Sixth Issue, June 2000
Published about twice a year from Greenville, California
by Herman Brown
herman@fungi-zette.com
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Contents:

Comment

Well, the fungus-finding season is over up here for a while. Summer may bring forth a few hardy species, but the continued warm, dry weather doesn't look too promising.

This issue follows a season of less than desirable rainfall, but morels were pretty plentiful in some areas. We found enough ourselves to last us for a spell.  We did find many other mushrooms, however.

We had been told that the best spots to look for morels were on the site of a logging operation that had been finished for 1-3 years, and at the site of a burn area that was 1-3 years old.  We tried both with pretty good results. 

Some other highlights of this year were the Mycological Society of San Francisco (MSSF) foray near La Porte, going on a foray with a friend and fellow mushroomer (Dewey Shurman) who had moved up this way from Santa Barbara, finding my own morel spots near here, and visiting with Dr. Desjardin at his class at Yuba Pass, going on their Monday foray and seeing many old acquaintances while were there.

So far this year I was able to find and identify a few new species (for me), plus I sent a mysterious clump of mushrooms to Dr. Desjardin at SFSU for his help in identifying it. A copy of his findings is included in this issue.  The new mushrooms included the Calvatia gigantia (Giant Puffball), Geopora cooperi (Fuzzy Truffle), Boletus pinophilus (Spring King Bolete), Boletus regius (Red-Capped Butter Bolete), Boletus rubripes (Red-stemmed Bitter Bolete), Nivatogastrium nubigenum (Gastroid Pholiota),  a Hydnum rimosum (an inedible Hedgehog), and an unidentified Lyophyllum (Mysterious Clump).  The B. pinophilus I thought I had found here in the fall but now know that it is a Spring-only bolete. The Red-Capped Butter Bolete I may have found the first year I was up here, but was not able to get a very good specimen and didn't get to taste it at that time.  The gastroid Pholiota I had found near Yuba Pass when I took the Spring Fungi Class.

This issue is much later than normal. That means that there is a lot of "stuff" in this one.

Foray or Forage? (top)

I sent the following letter to Larry Stickney regarding the use of the words Foray and Forage:

Hi Larry,

I am never sure which term to use when I talk about hunting for mushrooms, FORAY or FORAGE. I looked them both up, and I am still unsure. In my old Webster's College edition dictionary (1957), FORAY is to "raid for spoils, plunder, pillage", and one definition for FORAGE is to "search for food or provisions".

They both sound appropriate to me.

Which one is most often used for mushroom hunting?

-Herman Brown

This was Larry's somewhat beautiful response:

Your dictionary is thoroughly correct in its description of what a foray is. The word comes from Norse origins. It describes what Norsemen did for a living - hit by sea and run with the tide. And while I would not confess to such activity during the hunt for fungi, at least not publicly, because it would be politically incorrect, It IS what we do. I suppose the shunning of the word forage separates our joy and enthusiasm from the mundane business of collecting mere food. We do more than search for sustenance; we search for science and beauty. What we really find is remarkable friends, and we become missionaries for mycology as we organize to further our interest in each other and our joint interest in the outdoors. One studies birds, another fauna, another flowers, another trees, another lichen, another the stars; together we form a grand whole which lies there for the tapping at every outing, especially the overnight ones. Often there is an answer to almost any query right at hand.

Furthermore, from our unique position, we are discovering how basic to life on the planet fungi really are. Our close association with this basic life form, so different from the rest of the world around us, and yet actually biologically closer to fungi than plants, puts us in on the ground floor of the coming revolution that the use of fungi is opening. The rare work that people like Paul Stamets, David Arora, even Taylor Lockwood, are engaged in is just the tip of the amateurs' contributions to our understanding of the fungal world. The often-abstruse work which professional mycologists follow is yet to be appreciated by most of our citizenry, but anyone can appreciate the meaning of the efforts of Paul, David, and Taylor. Bless both disciplines.

Across the country, Foray is The Honorable Word; use it proudly.

-Larry

Findings, February to June 2000 (top)

Wednesday, February 16:   We decided to take advantage of the day of sunshine and follow up on a report from a neighbor who said he had seen a squirrel on a log eating a mushroom, while he was out cutting wood in the forest near here.

Following his directions, we went south out of town. Up a steep dirt road near there, we just started walking. After hiking about 2 miles up the road, we started noticing pieces of discarded mushrooms, namely some Lactarius deliciosus with the stalks and gills chewed off.

Encouraged because we hadn't seen any mushrooms all winter worth mentioning, we began to search more diligently.

In all, we found more L. deliciosus pieces, a large patch of what might have been the L. rufulus, one anise-scented Clitocybe, a few blotchy-pinked Hygrophorus pudorinus and/or purpurascens, some Laccaria laccata, a bird's nest fungus which looked like it was a Crucibulum laeve, various green-fleshed boletes that looked like they had just thawed out, something that reminded me of a gilled bolete, a Lactarius with a slimy, grayish cap and gills that stained dark brown, another Lactarius with dry cream-colored cap with gills that slowly stained brownish-gray, a thawed out Cortinarius, a small mushroom with orange-tinged gills, a small mushroom with brown-tinged gills, and a smaller version of the patch of possible Lactarius rufulus.

Pretty surprising finds for that early in the season.

Friday, February 18:

Mysterious
Close-up view of Mysterious Clump

This interesting clump was covered with pine needles, with hundreds of small 1/4 - 3/8-in diameter mushrooms attached to a mass that looked like an almost completely deflated football. The caps on the small mushrooms were dark brown and the stalks and mass were white. The stalks were about as big as the caps.

I brought the whole thing home, put it in a plate of water, and am hoping that a few will open up overnight.

The mass seems to be solid, and the white inside looks good enough to eat.

A few days later I dried the clump and sent a portion of it to Dr. Dennis Desjardin at San Francisco State University.

The following is a report of his findings:

I got your mysterious mushroom today and I have just looked at it.

It appears to represent an unusual form of a Lyophyllum species. The mass at the bottom is homologous with a group of fused stipes, although there is no indication of fusing in your beast. The mass is not a sclerotium, but just a mass of tissue, exactly as you would find in a single stipe, only your taxon forms many small mushrooms from the apex of the mass. The mushrooms are not parasites on another fungus. The globose, inamyloid spores, clamp connections, incrusted pileipellis hyphae are all consistent with Lyophyllum.

Your specimen does have filamentous cheilocystidia which are present in some species of Lyophyllum. Other than that, Lyophyllum is as close as I can come. The material you sent was not dried very well. I will dry it fully and keep it in the herbarium.

It is a really curious taxon. Thanks for sending it.

Best regards, Dennis Desjardin

Friday, March 31:  Today we were showing a visiting friend a lake outside of town, and I decided to wander through a nearby campground.  Everywhere it seemed disappointedly dry, as there was little snow at that elevation, so I wasn't too thorough as I wandered among the fir and pine trees.

But then I spotted a few Gyromitra gigas/montana, one of my favorites.  I gathered about 6, and because I hadn't brought my basket, placed them all in my upturned sweat-shirt

I continued to wander with my sweat-shirt basket, hoping to find some morels or more Gyromitra, but that seemed to be it for the day!

I then started trying to find that first tree, and just before I decided to quit, I found the tree again plus a few chards left behind after my first gathering.

Then Cecelia saw a bunch more near that same tree, and I even found more too.  I was very happy!

When I got back home, I spent a good part of an hour cleaning the dirt out of the little morsels, put them into a frying pan with a little olive oil, and cooked them at a high heat, trying to keep from breathing the "fumes".  I added three eggs, a pinch of Montreal Seasoning, and finally passed the omelet around for us all to taste.

Everyone thought they tasted pretty good, and with a very good texture.

Monday, April 17:   Today I found and identified my first "truffle". I first thought it was a Snow Mushroom (Gyromitra gigas/montana) that had been stepped on because of its convoluted interior. On closer inspection, there was quite a bit more of it under the ground and a few more near by, so I took some home to try and identify them.

I went to the truffle section of my Mushrooms Demystified and saw a picture of it under "Fuzzy Truffle". I still followed the key at the beginning of the truffle section, and it did turn out to be the Geopora cooperi, listed as edible. I looked a piece over with the microscope later to verify some of the other features.

So I cleaned them (very difficult, just like a Snow Mushroom), cooked them up in a little olive oil, and ate them this morning.

Some were crunchy, a little gritty from the leftover dirt, but all tasted pretty good.

If I find more, I will probably take them home.

Wednesday, April 25:  We went out today for a long bike ride. We weren't seriously looking for any, but we did find a few mushrooms, more than I would expect this early in the year up here. We actually didn't see any until we stopped for a view or a rest, but I wasn't able to get very good specimens without having my trusty basket. This is most of what we found:

The first was an Agaricus that stained yellow slightly all over, probably an A. sivicola. Next to that was a few of the pink-lined Sarcosphaera crassa, which I first thought were some Rhizopogons until I dug them out and found that they were hollow. Close by, I found what l was probably a good-sized Melanoleuca evenosa.

Later, along the side of the road in a section of sandy soil, we found a group of Amanitas that were developing completely under the ground, were mostly all-white, had a fairly distinct partial veil, and had a thick, collar-like vulva.

At another stop we found a big patch of the beautiful, pink-streaked Hygrophorus purpurascens, and at another stop, a bunch of yellow-staining Agaricus that stained more than slightly. The gills were pink on the youngest ones I found for each type of Agaricus, but I didn't find any buttons.

I also found under ground what looked and felt like a light-gray Hygrophorus, but the spores tuned out to be amyloid.

It looks like we will now get more serious about looking for Spring mushrooms.

Monday, May 1: Today was a pretty good day for finding mushrooms. We had heard that there was a buyer in Chester who was paying $12.50 a pound for morels. We decided to check it out and see if the buyer knew where the morels were being found.

We couldn't find the buyer, so we went to the same spot where I found my first morels 2 years ago. On the way out of the area, Cecelia stopped me in my tracks before I could step on a fairly good-sized morel. That was the only one we found in the area, so we headed towards home.

On the way home, I though I'd check out a section of the forest I had never been to. It looked to me like morel country.

After zigzagging around the forest for about an hour, we were about ready to give up when Cecelia stopped me again. Here was a nice group of 7 large, fresh, morels.

Encouraged by that find, we went over some of the same ground again, and after our eyes got calibrated for the morels, they seemed to be everywhere! In a short time, our basket was full enough for the day, which was about ready to end, so we walked slowly back to the truck.

On the way back we kept finding more morels in little clusters, mostly in disturbed soil under fir, in shallow draws.

We also saw more of the beautiful Hygrophorus purpurascens, many purple Sarcosphaera crassa (which I tried to collect whole), and what looked like a very old, dried chanterelle and a couple of old, dried boletes. They weren't completely dried, and the flesh inside almost looked edible. It is hard to understand how they survived the winter.

As soon as we got home, I cleaned the morels and Cecelia made a tasty sauce with about a quart of them, which we put over our steak, potatoes, and vegetables. Yum!

Most of the morels we found were clean and white inside, and all were varmint-free!

I dried the rest of them.

After dinner I cleaned the Sarcosphaera, sliced them in thin slivers, and cooked them slowly in some olive oil with salt and crushed oregano.

The texture was pretty good, nothing like the bad report in Demystified. They seemed to pick up the flavor of the herbs very nicely. I think they should work well in many recipes. I will probably put them in an omelet tomorrow morning.

Tuesday, May 2: We went back to the same area as yesterday, hoping to extend our search for more morels. Most of the morels we did find were in the same area as we went over before and again and again. As our eyes got more calibrated, we would find them in places we had walked over moments before.

We didn't find as many as the day before, but it was still great fun and we were able to bring back about 3 quarts cleaned.

Cecelia is now making a nice-smelling meal using most of the freshest ones, and I am drying the rest.

My Sarcosphaera crassa omelet was okay this morning, but adding the herbs was a bad idea for trying to test the texture and taste, as was addition of a few potatoes.

They would be okay to pick if there was nothing else to find. Today there were hundreds of them, along with some Discina perlata, both of which I decided to leave behind.

Friday, May 5: We went to north again today. We didn't find any morels, but we did find some of the Yellow Coral mushroom, Ramaria rasilispora, and I also found and identified my first Armillaria olida, which I identified probably only because my book was already at that page when I opened it. The veil wasn't very obvious, but the common name fit: Cucumber Armillaria. We found a few more mushrooms, most of them Melanoleuca.

We then went BACK to the same morel place we had been frequenting, just to see if we could find a few for my neighbor to see. We picked a good basketful again! In most cases, the Sarcosphaera crassa was always close by.

The Ramaria we first tried raw and it tasted kind of like uncooked cauliflower. We also added some to a chicken recipe, but the Ramaria seemed to taste better, and had the best texture, raw. It wasn't nearly as hard to clean as I thought it would be.

I will probably collect it again when I find it and put it chopped raw in a salad.

Saturday, May 13: This morning we went to join the MSSF (Mycological Society of San Francisco) morel foray. We decided not to camp overnight with the group, so we left early in the morning to try to get there by their scheduled departure time.

The first part of the foray started with a few members finding some Gyromitra esculenta at a recent logging operation. After a short stay, we all headed off towards a recent burn area.

After a fast trip winding through the wilderness, we had to stop the caravan because of deep snow across the road but we could see part of the burn from where we stopped. Some were able to pile into the three 4WD vans that were able to get through the snow, while the rest of us walked about a 1/4 mile to the burn area.

The first place we searched was fairly productive. It took me quite a while for my eyes to get calibrated to the light-colored morels, and before we decided to try another area, I had found some pretty large ones. These were on a southerly-facing slope, in the fir, and in a depression that was exposed to the sun.

At the next stop we hit pay dirt! There were morels EVERYWHERE, and to me it was like a dream. As soon as you would stoop over to pick one, you would see several more, and some of us just sat on the ground while we picked the area within arm's reach.

These were all fresh, varmint-free, many were pretty large, and best of all, we had the whole area to ourselves! Again, most of the morels were located on a southerly-facing slope, in the firs, and those that seemed to be the largest were where there was the most sun exposure.

When our basket was full (about 5pm), we decided to head back towards home. The basket was getting pretty heavy to carry over the slopes, and we both were getting pretty tired.

What nice memories to bring home with us, plus all those morels!

Wednesday, May 17: We hadn't planned to go looking for mushrooms, but we had stopped at the mushroom buyer's office to see if they had received any boletes yet. I was shown what they called an edulis, but probably was the Spring King Bolete, or B. pinicola/pinophilus. It seemed too tacky to the touch for an edulis, but it was beautiful, with a reddish-brown cap and as firm as it could be. A button that I was shown still had the white pores, but a larger one already had the yellow pores. I was told they weren't from the immediate area, but they didn't know where they had been picked. The buyers said they had been receiving a few tan ones and white ones too. The woman said they call them all King Boletes, and paid the same price for all, depending on age.

She told me about an area where the pickers were still finding fresh morels, and we decided to check it out.

The area had been picked over pretty good, but we did eventually find a few. We also found more of the Yellow Coral Mushroom, three beautiful Calvatia sculpta with the larger pyramidal ornamentation, a solitary Amanita muscaria with a brownish-orange cap, a large tan mushroom that looks like it might turn out to be a Melanoleuca evenosa, and lots of those ever-present purple Sarcosphaera crassa.

It looks like the recent rain has done some good!

Thursday, May 18: This morning I wanted to check out an area that I had seen before that had looked promising.  I told Cecelia that I would be right back.  I was gone a little longer than I thought, but I brought back over 3 lbs of Morels!

On the way to the spot, I thought I'd check an area where we'd seen a few logging trucks parked last year.  As soon as I got out of the car, I knew I had found a place where the pickers had missed.

The morels were easy to see among the pine needles as well as among the fir.  They sure are fun to find.  I picked and walked until I almost filled my basket.

When I finally got to the spot I was heading for, I only found a few morels but on the way saw three too-old Gyromitra gigas/montana, plus an Amanita muscaria and two clumps of Yellow Coral mushrooms.  As before, the trusty Sarcosphaera crassa were always somewhere nearby.

I still got home before lunch!  It sure is nice to be able to find something good so close to home.

Most of the morels were pretty large, fresh, and bug-free.  The largest weighed about a 1/4-lb.

Sunday, May 21: Today was another pretty good day for finding mushrooms. A friend of ours from Santa Barbara, Dewey Shurman, who now lives in Chico, came to town to join us on a search at a potential morel picking site I had just noticed. Dewey was disappointed about his morel-less search at a burn site yesterday, so I hoped to find a few up here for him to see, as it had been quite a spell since he had seen any in the wild.

The first site we checked was not very good, so I decided to go back to the last place I had found some before, knowing I had probably missed more than a few.

When we arrived at the spot, there was a couple of pickers already at MY SPOT, but they only had small paper bags, so I figured they weren't that serious about collecting any in numbers.

Not far from the car, I found a few nice and large fresh morels. Next to the edge of the site, I found remains of a few boletes. I recognized them as the Spring King Bolete I had yet to find in this area. I gathered all the pieces and then found a few more nearby.

I was fairly excited as they varied in size from buttons to large, meaning there were more to be found. Plus, until then, I didn't even know they could be found up here. Spring has always been mainly for concentrating on morels!

By the end of the day, we had found more than a few patches of morels and King Boletes, some even along the side of the road next to the truck!  On the way back, we drove the truck very slowly, checking out both sides of the road. Too hard to spot anything, especially when you are trying to see boletus mounds AND morels. Next time I am going to just walk the road.

We also brought back with us a few ornate softball-sized puffballs, probably Calvatia sculpta.

Wherever we went, we would always seem to find at least a few morels, and Dewey found some in fairly large patches. I know Dewey went home satisfied with his heavy sack of mushrooms.

Very soon after I got home, I cooked up one of the boletes to taste and compare it to the somewhat disappointing King Boletes that I usually find here in the fall. NO COMPARISON!  The smells from the kitchen were captivating and the flavor and texture were superb. I cooked up the rest for later and then cooked all the morels in the leftover porcini oil and broth after first cutting the morels edge-wise into morel doughnuts.

What a taste treat to be able to enjoy more in future meals!

Monday, May 22: Later today, I decided to see if any King Boletes could be found closer to home. They can. I went to the lake 3 miles from town and found enough to give me the incentive to come back tomorrow and bring an extra pair of eyes. I figured there should be some near. I wasn't disappointed with what I found.

The first one I found was right near where I started to enter the forest. I found one more while walking into the forest and decided to leave, as it was already fairly late.

As in many times before, I didn't find more until I got close to where I parked the truck. Then I found quite a few near the side of the road and decided to drive slowly and just see what I could find that way. I did found a few. The last were found just before I got back into the truck.

On the way out, I took a few of the younger ones to the owners of a resort on the lake, partly for their culinary enjoyment, but mainly with the intent that they might call me whenever they found some in the future.

It was very warm today, so I don't think any young, fresh ones will be around much longer. Some of the larger specimens were already inhabited by hungry pests.  Got to get busy out there before it's too late!

I sure love this area!

Wednesday, May 24: Not too much to report, just to say I went north to a campground out of town and found a few more King Boletes, several Amanita muscaria, var. formosa, with the yellow cap and white warts, a half dozen morels, a platter full of Discina perlata (for tomorrow's breakfast) and a very unusual puffball-like mushroom.

Here is the description I sent to Dr. Dennis Desjardin: Another Mystery

"It kind of looks like a puffball that exploded. It is about 2" high, 5" roundish, no peridium to speak of, and has 4-5 roots coming out of the center at the bottom. It consist mainly of a mass of soft flesh, kind of like a puffball just before the spore mass changes, and could easily be mistaken from the distance for a pile of marshmallows. I don't think I will be able to key it out with the books I have here.

I am saving the mysterious mushroom in a refrigerated paper bag in case I visit Dr. Desjardin at his fungi class.

Later, he identified it as a half-eaten Calvatia gigantea (Giant Puffball).

Thursday, May 25: I went for a long walk, hoping to find some Boletus pinophilus.  As I approached the path, I found a large, fresh morel.  This one weighed in at 1/4 lb!

No Boletus Pinophilus, but I did find two new mushrooms for me.  The first was an inedible hedgehog, a Hydnum rimosum, with its violet tones.  I am looking forward to observing the warted spores under the microscope.

The second was a beautiful but also inedible (bitter), Boletus rubripes.  It had a tan cap, bright yellow pores, was bright yellow at the apex of the stalk, with bright red stalk below.  In Arora's Demystified, he calls it the Red-Stemmed Bitter Bolete.  Good name

I also saw lots more of the Amanita muscaria, with the caps ranging in color from pale to bright yellow.

On the way back, I found a few more morels.

Tuesday, May 30: Took my neighbor with me on a short trip north of town.  I hoped that there might still be some Boletus pinophilus around.

We poked around in a campground for a while, but only found a few worth picking, and after tasting a Ramaria rasilispora that I told him was edible, he wanted to pick them all to take home. So he picked a pile of the dirty Yellow Coral Mushrooms, and then a small puffball, probably a young Calvatia sculpta. He took a bite out of it and decided it was worth taking home too. No pinophilus though.

Because it seemed a bit dry at that elevation, we decided to try a little higher up.

When we stopped near a logging operation up there, we found more Ramaria, and a couple of what I now decided is the Agaricus sivicola. I had given him a taste of one that morning and he wanted to take these back with him. Still no pinophilus.

On the way out, I spotted something that looked like a B. pinophilus jutting out of the side of the road on the embankment. When I got out, I saw that it had the right-colored cap, but the stalk and pores were both bright yellow and it started turning blue before I got it to the truck. I took it with me it to see if I could identify it later

Farther down the road he saw something white sticking out of the duff, so we stopped to see what it was. What it was, was the remains of a deer-eaten Boletus pinophilus. We took the remains with us.

When I got home, I was showing him the MykoWeb website, and found a picture of the B. appendiculatus. My new mushroom looked very much like it except for the red cap, and the flesh was not very firm, as was described on the web page.

When I opened Demystified, I saw the Red-Capped Butter Bolete (B. regius) listed, and the description fit mine exactly. This is a new one for me and is in the pan as I type. It filled our biggest frying pan!

Not too bad for a short trip.

Friday, June 2:  Cecelia and I decided to try our hand at morel picking today at a year-old burn site. We didn't do too well at first so I figured we were at the wrong elevation. We went a little higher up, and we did a bit better. At the third stop along the highway, a little farther up, we found a few and decided to get serious.

Soon we found a few patches of pretty large ones. We found much evidence of other pickers, but I think we either were picking their rejects, or the small morels we found had sprouted up since they left. The mushroom buyer and commercial pickers were nowhere to be found, so we pretty much had the area to ourselves. If we stopped to rest, we would find morels where we missed them before.

In about 2 hours, we found at least 3 lbs, pretty good considering the competition. Most of the bigger ones were found in the draws farther from the main road or under the overhang of large downed logs. Moisture was the key, and there wasn't much left of that where we hunted.

We did have a fun day exploring new frontiers, and also brought home a nice basket full of morels.

Sunday, June 4: Today we went back to the burn site and found only a handful of small morels. I guess the multitude of pickers finally took its toll.

Monday, June 5: This morning we went to visit Dr. Dennis Desjardin and his class at the Spring Fungi of the Sierra Nevada class at Yuba Pass. We were going mainly to visit our friend, Mathew Kierle, who was repeating the class. I also brought my mysterious pile-of-marshmallows puffball to show Dennis.  He identified it as a partially-eaten Calvatia gigantia (Giant Puffball). This was a another new one for my list.

We also got the pleasure of visiting (and hunting) with Fred Stevens and Mike Wood.

We got there just in time to go with the class on their first foray. In spite of the dry conditions, Mathew and we brought back a pretty good variety of specimens.

Some that I remember were the yellow coral mushrooms, some beautiful Mycena overholtzii, various Hygrophorus, puffballs, Cortinarius, an aging Agaricus silvicola, and another that Dennis later said was a light yellow Amanita muscaria var. formosa.

On the way home, we went to a spot recommended by Fred and found a few medium-sized Boletus pinophilus.

Thanks Fred.

We stopped in Quincy to talk to the mushroom buyer-couple who had previously been in Chester, and was told that they were not receiving many morels from the burn site, that the pickers were mostly gone, and those that were still there were having to walk a LONG way to find any morels. They told me they only actually had two days of buying large quantities of morels. I also found out that they dried the morels in the sun before they sold them to the broker. The price they ( the buyers) would pay pickers for dried ones was $50 a pound and $5 a pound for fresh #1's. They were no longer buying boletes as most were worm-infested. Another great and interesting day!

Friday, June 16: Today we took a long ride up the mountain to enjoy the cooler climate up there and maybe take a short hike.

It was pretty late when we finally got there, so we decided to take one of the nearest hiking trails.

We didn't get too far because of the snow, but on the way back, we found a few snow bank mushrooms, one Discina perlata, and a puffball, most likely a Calvatia fumosa.

One of the mushrooms growing near the snow I remembered from last year's Sierra Spring Fungi class, the Gastroid Pholiota, or Nivatogastrium nubigenum. This was the first time I had identified one up here.

The 4 others I brought home all yielded a white spore print, one definitely being amyloid, and might have keyed out to be a Melanoleuca evenosa except that it had a hollow stem.

For the others, I will have to wait until I find them again and get a better physical description of the fresh specimens. What notes I took before taking the spore print didn't give me enough to get a positive I.D.

Not a bad Spring!

A Recipe for Stuffed Portobellos (top)

(Submitted by Larry Stickney)

Many people are not aware that the Portobello is nothing more than the mature cremino (plural: cremini) mushroom, which in turn is simply a brown variant of the commonly cultivated white mushroom.  The overgrown mushrooms were often discarded until some forgotten marketing genius started selling them under the name "Portobello" sometime in the '80s.  Since then, the heirs to that genius have begun marketing "Baby Portobello" mushrooms at a price significantly higher than their identical cremino twins.  Don't be fooled - when given the option, buy the cremini rather than the so-called baby Portobellos.

Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms

8 large Portobello mushrooms
1 Tbs (15 ml) olive oil
2 red bell peppers (capsicum), seeded and finely chopped
2 green bell peppers (capsicum), seeded and finely chopped
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 scallions (spring onions), green and white parts, thinly sliced
5 - 8 cloves garlic (to taste), finely chopped
tsp (2 ml) each: dried basil, oregano, and thyme
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
6 oz (175 g) goat's cheese (optional)
Additional sliced scallions for garnish

Remove the stems from the Portobello's, chop and reserve. Place the whole mushroom caps, smooth side down, on a lightly greased baking sheet and bake in a preheated 425F (220C) oven for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a skillet over moderate heat and sauté the mushroom stems, bell peppers, onion, scallions, and garlic until tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the herbs and cook an additional 2 minutes.  Spoon the vegetable mixture into the mushroom caps and top with the cheese if desired. Bake an additional 10 minutes, or until the mushrooms are tender and the cheese has melted. Sprinkle with sliced scallions and serve immediately. Serves 4 (2 mushrooms per person).

Bon appetit from the Chef and staff at World Wide Recipes.

- Larry

A Most Memorable Hunt (top)

The following (long) report is from a fellow MSSF member, sent after his visit to the Lewiston burn site (pictures are from the author:

Subject: The Morel Hunt

This was our first time hunting for Morels by ourselves so we had no idea what to expect. A couple years back we went with to the Sierras with a group from the Santa Cruz Fungus Federation and found 4 or 6 little 1" morels in an hour of the two of us looking.

This year, after reading reports of good luck at the Lewiston burn, we decided to head up in that direction.  We were a little daunted, imagining showing up in a huge forested section of the state with no idea of where to go or what to do...so we prepared as best we could. We found maps online of showing the boundaries of the burn so we
printed them out as well as buying a topographic map of the area.  We got in the car and headed out at 4:30pm on Tuesday afternoon.  From our home (mid-peninsula) to Redding was only a 4hr 15min drive through rush hour in SF. We stayed overnight at a hotel in Redding and got up at 8am to get an early start.

First thing we did was find the district office of the National Forest Service in Redding at about 9am to get a permit for our days hunt. This ended up being a total waste of time. Their front desk person checked with some other people and called around to several other ranger stations. The policy as she knew it was that the permit was free if you were collecting for your own use (non-commercial) ...but you still had to get the permit. Eventually she said "we don't have any mushrooms in this area, so we don't have any permits." (!) We also discovered that each "unit" or area of control has to issue its own permits and one National Forest Service location cannot sell permits for any other area. According to this central office, the only place nearby selling permits was a ranger station 30 miles north and she had no idea how BLM, National Recreation Area, or National Park Services might handle the permit issue. We gave up.

We got on 299 heading west and drove 'til we got to the turn-off to Lewiston going north.  This was perhaps 40 minutes of driving on windy mountain roads, further than we had thought it was going to be.  Once we turned on the exit, we knew the burn area was nearby.   As we drove along we saw a few cars pulled over into turnouts and figured that they were probably other mushroomers.  As we got a mile or so in towards Lewiston, we started seeing signs of the burn and at 3.8 miles from the Lewiston turnoff on 299, we pulled into a turnoff and parked at about 10:30 am.

Perhaps 10 minutes after getting out, we found our first morel.

Hurray!

The area was/is completely devastated. Almost all of the trees were charred and dead and many have been cut down as part of an attempt to re-habilitate the mountain. The area had large jumbles of logs and fallen trees and the morels seemed to grow primarily in water run off areas with branches and logs. The area seems like a nightmare for erosion and runoff. 

But... there were morels everywhere. Our worries about having no idea how we'd find a good spot or any morels at all were very quickly put to rest.  Our first hour, we perhaps collected 3/4 pound each of decent quality morels within 1/8 of a mile of where we parked our car.

The area was obviously heavily picked and there were a few other mushroom collectors around, several 'commercial' pickers (people living in their van collecting and selling mushrooms as a way to live on the road).  Nice & friendly people. I think everyone was in a generous mood because the morels were coming up everywhere.

On our second outing, we went a long way up the hill along one of the 'roads' which are trails created in the hillside by some sort of treaded CAT or tractor.  We walked up and away perhaps 3/4 mile overhead distance, perhaps 1.5 miles by foot (?) and straight up perhaps 250 or 300 feet to near the peak.  The ground was totally soft, wet, and sandy pebbly mush with miner's lettuce, small poison oak, and perhaps 5 or 10 other common low green plants.  The poison oak was relatively easy to avoid as most of the ground had no plants at all so the bright red/green leaves of the new poison oak stood out clearly. 

The morels were in all stages of development, from the very old 10" long beasts to the pin-head proto-caps.  Morels grew along the road, but they seemed to cluster most in the valleys and along the many rivulets cut into the hillside.   It seemed like the more secure the ground and the more grass or miner's lettuce, the less likely there were to be morels. 

The experience of finding the morels was one of playful joy on every find. Our first really productive spot was along one of the upper roads in a valley where there was a log jam.  At the start of our second outing, we hadn't found many in 30 minutes or so and were talking about how far up we were willing to go when Earth  saw one morel and stopped to pick it.  As soon as we stopped, Fire saw that she was standing in the middle of a large fruiting, perhaps 10-15 2" long golden morels.  We sat down right there and eventually found perhaps 1/2 a lunch paper bag full of them within 20 feet of that spot.

It was sooo much fun to experience the pattern recognition systems kick in. Looking at the ground and seeing no mushrooms and suddenly something switches, my brain says "ding ding ding, morels detected" and suddenly there are 30 identifiable mushrooms in the same field of vision.   At one point about 6 hours into the hunt,  I was standing looking at the ground seeing no morels, but it seemed a highly likely area to contain some, so I decided to bob my head up and down a little to get slightly different angles.  Moving my head deliberately caused the mushrooms in plain sight to jump out and my brain immediately sounded the morel alarm and highlighted the mushrooms in my view.  Weird and fun.

The hike up the mountain was pretty difficult and definitely required hiking boots, long pants, and long sleeves.  Some parts of it were a little more like a climb than a hike.  By the time we got to the top road, we were physically tired but mentally energized by the fun of finding so many.  We were as far away from our car as we were going to go, but our shoulder bags were now full.  At the top we found one area we called "the valley of the giants" which was an area with lots of very old and large morels.  We found many  3-5" long 2-3" wide morels, but many were no longer edible.  I think we came back with perhaps 10 or so of this size that were still edible.

One thing we noted along the hike was that there were boot prints indicating that someone had been there before us virtually everywhere we went, but walking in someone else's tracks did not seem to reduce the chance of finding large un-plundered growths.

We finally made it back to our car about 5pm after finding several more areas near the peak that we were loathe to leave because they were so rich with beautiful, clean, upright 2-3" cap golden morels.  We just couldn't fit anymore in our shoulder bags.  We had been using brown paper lunch bags and they had mostly turned into mush on our hike, so we rebagged all the morels in fresh paper bags, perhaps 1/4 pound per bag to keep them drier.

Although we were getting pretty physically tired at this point, we still had a couple hours of light left and knew a great place at the top of the mountain to go back to.  So we went back up. 

This time when we got back up, there were a couple of experienced morel pickers there filling their baskets and we tried to stay out of their way.  They were quite friendly and we joked good-naturedly with them about the bountiful harvest.  We finally decided to stop as the light started to fade about 6:45 and made it back to our car with another 2 fullish shoulder bags.  We repacked everything, changed all our clothes, washed our hands, wiped our boots down with wet-ones and tried to quarantine everything that might have poison oak contamination (both of us are quite allergic to it). It was apparently successful.

We got back on the road about 7:40. The drive back to Redding is a little twisty for my tastes in the gloaming dark while physically overtired.  I think I would choose to leave about an hour before dark instead of 30 minutes before in order to have nice light for the drive back to Redding.  We stopped a couple of times to hydrate, pee, and fill up the tank and made it back to the Bay Bridge at about midnight.

For the whole drive back we both saw morels in everything, in the shapes of the trees, in the patterns in the darkness, behind closed eyelids, the shapes made by oncoming headlights off in the distance. It was like our pattern recognition systems had been so hyper tuned towards finding morels and we had spent so long during the day looking at them that now they lived as after images in our vision.  We both found this amusing.

When we got home, we weighed the mushrooms we had collected and it turned out to be about 15 lbs from about 7.5 hours of picking between 2 people.  Just about a pound an hour.  We laid them out on a sheet in our living room, took some pictures, then spent the next 2 hours cleaning and sorting them.  We cut virtually all of them lengthwise to make it easy to check for mites or bad parts and easy to blow or tap out any sand or mites.  We stored them in the fridge and finally made it to bed about 3:30am.

A long and totally wonderful day.  One of the most memorable and fun days of the last 10 years.

What still remains now is going through them one final time, try to wash the few really dirty ones that went into the Soup Sort to see if they can be washed effectively and then dry almost all of them, saving some for dinner tonight :)  The rest to store and give as presents and use to make special dinners for friends.

Hope this is useful or fun for someone else to read. We were very pleased that it was possible to just jump in the car, head out with no real experience, and have a wonderful successful day of collecting. 

- Earth & Fire

Featured Mushroom, Boletus appendiculatus (Butter Bolete) (top)

This mushroom is one of my favorites to look for in the summer, not only because there are not very many mushrooms to find here at that time of year, but mainly because it has the firm flesh and shape of a King Bolete.  It differs mostly from the King Bolete in that it has yellow flesh that turns blue when bruised or cut, and it is not quite as tasty as either the B. edulis or B. pinophilus but has similar texture when cooked.  It can be used in all recipes calling for the King Bolete or Porcini.

I usually find it north of town, above the 6000-ft. elevation.

Here is the link to the Boletus appendiculatus at the Mykoweb website: Boletus appendiculatus (name change)

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