Morel Count, I’m at two

Salixland Morel 2

My second Morel of the year.  At this rate I expect to find five or six total this season.

By Brady Raymond

Things were looking good at the end of winter, sufficient snowpack, and some late winter rain but then a dry spell.  Over here, east of the Cascades the last couple of weeks have been warm and dry.  Dry enough ironically to put a damper on my mushrooming mood. Today, however, the rains did come and it looks like they will extend into next week. I got myself a bit of a good omen and stumbled across another Morel only a few feet away from where I had found my first Morel of the year.  I snapped off a few shots then decided to snoop around a bit and see if I could spot a few more.

As I circled around some brush I saw a yellow laser streak in front of me across the damp ground. My mushrooming focus now tuned into snake vision, I reassessed my naturing priorities and the hunt for the serpent was on.  The snake, small, only a youngster really, caught cover under the corner of a large concrete chunk.  I thought I had lost it but with a little gentle prodding and the snake emerged from its shelter.  I captured it and after a few seconds of squirming and discharging a foul-smelling musk, it decided I wasn’t a threat and calmed down.  I was deep in shade and as if on cue, a gust of wind blew on the canopy of Willow above, allowing the evening rays of the Sun to penetrate down to the snake in my hand.  Lighting went from bad to good in an instant, I took advantage of the situation and snapped the photo below.  Look for an article about my adventures snaking to follow this story soon.

Garter Snake 5

Newborn Valley Garter Snake, Thamnophis sirtalis fitchi.  Garter Snakes give “birth” to live young.

My second Morel of the year and an encounter with the beautiful Valley Garter Snake, Thamnophis sirtalis fitchi left me giddy and with a touch of the fuzzies.  Then I remembered spotting some mushrooms the day before, just up the trail on the exposed roots of a wind-toppled Willow tree. I had to bushwhack my way through standing dead to reach the specimens, which from across the creek looked to be Coprinellus micaceus, and upon closer inspection that is the name I gave them.

It was kind of a difficult shot, which had me lying prone on a mat of sticks and twigs and below that was a black soupy muck.  If I applied too much pressure to a knee or elbow seepage of this muck into my clothing was inevitable.  The image isn’t a wall hanger but it is good enough as evidence that this species occurs both on my property and on Willow.  I haven’t identified anything down to species but so far I’ve spotted Agaricus, Pholiota, Psathyrella, Galerina, Xylaria, Morchella, and fairy rings in my lawn, evidence left presumably by Marasmius.

Coprinellus micaceus SL

Coprinellus micaceus, or at least that’s what I’m calling it.  DNA studies suggest however-blah, blah, blah.

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It’s Morel Season

1st Salixland Morel 2019

First Morel of the year, in my own backyard!

by Brady Raymond

I had already been out on one walk for the day, doing a little birding, trying to figure out a few plants and thinking about all the work that needs to get done on the trails for summer.  I came inside to get some water and like always my Jack Russell was there to greet me, wagging his nub of a tail in a playful puppy kind of way despite his twelve years of age.  I could tell he needed a walk so I decided to head out again.  Just a quick spin around the compound.  Unbeknownst to me that my first Morel of the year was only a few short minutes away from being found.

As I crossed the creek into “Salixland” my senses focused in on the surroundings.  Truth be told, I was thinking more about seeing some Warblers, maybe even a few new ones to add to my home bird list.  We’ve had Yellow-Rumped Warblers all over the place lately and I think there have been a few other species of birds among them but I never seem to have my binoculars on me when I really need them.  As my brain processed these thoughts I passed through the first stand of Willow trees and headed out through the Reed Canary Grass to a second stand of Willows a little further down the trail.

As I entered the woods my eyes adjusted to the lower light, I throttled down my pace a bit to optimal birding speed and continued on.  I glanced downward to watch my step and what would you know, right in front of me just ten feet away stood my first Morel of the 2019 season and my first Morel at our new home.  Surprised, I said aloud “There’s a Morel” then a giddy grin stretched across my face and a fuzzy feeling engulfed the whole of my body.

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Hunting Mushrooms In The Desert

Umtanum Verpa 1

Verpa bohemica, one of the so called False Morels, found in a riparian zone under Cottonwoods in the desert of Eastern (central) Washington.

by Brady Raymond

It’s that time of year to grab your packs and baskets and head out to the woods.  If you know where to look or tend to be lucky you will surely stumble across some Verpa bohemica.  On the east side of the Cascades, between 1300ft-1900ft is where I found the specimens photographed both above and at the end of the article.  I found them at two separate locations at either end of the aforementioned altitudes.  A few stood proud and tall yet some were inconspicuously protruding from beneath the twigs, leaves, and other duff which make up the forest floor.  Now this would all be great if they were Morels but alas they were False Morels, and although some people eat them, I do not count myself among them.  If you decide to eat them use a reputable field guide for your region and make sure you know how to properly prepare them.  Some folks don’t react well after ingesting Verpa bohemica, but I guess that could be said with all mushrooms.  Do your research before eating any mushroom.  When in doubt, throw it out

Over here on the East side, your search for mushrooms is most likely to succeed if you stick to riparian zones.  That is to say, areas near streams and rivers.  Once you start to see Willow and Cottonwood trees you know you are getting close to a riparian area. Learn to identify Cottonwoods as they seem to be friendly with Verpa bohemica and Morels alike.  Verpa bohemica often time precede Morels by a couple weeks and will many times overlap with them.  Although you may be fooled by the look alike at first, don’t be too upset when you realize your folly.  You’re on the right track, just a little early.

Home Creek

A small creek running through my property.  These Cottonwoods are still rather young but yielded Verpa.  Let’s hope the Morels will follow soon.

Another sign you are in a riparian zone is the presence of Urtica diocia also known as Stinging Nettles.  Nettles can be annoying to downright painful depending on your body chemistry but they are a plentiful, delicious and a nutritious foraged edible.  Nettles are best harvested when still young and tender.  I like to wear rubber dipped work gloves and use scissors to harvest.  I collect them in a paper grocery bag as long as it’s not to wet out.  I like the paper bags because they fold up nicely in my pack and aren’t much in the way before I use them.

When dried or cooked the stinging hairs of the Nettle are rendered impotent.  They can be used for tea, or to make pesto, as a topping for pizza, or whatever else you can think of.  It’s a good substitute for spinach (cooked), yet has a vibe and flavor that I find unique, it tastes like springtime.  There are plenty of resources online for those that are curious about recipes and their nutritional value.

Home Nettles

I don’t have to go far for Nettles, these are right out my back door.  Chances are high that you the reader doesn’t have to go far either, as they grow throughout the state where the soil stays a bit wetter, usually in riparian zones.

Robins Nest

I had to work fast to get this snapshot, Mamma Robin wasn’t too happy.  Riparian zones are the lifeblood of the dry habitats on the Eastern slopes of the Cascades.  Providing water, food and much-needed shade for a whole host of animals, especially birds.

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Scenes From Ben Woo, 2018

Mushrooms BW 2018

by Brady Raymond

The Ben Woo Foray for 2018 was a nice change of pace from last years foray which featured wet snow and cold temperatures.  This year was warm and sunny, and although a little dry, it was a blast for all who attended.  The mushrooming wasn’t quite what it was like in the first iteration of the foray but specimens were found, identified and generally admired by all who attended.  A variety of mushrooms were found this year, by a count of species, just over two-hundred.  Not bad considering the dry weather.

There were a lot of new faces for the third installment of the Ben Woo Foray as well as some of the more recognizable figures of the club.  Both new and old members came together, many of them volunteering their time to help make this outing the best it could be.

Gomphus sp.

Maple

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Fall has Fallen: Chanterelles are Popping!

Wow!  What a difference a few weeks make.

A month ago the talk was about anticipating the coming autumn mushroom season and the hope it wouldn’t be as bad as last year.   On September 8th, Seattle’s own celebrity weather professor, Dr. Cliff Mass, said “Take out your sweaters and rain gear”.  I don’t know about you, but I think I missed that transition until a few days later when we had a few days of overcast and even a little drizzle. I didn’t get my hopes up, because after some overcast and even a bit of drizzle we got just as many sunny days. Soon the overcast and occasional drizzle was more typical than not and we seemed to be settling into a nice damp Pacific Northwest autumn. Continue reading

A Taste Of Fall To Come

 

Summer Chanty 2018 coast

by Brady Raymond

As most of Washington State sweltered this last week, coastal Washington was cool and misty. The family and I got away for a long weekend out in Moclips, the cooler weather was a nice respite from the oven baking further inland and what would you know there were Chanterelles growing too.  The golden beauties pictured above were found about 100ft. above sea level just over a sandy bluff from the ocean.

Our trip was more focused on all things beach, so, unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to scour the woods too well but, I imagine that there are more to be found for someone with the time.  There were a number of specimens nearby that were a bit too small for the plate but looked as though they would surpass what I had collected in about a week or so.

I also came across a few Russula, an unknown gilled mushroom and a few Galerina.  Things were looking pretty good and if you need a taste of the fall to come, head to the coast and try your luck.

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Fresh Chanterelle pizza in July?  Yes, it’s true you can find mushrooms in the summer here in WA.  You just need to find areas where the weather is more reminiscent of the spring or fall.

 

Wild Mushroom Recipes 2.0

1969 PSMS cookbook - cover

by Derek Hevel

On June 17th, some of the PSMS cookbook team met for our first official cookbook potluck!  Sunny day, some fun engaged cooks, and some tasty mushroom dishes.  We met in Heather and Chris’ yard for some culinary tasting and cookbook discussions.  Our two hosts, Sarah and myself took some time to “act out the process” of making mushroom recipes, taking photos and saving recipes of prepared dishes, and tasting dishes so we will have an idea how it will go over the next year.  The four of us also got into a richer discussion about the cookbook’s content, organization, photos, and style.  We had the 1969 cookbook and some contemporary cookbooks to review for possibilities and directions, and I think we made real headway in imagining the finished cookbook itself.

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The food:

Heather’s Mushroom Pâté

Sarah’s Mushroom Potato Bake

Derek’s 6 types of Stuffed Morels

Everything was delicious!  I couldn’t ultimately tell you what went into each of my stuffed morels since the cooking process turned a bit experimental at moments, but I’ll try again with more precise measurements.  The iPhone photos I took are ok, but I’ll level up to a better camera and a proper lighting setup soon.

 If you’re a PSMS member and want to join the cookbook team, let me know!

dfhevel@gmail.com

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Is It Really Over?

Noah 2018 Morels

by Brady Raymond

I keep reminding myself that things are cyclical, not necessarily circular but more likely some form of a distorted oval.  Yes, the seasons make their rounds but they do it differently from year to year.  Some seasons bucket loads of mushrooms are brought in by almost anyone that glances way of suitable habitat and yet other years you scratch by the best you can.  All of this is overlaid on a 3-D geography interacting with weather systems both worldly and cosmic.

Why are some year’s seasons stellar while others kind of, well, meh?  I like to think it is everything else in life, but it is likely that my own distractions shielded the mushrooms from my lustful gaze.  Maybe my brain wasn’t fully tuned into them this year, maybe I need to find new spots altogether, maybe the last Morel to have ever existed has been picked, put into a basket and taken home to be eaten by some newbie undeserving of such a tasty forest treat.  Oh, the horror if that were to be true.  I did, however, find enough this year to feed well upon, and I am thankful for all that nature has provided me, yet I still I want more, more from a season that seems to be breaking fast.

Morels Eagle Creek 2018

It’s not much to look at but, they are all mine so at least there is that.

 

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Morel Hunting In Washington

 

Mt. 1

Oh, the glory.

 

by Brady Raymond

What will be the outcome for the “Spring 2018 Washington Mushroom Season?”  Only the future knows.  However, I know that I’m finding Morels at various elevations.  I also know that I’m loving every second of it.  I worry a little that the weather is going to get too hot too quick and before we know it the season will be over.  I cast these thoughts aside though, and I focus on the task at hand, which is quite simple, “To find as many Morels as I can.”

So far, the pickings have been a little slim for me, but what I have found has been thoroughly enjoyed.  I’ve seen a few other folks while out and only one looked to have a bag with very much in it, so I don’t think I’m doing too bad.  The two times I have been out this season We’ve collected enough to feed three for both breakfast and dinner.  These are meager pickings comparatively speaking but, one has to be thankful for anything Mother Nature is willing to offer up.

 

2018 Morel Breakfast

Even the simplest of meals is awesome cooked over campfire coals, especially breakfast.

 

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Winter Into Spring

 

Hyphloma?

If you want to learn about mushrooms gather round for Brian’s table tours at PSMS field trips.

by Brady Raymond

Morels are here, and that means it’s time to gear up and head out.  I have reports of landscape Morels being found in the Puget Sound lowlands and as warmer weather moves in we can start moving up into the mountains.  Landscape Morels are good but mountain Morels are better and probably cleaner too.  Make sure if you find landscape Morels to be discerning when picking them for the table.  Many urban landscapes are fouled with pesticides and other harmful contaminants, caution is urged when collecting near human populations.  If you are lucky enough to spot some locale landscape Morels count it as a good omen for the rest of the season.

Spring also means the beginning of the 2018 PSMS field trip season.  If you’ve been on field trips in the past you probably already know that it is one of the best ways to learn about mushrooms and if you haven’t been on a field trip let me reiterate, it is one of the best ways to learn about mushrooms.  There is no substitute for getting out in the woods and finding mushrooms first hand, taking in all of the peripheral clues and of course having access to one of PSMS’s most valuable resources, Brian Luther.

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