Oysters – Take ‘Em or Leave ‘Em

Oyster logI have often been asked by folks, “How fast does a mushroom grow?”. At the risk of sounding sarcastic I usually reply, “I don’ know, because my philosophy is Never Leave a Man Behind !” That’s pretty much true, in that I harvest anything big enough to be seen, with a few exceptions that prove the rule. The few times that I have marked a mushroom and come back to see its growth was when the work was easy. In other words, the subject was very, very close – like my back yard or a morel in a friend’s apple orchard..The last few days were just such a time.

After driving a long way for my first Hen of the Woods (my last post) on Friday, I thought a little “desert run” down a local trail near the house might be in order. It had been over a week since any rain had fallen here, so my expectations were low. After piddling around, I headed back toward my truck. I had skipped checking a large fallen tree just in the woods at the start of the trail. “Too dry for oysters,” I had thought. But then, this is a tree that has given up oysters regularly over the past two years in an unpredictable fashion. I could see the tree from the trail, but would have to get closer to see if oysters were present because there was substantial “crust fungus” on part of it. So I did – get closer.

Oyster1What I found was numerous patches of “pinhead” oysters up to nickel sized, with a few a bit larger. Because it was easy to get to, I thought, “What the heck. Take a picture and come back tomorrow.”



Oyster2I did that and you can see from the pictures that considerable growth had occurred. I picked 3 lbs on Saturday and left all the small ones. That’s my knife for scale. Note, also, all the gaps are filled in.



Oyster3I returned the following day, Sunday, and all the tiny ones were nice eating size, but not mature enough for our orange-headed fungus beetles to have invaded them. I picked another 3 1/2 lbs.

That’s the best quality oysters I have ever harvested. Yummmm-eeee !!!

Bottom line: If you see small oysters, don’t wait more than a day, but it can get substantial growth in one day, even if the woods are dry. They will be big enough for the pan, but not old enough to be slimy or beetle filled. Of course, this tale is episodic and not a controlled experiment. “All ‘shroomers walk in single file. At least the one I saw did.”

POST SCRIPT: I did go back once more, Sunday, which made 3 days from first discovery. The few small ones I had left on Saturday had not grown at all, and had, in fact, dried out. Still, by being patient I got about 7 pounds of the most beautiful oysters I believe I have ever foraged.





First Hen !!

HenThat’s right. When I first began this blog, I lamented how I believed that I had collected all the decent edible mushrooms in the Great Valley except Grifola frondosa or Hen of the Woods. The wait is over. I found this 3-pounder a couple of days ago. It was about three feet from the base of a very alive white oak. Between this one and the white oak was another Hen. That one, however, was a bit older, and I could only salvage about a 1/4/ lb.

Oh well, I’ll be looking here next year ! This was a large tree, 20-inches or more in diameter, so surely it can support a BIG one. For now, however, I am quite happy with this one.

Oconee Foray 2014 and Aftermath

A_pelioma1Last weekend, I attended the annual foray at Oconee State Park in South Carolina. This annual foray began in 2008, and this year about 100 mushroom enthusiasts from the Mushroom Club of Georgia (MCG), the South Carolina Upstate Mushrooms Club (SCUMS) and the Asheville Mushroom Club (AMC), which is my home club. The yeoman’s work putting it all together was GMC’s Sam Landes and his volunteers.

I always try to get to this foray, because it’s where I’m able to keep my field skills current, and there are always species collected that are new to me. Over 160 species were collected this year. It’s sort of my annual fungus checkup! Prominent mycologists (amateur and professional) attending and helping with the I.D. tables were Jay Justice, Walt Sundberg, Britt Bunyard, Alan and Arleen Besstte, among others. The personal interaction with these folks is invaluable to me, especially since there are few experts in my area to share the Fungal Experience.

Each year seems to be different. For example, last year we collected more honey mushrooms than I’ve ever seen, but not a single one this year. Also, notably missing were oyster mushrooms, hen of the woods, only one chicken of the woods found, and so on. BUT, 26 different boletes were selected. It had been very dry, but about 4-inches of rain during the weekend changed that condition.

C_lewisiiOne interesting mushroom was a chanterelle-looking, and smelling,  thing that several of us, with Britt leading, spent at least two hours discussing over refreshments into the wee hours of the morning. None of us had seen it before.The next morning, Alan gave me a quick ID of Cantherellus tabernesis (the name derived from its first collection outside of a tavern). Later, Jay, noting the purplish scales on the cap’s surface, corrected it to Cantherellus lewisii. What I found instructional was listening to the systematic give and take by the experts.

B_luridus_1When I got home, I was able to immediately put my weekend bolete experience to use. A friend called a couple of hours after I returned home and said the was an “orange and green” mushroom in the yard across the street from his house. I knew the place because he had called me before when a great chicken of the woods had appeared, on two different occasions. Turns B_luridus_2out, it was two beautiful Boletus luridus specimens, This beautiful bolete is the only red-pored one with a reticulated, net-like ornamentatation, stipe. It stained blue so fast that I never got to see the flesh color when I cut it!!

It is classified as poisonous also. Good to know.