August 20 – a brief parole

Well, I’ve gotta say, August hasn’t been the best month for the ol’ ObserVA blog, nor for it’s humble author.  A month which started out with me throwing my back out, then saw me getting swamped with indexing work, to the point where walking in the woods taking pictures of everything that I saw seemed like a distant memory.  This past week saw me mostly observing nature in glimpses out of my window, sweatin’ the deadline.  And the times I wasn’t working, I gave myself over to laying around and reading, while my Jiminy Cricket conscience voice nagged me that I really should be working on this journal.

I finally got some free time yesterday, and rewarded myself with a long walk through the woods.  The past week has continued to be unseasonably cool and mostly overcast, definitely feels more like early fall then mid-summer.  Over the weekend, we got quite a bit of rain, which moistened up the woods nicely; when I went out yesterday, I was expecting to find lots of mushrooms, and I wasn’t disappointed.  The variety of fungus that I encountered has far outstripped my rudimentary identification knowledge, and I found myself surrounded by lots of unfamiliar species, more than I could hope to ID.  And I was more in the mood to wander, observe, and enjoy, rather than pore over field guides.  Here’s a bit of what I came across in the damp woods yesterday:

For a couple of days, I’d been seeing this particular mushroom growing near the side of our driveway, and suspected that it might be a cauliflower mushroom.  When I finally got around to doing some research, I confirmed these suspicions, and learned that it is in fact considered one of the choicest edible species.  Here’s what it looked like growing from a log:


and here’s what it looked like all cooked up on my plate–it tasted dee-licious, and I am greatly looking forward to finding more of these! One of my new favorite mushrooms.


When I encountered a squirrel sitting on a log chowing down on some sort of ‘shroom (looked to be some sort of russula), I took it as a sign that it would be a productive day.Image

Siamese twin ‘shrooms!  (I guess they’re called ‘conjoined twins’ now)


I wasn’t sure if these bright orange ones were a clump of jack-o-lanterns, or an immature growth of psychedelic Laughing Jim mushrooms.  I’ve been finding these around here, and while they are known to contain pscilocybin, it seems that they may also contain other toxins that would turn any trip get from eating them into a very bad trip.  As much as I’m excited to discover a psychoactive mushroom growing right here in Virginia, I’m feeling a little bit wary of trying them out.


This red Amanita is nothing special, but I really liked the way it looked against the bright green mossy background.Image

Boletes were abundant– I came across at least 4 different species of them, and at least a dozen of each species.  Many of the delicious red bi-color boletes were huge, waterlogged, and full of bugs, others turned bright blue right away (indicating that they were in fact another species).  In the end, I only wound up with 3 or 4 that I was confident about, but since there were so many species of edibles out there, I didn’t need more than 3 or 4 of any one type.


Here’s what my basket looked like about halfway through the hike.  I don’t know why I didn’t take a picture of the basket at the end, as it was even more impressive.  Still, the mix of colors was quite lovely.


There were lots of milk-caps out today.  This is a  broad category of mushrooms, with dozens of species just here in Virginia (and hundreds worldwide).  Like the boletes, there are some which are edible and considered quite choice, and some which are poisonous (although none are deadly).  I’m starting to learn my way through the milkcaps– starting with the indigo milky (the blue one in the basket above), which is the easiest to identify, and now I’m starting to experiment with the voluminous milky, which is also considered one of the safer ones to eat, and one of the best edibles (there’s also one in the basket above).  Then there are all the orange ones, some of which you can eat, and some of which you can’t.  I think I’ll hold off on those, although, as the photo below shows, they’re quite pretty.  I especially liked the way this one held a little pool of water from all the recent rain.Image

just before I got home, I came across an outcropping of puffballs.  Most of them were too far advanced to eat, but some of them might have been good.  At that point, my basket was overflowing with ‘shrooms, so I didn’t bother with picking them, they were just interesting to look at.


At dinnertime last night, I cooked up the bounty, mixed mushroom medley with just a bit of oil and salt.  Unfortunately I didn’t have my camera with me, although to be honest, they looked more scenic in the basket than in the pan (where they lost a lot of their bright colors).  Included in the medley was: chanterelles (big orange ones and little red ones), cracked-cap russula, three types of boletes, oyster mushrooms, indigo milk caps, and voluminous latex milk-caps.  A nice way to enjoy the season.


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