And, just like that, we’re back to the relatively cool, wet weather we’ve been enjoying for so much of the spring and summer so far. On Wednesday afternoon, while I was working on a recording project, a storm rolled in from the west, with an impressive display of lightning and thunder. Although that storm didn’t bring much rain, it was the beginning of the most recent climactic turn; it rained off and on all last night, and was still coming down when I woke up this morning.
Which was a bit unfortunate, as I had for several weeks been planning on spending the day at White Oak Canyon, one of the most impressive bits of Shenandoah NP, and the location of my absolute favorite swimmin’ hole in Virginia. If ever I was looking forward to a hot sunny day, this was going to be the one. But it wasn’t to be, and I wound up spending the day at home, gardening in the drizzly morning, and hanging out with the boys during the cloudy afternoon while they drew comics and I thought about mushrooms.
For it was indeed absolutely prime mushroom weather– overcast and humid, the ground saturated from all the recent rains. Once I made sure the kids were settled and entertaining themselves, I set out to visit some of the nearby chanterelle sites, and quickly filled a basket– they were popping up all over the place today (I didn’t take any photos, as I figured you’ve mostly seen enough chanterelles). Not far from Nashoba, I did encounter this large polypore, which I believe is another hen of the woods (or Matsutake) . I harvested the tender outer tips, and I’m looking forward to trying some out when I get a chance tomorrow morning.
Later in the afternoon, I drove the boys to town to run an errand. These days, I can’t help myself from continually scanning the side of the road for edible mushrooms, there are just so many of them growing everywhere. Mostly I don’t stop, but this particular patch of chanterelles was just too tempting to pass up– my son Sami was interested too, and wanted to come out and help me harvest them.
Later in the afternoon, I worked out a childcare trade which gave me a bit of free time to do a bit more exploring and gathering. I set out under cloudy skies, with a continuous rumble of distant thunder. It seemed like there were storms all around Twin Oaks, but all afternoon, we never got more than a drizzle.
(which was in fact the case– I checked the weather map after I got back, and saw that although it didn’t rain much here today, other nearby parts of central Virginia got 2, 3, and as much as 6 or 7 inches of rain this afternoon. Check out this map, Twin Oaks is about halfway between the + symbol for the town of Louisa and the symbol for highway 64, in the grey ‘rain free’ area)
but back to the hike– as expected, I encountered an amazing quantity and variety of mushroom, edible and otherwise. I remember that as I was planning this journal, I wanted to be sure to make note of the appearance of non-edible mushrooms, and not just focus on the ones I can eat. Although I’ve tried to stick with that, this time of year, there are just too many species, too much diversity to keep track of what is what. There’s just so much growing out there! There’s a species of coral mushroom (white coral?) which is growing all over the woods, sometimes in great abundance…
..there are inedible peppery milk caps growing everywhere, huge mushrooms in crowded white clusters…
..and then there is this mushroom. It’s another one of the milkcap mushrooms (Lactarius genus) , which are so abundant this time of year. But it’s clearly a separate species, one I hadn’t noticed before today, and I found three of them this afternoon. It’s brown, and kind of smooth-capped, and when cut, leaks abundant amounts of white fluid. A small cut from my Swiss-army knife causes the mushroom to lose about 8 drops of fluid, much more than any milkcap I’ve seen before.
Here’s another one, which I’m starting to think is a voluminous latex milky (L. volemus) . It’s one of the most widely collected edible milk cap mushrooms, one of the one’s I’ve been excited about finding and eating this year, but as usual I want to do some thorough research before I go about eating anything new.
This was the third one I found– I tried taking a photo before I picked it, but it came out blurry. I tried doing a google image search for the species, and many of the photos look quite a lot like what I’m finding. I guess the next step is to find some more and do a spore print.
this photo could be entitled “too late.” Some tasty puffballs, long past their edible time under a mushy wilted oyster mushroom.
So, here’s the day’s haul– to start with, I found too many chanterelles to fit into one bowl–that’s probably 8 pounds of chanterelles right there. I’ll be cooking lunch for the community tomorrow, so I think I’ll just go ahead and sautee them all up in a fry pan so everyone can have a taste.
And here are my non-chanterelle finds: at least 3 species of bolete on the left, hen-of-the-woods in the middle, two types of milk cap on the right, along with a piece of what I think might be an edible hedgehog mushroom. Clearly I am going to have to some more research– culinary and otherwise. I think that it the challenge of this summer and fall is going to be not picking more quantity and variety of edible/questionably edible mushrooms than I can research, identify, and cook up.