From time to time I offer mushroom walks and identification classes, and this coming Saturday, October 3, I am going to be leading a foray at Pickards Mountain Eco-Institute in Chapel Hill, NC.
This post is for those of you who are attending, as well as others who are wondering what mushrooms to look for around the North Carolina Triangle in this coming week or two, so even if you’re not coming to the mushroom foray, hopefully this post will be useful to you!
Edited to Add:
I am going to be bringing some fresh hen of the woods with me, so even if we don’t find any great edible mushrooms on the foray, we’ll have something tasty to sample! I was lucky enough to find a sizable hen (Grifola frondosa) in Black Mountain, NC this past weekend, and there’s definitely enough to share!
Yours In Fungal Fancy,
Pickards Mountain Eco-Institute – Habitats and Overview
Pickards Mountain Eco-Institute is a great place for wild mushroom hunting because it has a variety of classic NC Piedmont habitats, all of which are close to the central grounds of the farm. Pickards Mountain is a farm, educational center, and ongoing sustainability/community-building project that offers a wide array of leadership classes, internships, and workshops on sustainable agriculture, foraging, and other self-sufficiency topics.
As for my mushroom walk at Pickards Mountain, here are a few of the mushroom species we should be on the lookout for this weekend. If you’re not coming to the foray, you should note these species as well, because if you’re interested in eating delicious North Carolina wild mushrooms, these are a few of the stars of the show during this transitional period between summer and fall.
Black Trumpets, Craterellus fallax
The eastern black trumpet mushroom, Craterellus fallax, grows with hardwoods all around the eastern United States and other spots east of the Rocky Mountains. Ranging from jet-black in color to brown-grey, the black trumpet is also a delicious edible mushroom. Sadly, it’s a bit hard to spot, but it often grows in low-lying areas where there is ample moisture. Inside stump holes, on the edges of irrigation ditches, and other semi-saturated environments are often home to Craterellus fallax. For more information, check out this post about Craterellus fallax and other edible members of the Craterellus genus.
Chicken of the Woods, Laetiporus sulfureus
Although the so-called white chicken of the woods (Laetiporus cincinnatus) has likely finished fruiting for the year, there is a good chance we will find the “classic” chicken of the woods (Laetiporus sulfureus) this weekend. This mushroom really DOES taste like chicken, and at its best, it is tender and delicious. Sometimes it gets a little tough and some people do have allergic reactions to them, but on the whole this is a great edible species that’s common and often gets quite large. For a rundown of this mushroom, look at this chicken of the woods overview post from a few months ago.
Hen of the Woods or Maitake, Grifola frondosa
This mushroom is one of the finest edible species that grows east of the Rocky Mountains, and it comes up in large, leafy fruiting bodies that are mottled black, grey, and buff. It has a polyporous surface underneath an abundance of small fingers of fungus. This leafy appearance also looks a good bit like the feathers on a rounded, chubby bird, hence the American common name hen of the woods. Although it may yet be a little early for Grifola frondosa to be out in force, it’s still well worth looking for. This mushroom grows at the base of oak trees, and in my experience around the NC Triangle, it appears to favor black and pin oak.
Although I have not written an in-depth post about this mushroom (YET!), it certainly makes my list of Top 10 Edible NC Mushrooms and you can find a little more detail in that particular blog post if you’re so inclined.
Fish Cap Lactarius Species, Lactarius volemus and Lactarius corrugis
These mushrooms are a favorite of east coast mushroom hunters, and although they look different, they have a similar meaty flavor that’s favored by many a forager. Both these mushrooms are in the orange range with white gills that bleed a milky latex when cut. Lactarius volemus smells of fish (although it cooks off in preparation) and has very ample latex that turns lemon-yellow, whereas Lactarius corrugis has white latex that stains brown. Another distinguishing feature of Lactarius corrugis is its reddish-brown cap, which has a faintly wrinkled or “corrugated” appearance.
Hericium erinaceus, Hericium coralloides, and Hericium americanum: The Bear’s Head and Lion’s Mane Mushrooms
These toothy, snowy white fungi grow in hardwood trees, often nestled in knots in oak trees or gashes in the bark. Although each species of Hericium looks a little different, they’re choice edibles that I think taste like good crab. Also, these mushrooms contain potent medicinal properties, including the capacity to improve neurological functioning. These mushrooms are rarely found near the ground, because they most often reside in living trees, but if you find a downed hardwood log, be sure to check for lion’s mane! For more on this group of species, I suggest taking a peek at this post on Hericium mushrooms that I wrote some time back.
All Kinds of Other Stuff!
I have simply noted (just a few) of the choice edible mushrooms that we might find at Pickards Mountain this coming weekend, but the truth of the matter is that there are literally hundreds of amazing mushroom species that are bound to come to fruition (see what I did there?) in this next week. What with the ample rain and the excellent habitat conditions at Pickards Mountain, I am sincerely hopeful we will come out of the woods with some things to be happy about, curious about, and intrigued by. Hope to see you there!