Amidst the tall, old trees and whispering leaves we found mushrooms. We also found a wigwam, many condom wrappers and trash, and the solitary men, on their repeated loop in the east.
Welcome to Prospect Park.
I had only seen Hen of the Woods mushrooms in expensive, gourmet food stores, so was very excited about our hunt. Ellen had intel that they were to be found here, and we walked in hope. Like the men, I suppose.
Within a few minutes of walking into the woods, Ellen pounced. This one was little dry at the edges, and later she made a broth from her share and I a finely chopped base for a pizza.
They grow at the base of oaks and maples. The second she found was younger, softer, more dewy when touched.
She couldn't get over the condom wrappers. I'd love to keep this post bucolic and full of wonder but the wonder here is at the squalor of a park that deserves national respect as an icon of design and escape in the huge, populous borough of Brooklyn. So far I have received no response from the Parks Department about my query regarding trash pick up in Prospect Park.
I walk the fine line of being labeled Puritanical and intolerant. But perhaps I am, in this sense. I am intolerant of litter, of apathy and of what I see as the active neglect, if you'll permit the oxymoron, of this park with its beautiful lines and views and trees and hills and gullies.
I showed Ellen the orange mushrooms I'd seen before, growing from a rotting log. A salmon-pink spore print later and we think it is Phyllotopsis nidulans, or False Oyster Mushroom, not that there's much chance of making that mistake. I was hoping that it might be a Milk Cap (of delicious Pine Ring association for me). But no.
This is the bright orange version, reputed to smell bad, but it did not in this case. No word on what happens if you eat it, but it is not described as edible.
The book Ellen is holding is my new Mushrooms of Northeast America, by George Barron - a nice field guide size with very good photographs, and organized in a way I find useful. That's a flask of hot chocolate down there...
We made our way to the Oyster Mushroom patch and found a few tiny ones. Below, our haul before being divvied up. My Hen of the Woods all went onto two pizzas, after being sauteed with olive oil, salt and pepper and a little lemon juice. The oysters accompanied two small steaks day later.
I never thought I would say it, but I think I may almost have had enough* mushrooms. Lucky me.
* Subject to change without notice