Color In The Dark Of Winter

Waxcaps In Seattle City Parks

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Hygrocybe aurantiosplendens

by Paul A. Hill

In the dark days of winter, I’m still thinking of mushrooms, but sometimes they are hard to find.  Luckily in January, I often start seeing Waxcaps in my local wooded city parks. I believe there are at least three species I have spotted over the years in Seward Park on Lake Washington in SE Seattle.  All of the following photos were taken in 2017.  A note on usage, Waxy Caps or Waxcaps are both names used for several related genera in Hygrophoraceae family.  Above is a picture of the common red Hygrocybe with lots of yellow, but little, if any white.  I identify it as H. aurantiosplendens, generally because of the colors and size.

The following photo is of a ragged H. aurantiosplendens showing the orange-red gills.  In January, I often come across these orange-red Hygrocybe which have become tattered.  It appears the mice and slugs in the park nibble on them through the winter.  Since these Hygrocybe seem to be the first ones up in January and there are not very many of them, they seem to suffer more nibbles then those which come up in larger numbers later in the winter.

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Hygrocybe aurantiosplendens, this specimen has seen better days.

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Roasted Chicken Chanterelle Carbonara

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by Erin Raymond

Ingredients used: Chicken, olive oil, pasta, chanterelle powder, egg, parmesan, salt, pepper, chili powder.

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First, I roasted a whole chicken rubbed with olive oil, salt, pepper, and chanterelle powder.  I set the chicken on top of some carrots and onion to keep the chicken off the bottom of the pan.  You could also roast some chicken thighs if you do not want to roast a whole chicken.

When the chicken was almost done, I cooked the pasta.  In a medium bowl, I whisked 2 eggs with about a cup of grated parmesan and about 2 tablespoons of chanterelle powder.  Once the pasta was done and strained, I returned it to the pot, removed the pot from the heat and quickly whisked in the egg, cheese and chanterelle mixture.  Note:  it is important the pot is not too hot so you don’t scramble the egg mixture.

I topped the pasta with the roasted chicken, basil, some delicious Basque chili powder that I received for Christmas, a bit more parmesan and some salt and pepper.  The result was excellent and the chanterelle flavor really came through.  We will definitely be making this again in the future!

Bonus quick recipe:  Think of a recipe.  Add chanterelle powder.

 

Deviating From the Norm

Oxychilus draparnaudi?

Oxychilus draparnaudi, I think.  Keep reading to find out how I came to this conclusion.

by Brady Raymond

Well, folks, it’s perfect mushrooming weather, though unfortunately, it is January.  Now, that’s not to say there are no mushrooms to be found, but, it’s unlikely to yield much for the hungry mushroomer. I myself haven’t been out beyond walking my dog and the like. I have spotted some mushrooms but they are either desiccating or desiccated take your pick.  So, why not take an interesting deviation from the norm and talk about some other interesting lifeforms Mollusks, more specifically Gastropods of the land variety.

Why would Gastropods be of any interest to a mushroom hunter?  Most mushroomers I know posses at least in small amounts some degree of nerdism.  I would be willing to bet that if you’re still reading this article you may possess high levels of nerdism.  Undoubtedly you’ve encountered these creatures both in your yard or garden as well as our native habitats.  Heck, you probably have even picked a few off of some mushrooms at one time or another.  Plus, anyone interested in identifying mushrooms will feel at home trying to put names on Gastropods.  There are dichotomous keys similar to what you’d find in an ID book for mushrooms, breaking down different morphological features such as shell size, pneumostome placement on the mantle, flesh textures and mucus consistency.

Mollusk Overview

Mollusk is a Phylum of life residing in the Animal Kingdom. It is a diverse Phylum only exceeded in the Animal Kingdom by Arthropods. There are some 110,000 described species that make up the four main classes consisting of the Chitons, Bivalves, Cephalopods and the Gastropods.

Chitons-are the most primitive mollusks grazing on marine algae in coastal waters.

Bivalves-have hinged shells and filter the water for nutrients.  Mussels, Clams, and Oysters are examples of this group and they are an important species to people as a food source.

Cephalopods-are the most intelligent of the invertebrates.  They have sophisticated nervous systems and are quite mobile.  Many species skin contain chromatophores which allow them the ability to change color depending on mood or for concealment purposes.  Think Squid, Cuttlefish, and Octopus.  One can only imagine what they may evolve to be in 100 million years!

Gastropodsare the largest class of Mollusks.  Most are marine in nature where they evolved but others have adapted to freshwater and land.  Most Gastropod diets are vegetative but a few species are predatory.  Many Gastropods have shells yet others have lost their shells in the evolutionary process.  We will focus on land snails and slugs from here on.

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Frosty Mushrooms

Entoloma sericeum?

by Brady Raymond

Cold frosty nights usually spells the end for most mushroomers, but the observant are still rewarded with a plethora of fungal finds.  2017 may not go down as “the year” at least in our neck of the woods but I have valued each moment spent outdoors with my family and have enjoyed very much what nature offered up to us this year.  Although the inevitable cold wet months of winter have yet to set in, the general gloom and sulk of it all are lessened by thoughts of spring and of course, Morels.

The cold weather doesn’t have to be the end of your season, there are plenty of rotten, moldy slimy mushroom carcasses to be found under wet leaves and amongst saturated duff.  Good luck identifying any of them.  There are also conks and other persistent woody fungal fruitbodies, scattered through the forest and parks.  Thankfully, cold weather is relative, and often times what folks around here complain about, folks in other parts would laugh at as being considered cold.  Truth is, winters around the Puget Sound are fairly mild and as long as it gets above freezing during the day, I think it’s worth keeping your eyes open, ready to spot any frosty mushrooms that make themselves apparent.

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The two mushrooms on the left were found down the road from my house.  The mushroom on the right is one from my yard.  Are they the same?

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Still Going…

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Hericium abietis, Mmm, good.

by Brady Raymond

Fall 2017, is this a mushroom season anyone is going to really remember?  There are mushrooms to be found and an acceptable diversity, but any real quantity seems to be lacking.  Although, quantity is really only important if you are collecting for the pot either for consumption or dyeing.  2017 is probably not the year you would want to start a study on Russulas or Chanterelles.  I have only seen a handful of Russulas this year and most were what other folks had collected.  As far as Chanterelles are concerned the most I’ve seen in one place was the grocery store and they were selling for $17.98 at one point.  I have only found a few handfuls of them myself this year, enough though for Erin to make a few dishes, but none to share.

So, the big question, “Is the season over?”  Well, as evident from the above photo, no it is not.  There are still mushrooms to be found and as long as the weather stays mild as it has been for the last week or so we may be able to milk this season for a while.  I think it’s safe to say that over about 3,000ft. in our area, your chances of finding much of anything are probably limited.  The photo below was taken around 2000ft. and the snow line was not far above that.

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The snow line was not far above our elevation of 2000ft.

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Things Are Looking Good?

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Hydnum repandum, the Hedgehog, one of the “toothed fungi.”

by Brady Raymond

So far this fall, things are looking good for the would-be mushroomer trudging around our neck of the woods although “looking” is the operative word.  I can’t say I’ve had much luck with edibles this season but Phaeolus schweinitzii is fruiting very prolifically, at least in the places Erin and I have looked. We’ve found what I estimate to be right around twenty pounds over the last couple weekends, and a single specimen I found last Thursday while out dual sporting on some of my favorite forest service roads.

The edibles I’ve found thus far are limited to four Chanterelles, one Hedgehog, and some “past their prime” Sulfur Shelves.  Overall, the past couple of weekends things have been fairly sparse yet there is a definite progression to the season and each outing we’ve spotted a few more species than the last.  I expect this coming weekend to be spectacular as the temperature drops and precipitation moves in.   The forest itself though seems ripe to burst with bouquets of fungi and is probably doing so as I write this article.

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Laetiporus conifericola, the Sulfur Shelf or Chicken of the Woods.  The mushroom formerly known as L. sulphureus.  These were quite large, the column was about four feet tall.  These were definitely past their prime.

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Dye With Me

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by Brady and Erin Raymond

As the rains begin soaking in and temperatures start to drop don’t forget to keep your eyes peeled this fall for dye mushrooms.  We often get so consumed with finding the consumables we forget that mushrooms have other uses too.  If you are into cooking and you like crafting, specifically with animal fiber, dyeing with mushrooms may be right up your alley.  Here’s a quick run down and if you’re interested check out the links at the end of the post for more info.

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Patterns In Nature

Paterns In Nature

by Brady Raymond

This article is intended as a preseason metaphysical mushrooming warm up.  As our summer edges closer to the inevitable rains of fall, I think it is important that we get our heads right.  What follows is my attempt at explaining to myself something about mushrooms.  What that is and if it is of any value to the reader is for them to decide.     

You don’t have to put a name on a mushroom to understand a mushroom.  Putting a name on it only identifies it, understanding a mushroom is a whole different thing.  Names help when communicating with other people about a given mushroom, but if you’re trying to understand it from a name alone good luck.

Experience only comes with time, the more time you spend with mushrooms the more you will start to understand them.  To fully grasp mushrooms takes time, and as your experience grows so too will your perception of the patterns which associate with fungi.   However, many patterns as soon as they start to form become disrupted, but if you broaden the scope of your perception, you may see the same or similar patterns start to reemerge.

When you can instinctively calculate the patterns around you and benefit from understanding them to find more mushrooms, you know you have moved from a novice to a novice+1.  It’s a long way to go to get to expert and there is a kind of scientific inflation if you want to get to pro.  Though, for many of us being a novice+1 is sufficient enough for what we hope to achieve.

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Having a hunch may just be your brain telling you it is recognizing a pattern.  In a spot like this, what have you got to lose poking around a bit?

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Spring Kings

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Thanks to Sweta Agrawal for sharing some snapshots of her success this season finding the “Spring King.”  Persistence is key when trying to locate this mushroom.  It seems that you have to check your spots regularly and catch them just at the right moment if you want to have any real success.

Keeping things simple like the salad pictured above is a great way to enjoy the more subtle flavors of this enigmatic mushroom.  On the other hand, you can get quite decadent.  If you were lucky enough to find as plentiful of patches as Sweta you can try all sorts of recipes.

Having not found any Boletus rex-veris myself I can’t comment much on distinguishing features.  I have a feeling though, that if you have found Boletus edulis in the fall and saw one of these Ceps during spring growing in front of you, alarms would sound and the hunt would be on.  Names and seasons aside a Porcini is a Porcini.

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Some specimens grow quite large and will be enough for a few meals.  But remember,  the more you pick the more you’ll have to clean.  Always clean your mushrooms in the field as best possible.  Doing so makes kitchen chores much more enjoyable.  Also, make sure to check for bugs in the field by cutting your mushrooms in half.  Remove buggy areas immediately.  The bugs will continue eating the mushroom, even after being picked and wreak havoc after a long ride home from the mountains.

If you didn’t find any Spring Kings don’t fret yet.  The season is not over for Boletes and Boletus edulis the fall cousin of Boletus rex-veris will be fruiting later this year.  So read up and scout some locations while out hiking this summer.

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