Monday, October 8, 2018

Mushroom identification: the pigskin poison puffball or earthball

This rotund little mushroom is Scleroderma citrinum, commonly known as the pigskin poison puffball (from here on referred to as PPP).

Pigskin poison puffballs live near the bases or exposed roots of trees, especially oak, maple and conifers. 

PPPs are a very common mycorrhizal species, usually found at the bases of older trees (though sometimes young trees can have them as well), and often among exposed roots. (Mycorrhizal means they have a symbiotic relationship with plants, in this case trees).

As a child, this was my favorite mushroom. In late September and early October I would run around the neighborhood oaks and give each PPP I found a tentatively gentle squeeze. If it felt ready--less firm and slightly squishy--I would stand up, back off, and run two or three steps to jump on the mushroom as hard as I could, so that it would truly explode in a cloud of spores.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Identifying and foraging wild black trumpet mushrooms. Edible, delicious, and easy to ID

This is probably a mushroom I should have introduced in year one. The common name: black trumpet, actually refers to several closely related species: Craterellus fallax (North America), Craterellus cornucopioides (Europe), Craterellus foetidus (Eastern and Mid Western North America), Craterellus caeruleofuscus (North American Great Lakes region), and possibly more. Some of these names are being re-evaluated in the age of DNA testing, and there may prove to be either more or fewer species than we thought. 

In addition to numerous scientific names, these mushrooms also go by a variety of common names,  including: horn of plenty, trumpet of death / trumpet de la mort (in France), devil's trumpet or devil's horn, and black chanterelle. 

From a culinary and foraging standpoint, all of the above appear nearly identical, taste about the same, and can only be distinguished with location, spore prints, microscopic analysis, or small details present in large collections. From here on we will treat them as one in the same. 

This is one of the best tasting wild edible mushrooms you can find. I prefer black trumpets to their more famous cousins, the chanterelles, and to the king bolete/porcini or morels. I compare their flavor positively to truffles, the most expensive of all fungus. However, if you were to simply cook these as you would any other mushroom, they would taste good, but you would be missing out on the best ways to use their flavor. 

Best of all, black trumpets are incredibly easy to ID, with no poisonous look-a-likes, making them perfect for the beginner mushroom hunter. 

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Telluride Mushroom Festival, pt.5: Shrimp Russula

So for my 5th micro-post about what we found at the Telluride Mushroom Festival, another new-to-me mushroom: Russula xeramlelina (and friends), commonly known as the shrimp Russula. It's pretty much the only member of the genus considered to be a choice edible.

Technically R. xeramleina is a European species only, but it's only recently that we realized that the N. American ones are genetically distinct. There are so so many species and subspecies that are classified as "shrimp Russula". According to Michael Kuo, here are the red-cappedAmerican ones: R. squalida (is that the squalid Russula? ),  R. fucosa and R texensis; the latter two are quite rare.

Most, if not all, guidebooks identify the shrimp Russula as R. xeramleina, as they haven't been updated recently. So I really have no idea exactly which variety we were finding in Colorado.

Let's talk about identification, because despite working with local experts, I'm not sure I could ID this one again. It really confuses me!

Friday, August 24, 2018

An Overview of the Genus Cortinarius (Telluride pt. 4)

Note: this post was intended to be a micro-post, but ended up being a summary of pretty much everything I know about the genus Cortinarius, so it'd quite a substantial post indeed!

One of my fellow mushroom hunters in Telluride told me they have a joke out there, that mushrooms that look like these are called "Jac" for "Just Another Cortinarius".

Though from my experience, they could also call them "Jacki" for "Just Another Cortinarius, Kick It". So many of these mushrooms we found had been kicked over, whether from frustration at finding another non-edible species, or as a lazy technique for checking the underside for identification, I'm not sure.

Cortinarius species, commonly called corts or webcaps, are the largest Genus of Agaric (gilled) mushrooms known. They are generally non-edible, some are deadly poisonous, and even the edible ones are generally considered to be poor eating.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Telluride Mushroom Festival pt3: the King Bolete

So for my 3rd micro-post about the mushrooms we found at the Telluride Mushroom Festival: our first-ever King Bolete, aka: Boletus rubriceps.

B. rubriceps was once thought to be B. edulis, which you may have heard of as the Porcini. It's also known as the Cep (France) or the pennybun (United Kingdom). However, DNA studies have shown that B. edulis is native only to Europe. Boletus rubriceps is a close relative, however, and considered to be part of the Boletus edulis "complex".

My husband found the only king bolete of the trip, we were at or around 10,500 ft, up on the side of Lizard Head. The foray lead told us that Amanita muscaria is frequently found nearby, and that its generally easier to find the red A. muscaria then it is to find the brown B. rubriceps, so to look for those, then look around.  (A muscaria is the bright red mushroom with the red spots that everyone thinks of when they think of a mushroom). Sure enough, he found the boletus within a few yards of where others were picking A. muscaria.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Telluride Mushroom Festival pt.2, Albatrellus ovinus

Hey everyone, welcome back for my second micro-post on what I learned and discovered at the Telluride Mushroom Festival!

This micro-post is about a new mushroom for me: Albatrellus ovinus.