It’s startingt to get cool at night and there have been a few showers lately. As a result, I’m starting to see a number of species popping up in the woods. Not many edibles yet, but there HAS been one of my favorites. Hericium erinaceus, commonly and variously called: Lion’s Mane, Pom Pom, Monkey Head, Bear Tooth, Bear Comb, and others. I like plain old Hericium. I found a couple of very small dry ones last week, but on Monday I spied another small one on a large oak in the middle of town. It felt moist and fresh so I decided to wait and watch it grow. This was a tough decision because it was in plain sight to a lot of traffic.This morning, 5 days later it had grown from from peach size to the 3-pounder pictured below.
This fellow was in the very top of a large fissure so I used my chisel to successfully extract it by poking at prying at the hidden attachment. I carry the chisel for polypores. Finding this jewel was not very difficult, because this is the third year in a row, that I know of, that it has fruited in the same fissure, and since I had found the two last week I’ve been keeping my eye out for this one. The tree is very much alive, so maybe next year, or sooner, there will be another.
How to cook it? Baking or broiling and then dipping in butter is very good. It’s reminiscent of lobster tail meat- sweet and mild and similar texture, so even though it’s good in sauces and stir fry, I like it straight – broiled or sauteed. Maybe a side dish with sea food.They are solid so slicing is best. Cook them slowly to ease the water out. I once broiled a slice over a campfire and put it on a hamburger and it was terrific!! Found it on a southern live oak, Quercus virginiana, on Ossabaw Island near Savannah, Ga. Also found a chicken of the woods on another live oak that day and it was Spring Break!!
Look carefully. I have found them at the root collar of a beech tree, 12-14 feet up a standing dead hardwood snag and on dead logs, but mostly on oak about 4-5 off the ground and on dead logs. This tree was very alive.
.There is another species here in the Valley, Hericium coralloides, that has a distinctly different appearance. More like a waterfall with coral-like branches and growing on hardwood stumps and logs in my experience. Very tasty also.
I have posted a recipe gleaned from the internet that is very similar to the way I cook them for an appetizer.