Thanksgiving Hen

Yogi Berra said, “It’s ain’t over ’til it’s over.” He could just well have been referring to mushroom season. Deep into November, I wasn’t having much luck, and then the temperatures dipped – to 17 degree lows two nights in a row. “That’s it, I thought.” Then a few days later, the afternoon before Thanksgiving Eve (Nov 25), I got a call from Dino.

I met DinHen bucketo this fall while we both delivering to Seth Simmerman at Knoxville;s Echo Bistro, and we got acquainted. Dino had heard about me, so he pulled out his cell phone and showed me a picture of a large patch of mushrooms around a stump to identify. They looked like honey mushrooms, so I said, ” Bring them in to Seth and I’ll stop by tomorrow.” He did, and sure enough they were honeys, which Seth used.

dinoA few weeks went by, and on the day in question, he sent me this picture of mushrooms in a box. He said it must have weighed 10 pounds. I did a double take and got right back to him – no doubt in my mind. I met him the next day and weighed out a13 pound Hen of the Woods (click picture to see the whole thing), plus two more small ones that went 2-3 pounds total.

Apparently the Hen had come up right before the deep freeze and survived well. Only a few tips were frostbitten, and scissors took care of that. The nice thing about it being so large was that it had a very large and solid center which let us cut what looked essentialy like mushrooms steaks.

Dino gave me 3-4 pounds as a “consultant”. On Thanksgiving, I cooked cracked-pepper encrusted pork tenderloin, accompanied by yellow potatoes roasted with duck fat. Then, 1/2 pound of Hen (Maitake) went in the pan, along with  flour and freshly home made chicken stock to make a wonderful gravy. There were other dinner items, but the feature was Hen gravy – no Turkey today. Yummyyyy.



Identifying an Unkown Mushroom


Moe and more, people are calling me for help identifying mushrooms. Sometimes it is easy to do, and at other times it is difficult. I thought posting a blog entry on the latest trial would help others know what kind of characteristics to examine in order to make an identification effort fruitful.

20141104_112105Mike put in a wood chip patch in February and inoculated it with Wine-Cap Stropharia spawn, Stropharia rugosoannulata. On November 4, he found a flush of mushrooms, but they had a beige cap rather than the wine colored cap he expected. He felt it wise to get a positive identification prior to eating them (good thinking). We met and he brought this mushroom.

Although the cap was off color, it had many of he features of the wine-caps. Michel Kuo mentions, on his web site, the occurrence of a light colored variety Considering this, I contacted Park SKOHcapeed Co. where Mike had gotten the spawn to see if they dealt with this variety, but they no longer carried Stropharia. In addition, I have read nowhere that S. rugosoannulata has appressed scales on the cap, which the specimen clearly has under stereoscopic microscopy. I was not able to get a good enough slide to view cellular structure. The cap has an orangish reaction to KOH, consistent with Kuo, but the specimen did not have a creosote-like odor. It was dried up however. The cap had the “pop” of a normally viscid cap when the wet finger test was applied. (Wet your finger and touch the cap while holding it close to your ear; you can hear a pop when you quickly pull your finger back off of the cap)

IMG_20141106_124348066The sample mushroom was 6-inches in diameter and about 5-inches tall. From this picture one can see a spore deposit on a strong annulus (ring). I agree that the spore deposit is IMG_20141106_123847050_HDRpurplish-brown and the spore images under a microscope are consistent with Kuo’s. In addition, the gills are adnexed, notched.



stipeThe flesh is white; the smell was weak. There are also radial lines on the stipe above the ring. Below the ring the stipe has vertical fissures in the surface tissue. The base of the stipe is enlarged. Also, notice the ring is split in the next picture which is consistent with David Aurora’s (Mushrooms Demystified) description, as is the tan cap. .

So where does this leave us? Would you accept this as an atypical S. rugosoannulata and eat it? I am concerned about the IMG_20141106_124315528appressed scales on the cap. Other than that, it sure looks like a Stropharia. Read Kuo’s description and see what you think. I’ll bring you my answer later. Feel free to comment. . . . .


Wild Persimmon Bread with Hickory Nuts

Persimmon Bread with Hickory Nuts


2 cups flour
! tsp baking soda
1 cup sugar
¾ cup butter (1 ½ sticks)
2 well beaten eggs
½ pint wild persimmon pulp (1 cup)
½ cup chopped “clean” hickory nut meat (I like mockernut hickory)


Sift flour and soda.
In separate bowl, cream sugar and butter.
Add eggs and soda-flour mixture.
Add persimmon pulp and hickory nuts.

Mix to a thick batter and pour (more like globbing wet glue) into two small loaf pans ( lined with parchment or waxed paper)

Bake about 1 hour at 325o F. Bread will be a moist, dark brown.

Original recipe from Euell Gibbons: Stalking he Wild Asparagus