Wild Mushroom Hunting

After a very dry summer in the Midwest and in much of the nation, mushroom hunting season is upon us again. Wild mushroom hunting can be a great excuse for a tromp through the woods, can be a great source of delicious food, and it can also be a way to supplement farm income. In addition to our page on Mushroom Production, Beginning Farmers has been reporting on mushroom hunting for several years. And you can find an overview of how to hunt wild mushrooms at http://www.beginningfarmers.org/wild-mushroom-hunting-tis-the-season/.

Grifola Picture

Hen of the Woods 2012

As anyone who follows the mushroom hunting posts on this blog knows, my personal favorite is Grifola frondosa (hen of the woods, or Maitake). And here is a picture of one I found about a week ago. Prized not only for it's delicious taste, research on Maitake mushrooms have shown that they have immune boosting and anti-tumor properties, can lower blood pressure, balance blood sugar levels, and can increase the effectiveness of chemotherapy drugs*. They are also sold for $20 per pound or more, and can be quite large. The one in the picture here was about 3 pounds (fresh weight).
Hen of the Woods

Chicken of the Woods 2012

Another favorite of mine is Laetiporous sulphureus(sulfur shelf, chicken of the woods). These mushrooms are not only beautiful (see pictures), they have a fantastic taste.
Young Sulfur shelf

Young Chicken of the woods 2012

Some people think they taste like chicken (I know, people think a lot of things taste like chicken) which is how they got their common name. But I think they have flavor that is unlike anything else. I found a few today as you can see in the included photos. They can get really woody as they age and are best when harvested young and fresh.

Like most mushrooms, I like both these species cooked well in butter or oil until crispy, but if you look around you can find lots of recipes for using both in different ways.

Though both the Hen and the Chicken are very distinctive looking, it’s important not to try any wild mushroom unless you are absolutely sure of it’s edibility. A number of books featured on our Mushroom Production Page have excellent keys for identifying wild mushrooms. Another great way to learn which wild mushrooms are edible is to find a group of experienced mushroom hunters in your area, and to go on “forays” with them.

Happy hunting everyone!

*Health claims are based on a review of scientific research papers, but anyone interested in mushrooms for medical treatment should consult a physician before use.

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