I 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.
What 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.”
I 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.
I 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.