Sunday, October 5, 2014

Mushroom missions

A day in advance of an edible botanical walk I did some reconnaissance in the unusually dry North Woods of Central Park. When it is practical, I try to scout ahead, so that on the day of the walk I can lead people to interesting finds.

The woods were dusty and plants drooped. Early October was parched.

A flash of orange on a log caught my eye, but, when I reached it...all gone. Someone, a day - maybe hours - ahead of of me, had found and expertly removed every last one of these chicken of the woods. So I left the woods, my tail dropping sadly.

On walk day it rained. It poured. I canceled.

But later in the afternoon the clouds held their breath and I ventured out, and back into the dripping woodland.

After twelve hours of steady rain there had been a transformation. Plants had revived. The paths were wet and smelled good. Chipmunks whistled and ferried nuts to and fro.

This is one of the woodland goldenrods. Solidago caesia, I think. I straightened up after taking this photo and saw amongst the trees beyond the flash of orange that makes mushroomers point like bird dogs.

POINT! (It helps if you've watched the movie Up!)

Ha. I was very happy that The Other Forager had missed these.

The yellow underside identifies it as Laetiporous sulphureus, which gives chicken of the woods another common name, sulphur shelf.

I've only ever eaten the mushroom in Cape Town, when we found one near my parents' house. I saw them in the Prospect Park Woods, but given the evidence left behind of the human activities that took place there I had no intention of eating anything from those logs. So this was my first New York City specimen.

I removed half the fans from that big central rosette. As it is, we have more than we can eat. (The cooking-of warrants its own post.)

Walking out of the woods I looked down to find what I was really scouting for, the choice hen of the woods (Maitake - Grifola frondosa), still dewy fresh. The first one of the season, for me. October is their month

I needed a mycologist walking-partner. Tiny orange fungi stippled tree bark.

And squeezed from cracks in logs.

 Ubiquitous turkey tails (Trimetes versicolor) frilled fallen trees, everywhere.

I walked north and home, plotting menus.

(The next Central Park wild edibles walk will be on Saturday, October 11th, 12pm- 2pm.)


  1. Hi Marie,

    Glad that your mushroom foraging was productive. But I stick to the grocery store for my shrooms!

    What kind of tree is that in your first pix? And are the berries edible? My backyard is full of these trees! Thanks!


    1. The berries belong to a 'weed': pokeweed, Phytolacca americana, an indigenous vegetable eaten in the South and known as poke or pork salet. The young spring shoots are cooked, and are very good. The red parts of stems and leaves and the raw parts are toxic, as are the seeds. The fruit is edible but not very pleasant.

  2. Hi Marie,

    I think that the little yellow mushrooms are Fuligo septica as shown in this video. See-updated-version- Slime mold time lapse. Myxamoeba: Giant amoeba engulfs rock



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