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.