Natural Dyes

Although it rained 5 inches a week ago, there are still no mushrooms in the Valley. I hunted for at least two hours on four different days and in four different locations and not a sign. So instead of setting up at the Market Square Farmers Market on Saturday, I decided to dye another lot of silk scarves to take next week.

I used one mushroom dye, Phaeolus schweinitzii, indigo, logwood, brazilwood, osage orange, and cohcineal insects. I mordanted with alum. This batch, I used a considerable amount of wax-resist with paraffin and applied overdyes for a batik feel.

I had a few scarves left over from my spring sale, so I did some overdying and patterning so they are completely different now. One had an iron mordant with cohcineal and it yielded a beautiful aqua color in logwood. It took several days to do them all, but I’m quite pleased. Prices are $35-$40 depending on the scarf. I like to sell them in person so folks can see what they look like, because each one is unique.

My wife is a Univ. of Alabama graduate, so the brazilwood with a light logwood dip that yeilded crimson is hers.

I’ll have them for sale at the Knoxville Market Square Farmers Market until they’re gone.

Oconee Foray

The Fall Foray at Oconee State Park, near the Chatooga River in South Carolina, was jointly hosted by the SCUMS (South Carolina Upstate Mycological Society), Asheville Mushroom Club and the Georgia Mushroom Club last weekend – Sept 14-16, 2012. About 90 people attended. Acitivities included talks by Jay Justice and Taylor Lockwood and forays on about a dozen area trails, a fund raiser auction, as well as the terrific-as-usual pot luck Saturday dinner. Conditions were somewhat dry, but a large number of mushrooms were found and properly identified and recorded. The picture below is a shot of the pre-sort tables after the Friday forays. A LOT more came in on Saturday.

I left Knoxville Friday afternoon anxious to get there because Sam Landes and Cornelia Cho had invited me for Friday dinner. I knew that would be a treat. I got to their cabin around 6:00 and I wasn’t disappointed.  Cornelia had fixed a fabulous Thai appetizer I had never seen before – Mieng Kham. You take a fresh La Lot (betel) leaf and place on it a small amount of diced lime sections, peanuts, red onion, ginger root, toasted coconut, and tiny dried “stinky” shrimp, thai bird chilis and top with sweet red chili sauce. Then you fold the leaf into a “ball” and pop the whole thing in your mouth. Delicious! but go very light on the bird chilis!!!! I mean maybe ONE small piece of diced chili. I had three the size of pinheads and almost croaked the first time. Second time I used ONE. Lesson learned.

We also had raw beefsteak mushrooms (left picture), and Sam made a wonderful stuffed squash. There was more, but these tell the story. Sam is a great cook and Cornelia is alway such a wealth of knowledge. I enjoy sharing our mutual love of food with them.

As some people know, I also have an interest in spinning, dying and weaving. So, when Cornelia told me about the needle felting she was doing I was very interested. She had recently been on NPR’s Science Fridays program. The video is pretty cool, and I bought the bolete pillow she had made at our Saturday night auction. I’m going to try and do one.

Now the sad but funny part. You can see my cousin’s husband Ken to the left holding a Hen of the Woods. In almost 20 years of foraging, I have yet to find one. On Saturday morning he and I stepped into the woods near the “barracks” we were sharing with a number of other people and sort of looked around. We didn’t find anything so I went inside for about 5 minutes. While I was gone, he sat down at the picninc table beside the barracks, looked up and saw the HEN. Any of us could have seen it too by just looking out the kitchen window. Fortunately, Ken shared with the group and I had a delicious meal with Ellen and Derek Sunday night when I got home.

One other Hen was found, and it too was near a cabin. None were found along the foray trails. Sometimes the best is right in front of you, so always be looking I guess. All in all, it was a great weekend with good folks sharing a common interest while learning new things from each other. That’s the benfit of belonging to clubs if you are interested in learning more about mushrooms.



Honey Mushrooms

It must be Fall, because the Honey Mushrooms, Armillaria mellea, are coming up! Even with fairly dry conditions, they are showing up in their typical clumps around dead or dying oaks. We should be seeing them for quite a while.

One thing about honeys is that the insect larva like to tunnel up the stem. On the other hand, the stems are very tough and fibrous so I cut them off anyway, leaving about 1/2 inch in the field so the collection doesn’t get compacted in transit. Also, I can view the stem to see how much damage has been caused. At the sink, I remove the rest of the stem prior to chopping the cap and cooking. If the cap is a little buggy near the stem, everybody has to decided for themself how much extra protein they want  :-) I find collecting medium size caps that haven’t fully opened yields the best specimens.

Honeys are a parastic species causing white rot in trees. One of its characteristics is that it will grow on the extended root material and look like it is coming out of the ground, but it is really from the buried roots. Therefore, when you find some around a tree base, look around, as much as 50-100 feet,  and you may see more. So, as you wander in the woods, stop and look around for dead tree tops and check out the area around it. Beware of “widow makers” though – limbs that might fall on you.

Experts point out that honey mushrooms are actually a complex of varieties. Tom Volk has a good decription of the various Armillaria species. In over 15 years, I have never had a problem, but it is reported that honeys may cause gastric upset in some people – I know one person who did when we collected in West Virginia. It may have been another variety from what we have in the Valley. I don’t recommend gorging yourself the first time you eat them.

Enjoy your honeys. If you are new to collecting get verification and you will quickly gain the ability to spot and identify them on your own. Growing on dead wood, color, growth form (clustered), a persistent ring, white spore print, and a mottled fibrous stem are all some identification features.

You can use them in any wild mushroom recipe. They are firm and meaty. Cook them well for better digestion. They also dried very well (food dehydrater), and then are good reconstituted in various dishes.