June Jaunt

Back Yard Mountains 3

Photo was taken just over 4000ft.  Central Washington, a rugged, unforgiving landscape.

 

by Brady Raymond

It may not be summer by the calendar’s account yet but it looks to be turning that page here on the ground.  As the temperature rises things are starting to dry out over on the east side, add time and a little wind to the equation and Morel season quickly turns to wildfire season.  Please, if you are out camping in the coming weeks, pay attention to the fire warnings and any burn bans that may be in effect for your next trip.

Summer may mean fire season but it doesn’t quite spell the end for Morels.  I was lucky enough to make a few quick jaunts up some east side slopes this past weekend, each trip had the potential for more  Morels than were found but on the first trip, I was hindered by motorcycle gear and on the second, children.  Lucky for me I enjoy the company of both my motorcycle and my kids, so the small quantity of Morels is made up for by the smiles on everybody’s faces.

DR650 Mroad

Best scouting tool, dual sport motorcycle.  Atlases, GPS and google Earth come in handy too.

As much as moto-gear and kids can slow you down while looking for mushrooms, both are an investment in the long run.  The motorcycle is an amazing scouting tool, keeping tabs on all the roads we frequent and checking out new ones before we try traversing them in a larger vehicle with the family.  There is nothing worse than backing up on a mountain road looking for a place to turn around because of a washout or downed tree.

Kids, on the other hand, they are just more sets of eyes and closer to the ground too.  But, as much as I want my kids to enjoy mushroom hunting, I’m less enthusiastic about either of them getting the taste for Morels.  I already have to share them with my wife.  I imagine in a few years that our spring haul will be much more substantial once the little ones put on a few inches and hone their mushroom vision into a fine laser-like focus.

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Sometimes the Mushrooms Come to You

As late winter warms into spring certain changes come to Seattle.  The trees begin to bud, the grass starts to grow faster, cherry blossoms bring an explosion of beauty to the city.  If you are like me, you are checking with friends and monitoring social media to find out if anything has been sighted yet.

Maybe you see or hear about some Oysters mushrooms (species in the Pleurotus genus) growing in lower elevations.  They can be found on dead deciduous trees.  Around here that usually means alder trees – dead alders.  In Washington we have nearly exclusively Red Alder (Alnus rubra) while down in Oregon they have several other species of alder.  Look for the Pleurotus species on standing snags or downed logs in late winter and into spring and beyond in parks, particularly along waterways where many alders grow.

Yellowish tan fan-shaped mushrooms growing from a log

A  group of Oyster (Pleurotus) mushrooms growing on a log on trailside in a park in Seattle.

But the mushroom of spring is the Morel.  While those with a comprehensive historic, linguistic, and taxonomic understanding might think of anything in the Morchellaceae taxonomic family and even a few beyond as some type of morel, many people immediately think of those tasty brown roundish sponge-like mushrooms in the Morchella genus when you say morel.

Before the Morchella appear there is another closely related mushroom in the Morchellaceae family that comes up first; these are the Verpa species.  The Verpas are called “Early Morels”, because they come before the other morels (the Morchella).

We have a couple of verpa species around Seattle include Verpa conica, a small mostly smooth capped Verpa found in moist areas.  It only grows to a few inches tall. Some common names for it include the Thimble Morel or the Thimble Cap.

Verpas like all members of the Morchellaceae family are edible, but only after cooking well.

Verpa conica - Thimble Cap

A cross section of a Verpa conica – a Thimble Morel or Thimble Cap.

The other Verpa you can find in Washington is much taller than Thimble Morel and even taller than any Morchella we get in the Pacific Northwest.  This larger Verpa species is the Verpa bohemica.  Its excessively wrinkled cap can be deceiving, because without close examination it can look very similar to a Morel (Morchella), but the wrinkles are not the sponge-like of pits of a Morchella.

tall creamy white stipe (stem) with a small wrinkled dark conical hat on top.

Verpa bohemica – Wrinkled Thimble Cap or Wrinkled Thimble Morel.

The Verpa bohemica gets it name from Bohemia, a western region in the Czech Republic where the mushroom was first described.  The stipe (stem) of the V. bohemica can be very tall as to compared to the cap which sits on the end of the stipe.

There are a couple of others thing to note about all the Verpas.  The can have hollow stipes, because the pithy material inside of the tube of the stipe tends to disappear in age.  Whether hollow or not, one thing to notice is that stipe goes all the way to the top of the inside of the cap before it is attached to the cap. In contrast, Morchella species have stipes which are typically hollow.  Due to varied growing conditions some species are prone to have many layers in the base making the very bottom of the stipe nearly solid, but not filled with a cottony pith.

morels in a sissel basket

Morchella sp. with one with a layer filled base.

More importantly, unlike the various Verpa species, the Morchella species stipe joins smoothly into the stipe, most often blending into the cap at the cap base.  In a couple of species the stipe joins to the cap somewhere up into the stipe, these are called Half-free Morels (Morchella punctipes in western North America and Morchella semilibera in eastern North America).  Some specimens can be tricky, because the join from the cap to the stipe is way up in the cap, but it is not straight into the top of the cap.  In all morels there should be some widening as the cap flares and joins the cap even the “half free” morels.

A morel cut from top to bottom. One half showing the outside the other the inside.

Cut-away Morchella showing stipe connecting directly to stipe.

about a dozen young burn morels on burned ground with pine needles.

Young Burn Morels (Morchella exuberans?) showing nice round “ant tracks” at the base of the cap.

In the picture of the cut-away Morel (Morchella tomentosa), you can see the stipe smoothly blending with the body of the cap.  In some species there is more of channel (when looking from the outside), a nice round gutter running around the bottom of the cap.  Some refer to the nice rounded gutter as the ant track.

May you fill your basket with mushrooms and your soul with adventures.

-Paul Hill
Seattle WA

Mushrooming Motivation

by Paul Hill

In early November when you think season for the Golden Chanterelle (Cantharellus formosus) may be winding down, what other mushrooms are there to find?  As we head closer to winter, the edibles become less common, but once you start looking you will see there are still many species out there.   Maybe you won’t find gourmet edibles all year round, but that might not stop you from enjoying the hobby of mushrooming.

There are many variations of mushroomers out there.  Myself, I love to take photographs of mushrooms.  When after the late summer and fall Boletes have faded, I am content with finding the curious, weird, and unusual mushrooms, including finding mushrooms in urban and suburban areas.

Another group of mushroom hunters sometimes found in parks of Washington and Oregon are the folks who found their way into mushrooming because they want to find the “magic mushrooms”.  Those are the little brown mushrooms which contain psilocybin, an hallucinogenic or psychedelic compound.  Mushrooming has a challenge in store for those looking for these mushrooms; making sure you have the right mushrooms requires learning technical features of mushrooms, because there are many little brown mushrooms growing in the Pacific Northwest in late fall and early winter – many more than are hallucinogenic.  Some of them are best identified by characteristics like having a peelable

LBMs in a Seattle Park

A least four Little Brown Mushroom species are in this photo.  There are so many LBMs to find!

 

pellicle and having a blue bruising reaction.  If you don’t know what a pellicle is, you might not  be sure you had a Liberty Cap (Psilocybe semilanceata).  Knowing what is meant by various descriptive features is important, because there are a dizzying array of other little brown (and gray) mushrooms that grow in the same areas.

Identifying a Golden Chanterelle (Cantharellus formosus) is easier and certainly safer.  Those short gills, often called “ridges”, “veins” etc., because they are so short compared to most gills; along with the color; distinct silhouette; and a certain string cheese-like texture to the flesh is about all you need to separate the Chanterelles from anything else.  The one thing you learn about the popular edibles is that the ease of identifying helps to make them popular.

Golden Chanterelle

A Golden Chanterelle (Cantharellus formosus) in the Cascade Mountains of Washington.

Sometimes the non-edibles catch my eye.  Here are some photos taken in November 2018. Here are some other picturesque mushrooms you might find in late fall in our area.

Witches Cap (Hygrocybe singeri) in Seattle

A colorful Witches Cap (Hygrocybe singeri) in Seattle in November

A Black Earth Tongue (Geoglossum umbratile)

A Black Earth Tongue (Geoglossum umbratile) in moss in Seattle.

Candlestick Fungus (Xylaria hypoxylon)

Candlestick Fungus (Xylaria hypoxylon) Curious white spores on black stems looking like a group of sticks. You might not think they are even a fungus.

reddish cap, widely-spaced gills, with a thick layer of clear slime on the long stipe (stem).

A Spike-cap (Gomphidius species) with its stipe covered in slime. Can you believe this is not the species Gomphidius glutinosus? There are even slimier species.

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

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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Morel Hunting In Washington

Mt. 1

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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PSMS Monthly Meeting

Tuesday, January 9th  7:30pm

Greg Hovander Presents

Central Cascades Romp Through Mushrooms

Greg-Hovander

Doors open at 6:30 pm at the Center for Urban Horticulture. Come early and bring any mushrooms you want identified!

This stunning photographic presentation by mycologist, mountaineer, and naturalist Greg Hovander will present the diversity of wild mushrooms gracing the most pulchritudinous plethora of peaks in the Central Cascades between Snoqualmie and Stevens Pass, Washington. He will emphasize edible species and attempt to sharpen identification skills for the astute forager. You will accompany him through strenuous wilderness few people have ever been, up and down mountains east side of the Cascade crest in a circuitous route to properly capture the essence of one of the most beautiful real estates on Earth with its myriad of mushrooms, plants, and wildlife used to sustain him in his endeavor. If the audience looks trustworthy, he will share some of his concocted recipes for wilderness “thrival” before publishing them.

Greg Hovander is a native of Washington, living in Sultan, WA with his wife, working as the owner pharmacist of a small, independent pharmacy, Sultan Pharmacy & Natural Care, where he cares for patients in old-fashioned ways, including the identification of wild mushrooms and plants, use of natural products, and preparation of prescriptions. At age 70, he remains active climbing mountains, studying the wonders of nature, and sharing his enthusiasm for life with now countless audiences. Greg began his lifelong pursuit of mushrooms at the UW School of Pharmacy when offered a research job with radioisotopes for elucidating metabolic pathways utilized by certain mushrooms in producing mind-altering substances. He was the founder of the Skykomish Valley Mycological Society, and currently is a member of the Snohomish County Mycological Society and the Pacific Northwest Key Council.

Happy New Year!

Morel 2 5-13-17

Wow, it’s 2018!  That means we can move on from the dismal fall season of 2017 and start getting our heads right for the 2018 spring season.  And as we all know spring means, Morels.

Morels mean good times and great eating.  I can’t wait.