issue that I didn't discuss:
Boletopsis subsquamosa (Kurokawa) At first glance, this polypore mushroom looks something like a black-capped bolete, that is, until you look under the cap. The stalk is central and well developed, and it grows in the soil, usually starting well below the surface. However, unlike a bolete, the pore surface cannot easily be separated from the cap (dark gray), and the small pores (white) go slightly down the stem, i.e., they are somewhat decurrent. It is VERY firm-fleshed, which makes it tempting to try.
David Arora, in his book, Mushrooms Demystified (1986, Second Edition, Berkeley, CA, Ten Speed Press) describes it as:
I cooked up a few and found them to be somewhat bitter but very firm and tasty. In another mushroom book from Europe, The Complete Book of Mushrooms, by Augusto Rinaldi and Vassili Tyndalo, it is suggested to add a little vinegar to help remove the bitterness when cooking bitter-tasting mushrooms. Next time I will try this.
Ramaria strasseri (Coral Mushroom) This one is another new one for me. The closest mushroom that sounded and looked like the one I found was the Pink Coral Mushroom, or R. botrytis. In the comment section for the R. botrytis in Arora's book, he mentions a tan-colored version (R. strasseri). This is what I think it is.
When I first found a batch, they looked more like a cauliflower than the Cauliflower Mushroom (Sparassis crispa), except that the tips were tan-colored. The white stems were very large and meaty compared to the coral-shaped tips. I hoped it would be edible!
The books describe the R. botrytis as edible and choice, but that it has laxative effects in some. So I first tried a small sample, waited a while, and cooked more. I did what was suggested (for R. botrytis) in The Complete Book of Mushrooms, and only cooked up the stems.
I found it to have the taste and texture of crab meat, and It had no ill effects on me. I have found them usually under pines.
Hydnum imbricatum (Shingled Hedgehog) This is a firm mushroom that doesn't move much when you nudge it. The caps of those I found were about 4" dia., brown with large, blackish-brown scales radiating from the center of the cap. Under the cap the surface was covered with small, decurrent spines.
I recognized it as a type of hedgehog mushroom, but the color didn't match the pictures I had seen. The more edible and popular Hedgehog Mushroom (Dentinum repandum) is redder in color, and the pictures showed longer spines.
This specie is listed as edible in most books, but of poor quality in Arora's book, plus it may have a bitter taste and cause indigestion in some people.
I found some this late fall and went ahead and cooked up a few, following my usual safety precautions. I found them to be pretty enjoyable, mainly because of the firm texture. I did not notice any bitterness in this batch, and didn't get any indigestion.
Cantharellus subalbidus (White Chanterelle) Finding this mushroom here was perhaps the highlight of this fall. They are both beautiful and tasty mushrooms.
The chanterelles are noted by their unusual gill surface which consists of shallow, blunt, veined folds rather than bladelike gills. They have a cap and stem, and the cap is usually vase-shaped. The chanterelles here are white colored, but seem to stain orange when handled.
Later in this issue I have included a recipe we modified in order to use them.
The following are notes taken from e-mail letters I had sent to some friends who live out of this area. For those who received those messages, please excuse the repetition:
Thursday, October 22: While searching above town I found my first Amanita sivicola, a very pretty white Amanita with vulva patches everywhere - cap, stalk.
I also found what looked like a polypore, but it had flesh and pores more like a bolete. However, the pores were yellowish, the flesh orange, the pore surface decurrent, pores kind of large, cap blackish, and spore print white. The pore surface was able to be separated from the cap. I haven't been able to find it in any of my books yet.
Sunday, October25: Today I stopped in a campground to see if anything came up while I was gone. I didn't expect much as it had not rained for a long time before yesterday.
I found more then a few of the Sierra variety of the B. edulis, a few of the delicious Shrimp Russulas (R. xerampelina), and a few Lactarius deliciosus. I cooked up everything but the Boletus. I think I will try these raw this time, as I have so much cooked up and frozen already.
The Shrimp Russulas were very good, and even though I overcooked the L. deliciosus, they were very tasty too, kind of like bacon bits.
I also found what I think was the purplish-capped variety of the Sheep Polypore (Albatrellus ovinus).
Thursday, October 29: Went north of town to check out that area. It didn't look very good at first, but the farther I walked, the more mushrooms I saw.
Saw lots of the Scaly Chanterelles (Gomphus floccosus), russulas of all colors and sizes including the Blackening Russula (R. albonigra), the slimy Gomphidius glutinosus, a beautiful red Amanita muscaria, more of Ramaria strasseri, a bright purple cortinarius, some Pine Spikes (Chroogomphus vinicolor or pseudovinicolor), a pretty little Shaggy-Stalked Parasol (Lepiota clypeolaria), and some Western Painted Suillus (S. lakei). I found several groups of the Kurokawa (Boletopsis subsquamosa), and picked some to cook up later. I did the same for some Shingled Hedgehogs (Hydnum imbricatum).
The Shingled Hedgehog is listed in some books as edible but mediocre. After I later cooked them up with a little olive oil, I thought these actually tasted pretty good and had a very nice texture. The Boletopsis is also listed as edible, but with a possible bitter taste. When cooked, I thought these did have a slightly bitter taste, so I put them in with the rest of my pickled mushrooms. The texture was kind of crunchy but nice.
Saw lots of other suilluses (suilli?), but I didn't bother to pick any for keying. I have more than enough mushrooms I picked today from which I am trying to get spore prints.
I was surprised that so many mushrooms are still popping up!
Friday, October 30: I went out today to get a few White Chanterelles to use in an interesting recipe I saw on the TV, and I found a few other interesting fungi to bring home and look over.
These included some of the tan coral mushroom, the Ramaria strasserii I have been finding, two Lycoperdon puffballs, some orange Gymnopilus growing out of a pine, but the most interesting was what looked like a Gastroboletus.
This one was below the ground with a round, white cap, both cap and stem with orange overtones, irregular pores that were orange-colored, and the cap was thin, almost connecting with the long stem.
I could not find it in any of my books or the MykoWeb Boletes of California website.
I was not able to get a spore print, so it probably is a Gastroboletus.
Sunday, November 11: I went out late today and stopped at a campground. I found more than I expected.
I found a good batch of boletes, also some Lactarius deliciosus, Shrimp Russula (Russula xerampelina), and a very surprising batch of Man on Horseback (Tricholoma flavovirens). I gave most of my catch to a local woman who is helping me with the local names for the mushrooms picked in the area. She has been picking them since childhood, didn't know all the scientific names for them, but had familiar names for most of them.
I found another puzzler today. It looked like a Russula with white flesh and a pinkish-red top, but with pinkish-tinged waxy gills. The odor was pleasantly fragrant, something like licorice. I think it is a Hygrophorus, but could not found a specie of Hygrophorus that fits all of that description.
I only kept the Shrimp Russulas. The person to whom I gave the Tricholomas to is game enough to try eating them, probably because it is the featured mushroom in my newsletter, and I had brought her the page with the description and photo from Mykoweb.com.
She told me about some of her favorite mushroom spots, so tomorrow I will check one of them out. I hope I find more of the Tricholomas.
Monday, November 2: Today, we went out to check one of the areas described by the woman I met yesterday. There were lots of russulas, a few L. deliciosus, but no B. pinophilus as I thought there might be. I did find what may be a large coral mushroom, the Ramaria formosa. It had the same tan color as the R. strasseri, but the branches were much longer, some almost 8" long. It was very clean and tempting, but because it may be of the R. formosa group, I think I will leave it untried.
The pinkish-red Hygrophorus/Russula-looking mushroom I found yesterday left me a white spore print overnight. I later got assistance from Michael Wood who identified it as a H. pudorinus, or Spruce Waxy Cap. I looked it up, and it fit the description exactly. I think I passed it over in the book partly because of the reference to Spruce, but mostly because I think I got lazy.
Michael said that it also occurs with other conifers.
Tuesday, November 3: The spore print from the mushroom I thought might be a R. formosa was tan with a slight orange tinge. That kind of narrows it down to a Ramaria, anyway.
Except for the Tricholoma flavovirens and a few others, my mushrooms rarely look like the pictures.
Thursday, November 5: I found two old boletes, some L. deliciosus, lots of different russulas at one site and decided to check the chanterelle patch I had located earlier this season. I had purposely left them untouched for Bob's visit.
On the way to the patch I found a few big, fresh ones, but when I got to the patch, there were more than I remembered! Still nice and fresh!.
Saturday, November 7: It snowed yesterday, and it is supposed to snow here again tonight.
I waited today until most of the snow around the house had melted and went out to pick the chanterelles that I had purposely saved, because I thought the snow might ruin the crop. When I got to where they were supposed to be, I couldn't find them in the snow!.
I did find two of the other small patches and picked about a half of a basket full of them before my fingers started to freeze. They (the chanterelles) were okay.
Sunday, November 11: My friend Bob is here visiting from Lancaster, and he and I went out in the snow north of here to see if we could find any mushrooms. Is that dedication? The first thing we noticed were several of what looked like dead and decaying tree stumps. On closer examination, I realized that they were some very mature Dead Man's Foot mushrooms (Psolithus tinctorius) . Arora calls them this because that is what they look like. These mushrooms start out like a puffball and age to look more like "a large dusty root or stump" (Arora, Mushrooms Demystified). In China it is used medicinally. It is not recommended that it be eaten though. Who would want to?
We found several other but frozen mushrooms, and decided it was better to come back down the mountain closer to home and try to get more of the Shrimp Russulas we had found earlier.
We found, after poking around for a while, that the area we were in had hundreds of them! We took home a bunch of assorted ages, sizes, and variations in color, to see what each tasted like. The young ones we had tried the night before were more than very good.
We cooked up the oldest and largest in butter and a little salt and found them to be even better tasting than the young ones, though the texture was not as firm. I gave the rest to Bob to take home with him. I have enough here.
These are worth going out for more, but we will need to have more clear weather.
Tonight we are having 40-Clove Chicken but with lots of the chanterelles added. Last night we had gravy with chanterelles for our roasted turkey.
Friday, November 13: Today, after 4 days of no rain or snow, Cecelia and I went to the local campground to see if anything new had sprung up and to try to find some Shrimp Russula buttons.
We found some buttons okay, and decided to check out another area close by which I had not checked much since earlier this October.
We found a few small, beautiful, Blood-Red Cortinarius (C. sanguineous) and a small yellow Russula with the following characteristics: viscid yellow cap with tan center, VERY firm flesh that stained brown, stalk that stained dark brown at the base, VERY close, adnexed gills that stained reddish brown, taste VERY acrid, and fishy smelling flesh. I couldn't find it in Arora. We found a few other unidentified new mushrooms for which I am trying to get spore prints.
Just before we decided to quit, we found one White Chanterelle, then another, then another until we filled our basket! Some were a little water-logged, some looked like they were burnt a little from the frost, but more than half were far enough below the soil and moss to be in very good shape. We gave the good ones to some friends who had never tasted them, and they, in turn, gave us a nice fresh rainbow trout.
I cooked up the water-logged ones after trimming off the soggy and bad stuff, and they tasted okay anyway.
So the season isn't over yet!
Saturday, November 14: This morning I went back to where I found the chanterelles yesterday and found a few more. These were all pretty firm.
I also collected a few L. deliciosus for drying. I am determined to find out why those who collect them here rave about them
I also found a patch under some pines, of what at first looked like a Tricholoma flavovirens. Because of the almost white gills, it appears that they actually might be the T. leucophyllum, except that my book says it was usually associated with aspens. There were no aspens where I found them.
The margin was wavy but the gills were notched. The small black slugs seem to love it. On closer inspection, it didn't look much like the T. flavovirens that I had found earlier. The smell was mild but the taste was something like that of a cucumber.
Fred Stevens thought that this description fit the description he had for the T. intermedium, so he sent me some information on it which said that in the Sierras, this specie was associated with conifers. The synonym for the T. intermedium turned out to be T. leucophyllum, so I think this is what it is.
Sunday, November 15: The non-rainy days continue to keep me out looking. Today I found some fairly good Boletus edulis (they're still around!), some nice Lactarius rubrilacteus, some Ramaria strasseri, and a small patch of the golden-colored club mushroom, the Clavariadelphus truncatus. I am drying the boletes and lactarius, and just cooked up the Ramaria, this time without the tops as one of my older books suggests.
The ramaria tasted pretty good and had a texture very much like crab. However, the books say some people are adversely affected by it
The next time I find the golden-colored club mushroom, I may try to see what it tastes like. Not today. It is supposed to be taste kind of sweet.
Monday, November 14: Today I went to about the 5000-ft. elevation. Some snow was still scattered about, but I could see a few mounds poking up.
Under the first mound, I found some of the Robust Pine Spikes (Chroogomphus pseudovinicolor) and collected some to cook up later. The rest of the search was too cold for seriousness, but I did find a new mushroom that I had never noticed before. It had a yellow-brown cap, with veil remnants on the cap and stalk. The cap was about 4" in diameter, with about a 1" diameter stalk. The spore color on the ground below it was white.
I took a few specimens with me, and later that evening while browsing Michael Wood's MykoWeb Sierra Mushrooms pictures, I saw what looked very much like it. I then went to the description, and I think I have found it! The name for the mushroom was given as Floccularia albolanaripes, or Armillaria albolanaripes (Sheathed Armillaria in Arora). I checked Arora's description, and I am pretty convinced that this is what I found.
If it doesn't rain tomorrow, I will check the same area, as there were more still coming up. Then maybe I will try to cook some up to see what they taste like.
The pine spikes I cooked up later were tasty and not too slimy.
I also saw a few boletes, but like many of the other mushrooms I found, they were much too old and soggy.
But, the hunt continues.....
Sunday, November 22: We had rain yesterday, kind of warm, so we went to check out one of my White Chanterelle spots. I wanted to see if I had missed any when I tried to get them from under the snow the week before. I figured that the most of the snow would have melted by now.
The area was clean of snow, and there were many mushroom mounds around. Checking some of them led us to more then a few newer patches of chanterelles. It didn't take long to fill the basket to the point of being too heavy, as the chanterelles were a bit water-logged.
I also found a few of the very slimy Hygrophorus eburneus (Cowboy's Handkerchief) that looked in stature more like the more yellowish H. gliocyclus.
Also, we found both of the Pine Spikes (C. vinicolor and pseudovinicolor), many different types of Russula, a white-latex lactarius, one Gomphidius glutinosus, and a patch of what looked like the Tricholoma flavovirens. These were much too wet to pick, but I picked some anyway to remind myself to put them in my database. I was too laden down to gather much more.
When I got home, I cleaned the chanterelles by scraping them off entirely with the back of a knife. This removed most of the wettest part. When I cooked them up, I got as much water as mushrooms, so I seasoned and thickened the sauce and left them in it. Cecelia is going to use this in a mushroom strudel recipe. They still seemed to taste pretty good!
I cooked the other slimy suckers (H. eburneus) in butter and a little seasoned salt. They were so slimy and dirty when I brought them back that I just put them under the faucet with a scrub brush. Then I finished cleaning them by drying them off with a towel.
The younger of the two that I collected had the best texture. The texture of the older of the two reminded me a little of the Suillus brevipes. However, they both had a good flavor, kind of sweet -- better tasting than some of the other mushrooms I have tried lately.
I think these are worth collecting!
Tuesday, November 4: Today I went to another to advantage of the lack of rain and found more chanterelles. I also found a few pretty purple Laccaria amethystina, and what looks very much like a gilled bolete, the Phylloporus rhodoxanthus. Before I picked it, I recognized it from one of Arora's color photos. It is much too wet for getting any additional information from it, but is sure looked like the photo and fits his description. I also found another of the Sheathed Armillaria (Armillaria/Floccularia albolanaripes). I saw many other wet mushrooms.
It started to snow so I went down the mountain towards home. Here I found a good-sized batch of wet chanterelles, about a third of a basketful. One chanterelle actually was pretty dry because it was far enough below the surface. I wonder if any more will appear if it stays dry enough for a while.
The predictions are saying otherwise.
Wednesday, November 5: We took a walk today and wandered through the cemetery. On the grass I found many of what looked like Honey Mushrooms (Armillaria mellea), but these seemed to be of a variety described by Arora as growing in clumps in the grass (rather than out of trees), darker colored, white cottony veil, and frequently enlarged stem base. At least one of what I picked had a swollen base, and a few were even growing at the edge of the base of an old oak, but not out of it. Arora says these closely resemble the European species, the A. bulbosa.
He cautions any beginner from eating those not clearly growing out of wood because of the extreme variability of the species. I didn't eat any.
Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, November 26: The only thing of interest I found this day was the pretty Apricot Jelly Mushroom, or Phlogiotis helvelloides. It is the first I have identified, with its funnel shape and beautiful orange-red color. Later, I ate part of one raw, agreed with the books that it had no taste, and then cooked the rest. When cooked, a slight taste was just starting to appear, but nothing to write home about.
Pink Rubber Mushroom would be a better name.
Tuesday, December 1: It has rained for two days, mingled with some light snow, but today was a bit sunny. This gave me a good excuse to take a walk to see what, if anything, had popped up.
I checked near the same spot where I had picked the last White Chanterelles and found a few more. Most were too waterlogged, but two of them were far enough below the surface that they looked okay. I made an omelet with them for lunch.
I also found many other mushrooms, in spite of the recent rains, some that I brought back for later identification. I did see a few more of the beautiful Gilled Boletes (Phylloporus rhodoxanthus), some of the pink-tinged Hygrophorus (H. pudorinus), a few of the Robust Pine Spikes (Chroogomphus pseudovinicolor), more of the slimy Cowboy's Handkerchief (Hygrophorus eburneus), and various types of Cortinarius, Russula, Suillus and boletes -- not too much that wasn't soggy. I actually found a couple of agarics that looked like they had firm, brown flesh, but they were much too old and wet to identify.
It looks like if we hadn't had so much early rain and snow, that it would have been pretty good picking. The Pine Spikes seem to survive when it rains though, as do the Hygrophorus eburneus. I guess they are both slimy enough that they can't absorb much more water.
This is one of our favorite recipes that we use traditionally as a side dish for Thanksgiving Day dinners. This year we used chanterelles for the mushrooms. The dish came out tasting very good!
Mushroom Strudel (4 strudels, 24 servings)
Melt 1 1/2 sticks butter in a large skillet. Add onions and garlic, cook for 2 minutes, then add chopped mushrooms and sauté for 3-5 minutes until soft. Note: chanterelles take a little bit longer. Add sherry and continue cooking until liquid has evaporated. Add salt, pepper, parsley, and chives. Stir in sour cream and continue cooking over low heat until mixture has thickened. Melt remaining butter. Remove the filo dough from the package. Working quickly, put one leaf of the dough on a folded, dampened towel. Paint to the edges with butter. Sprinkle with 2-3 tablespoons of bread crumbs. Top with second leaf, paint with butter, sprinkle with bread crumbs, and repeat process with two more filo leaves. At this point you should have four layers of buttered and crumbed filo dough leaves. Place 1/4 of the mushroom mixture at the bottom half of the strudel dough leaving a margin at both sides, and fold in sides over mixture. Using the lower corners of the towel drawn tautly, flip the strudel over and over until almost to the end. Paint end of dough with butter and continue rolling until complete. Lift the strudel onto baking sheet and paint with butter. Cover loosely with waxed paper or plastic wrap until completing the other strudels.
Repeat above procedure with remaining dough and mixture. Bake in a moderate oven (375oF) 20 min. or until golden brown. Serve warm.
This issue's featured mushroom is the Delicious Milk Cap or Lactarius deliciosus. In the fall and early winter, they are fairly common anywhere in the forest.
I have tried using them in several different ways, including drying them first before reconstituting them for a stew, cooking and puréeing them for a soup stock, and sautéing and serving them in soup. It seems that most people I have talked to use them in stews.
They seem to have the best texture and flavor when they are young and fresh.