Autumn Mushrooms: a bold new season
August 18, 2013
Like many Michiganders I've long been a fan of Morel mushrooms. They're the most confident and easily ID'ed mushroom -- and one of the tastiest -- so that's what most locals pick. Spring is for mushrooms.
Well, autumn is a huge mushroom season as well, only the choice species of this time are less well known. Still, I've been studying them some lately and they seem pretty much as easy to ID as Morels. No real lookalikes that'll hurt ya.
In fact, I'm thinking that based on my reading that fall is actually the much better time for mushrooming.
Yesterday I went out picking with pal Dave Jessop and he found 2 really choice types which he prepped, cooked and served for dinner. Scrumptious! They were the Chicken (Sulphur Shelf) and the Comb Tooth.
These aren't such common mushrooms but they are out there. And they seem to return to places where they've been found. When you take them try to cut them off and leave plenty of stalk behind.
Dave and I went biking yesterday and also canoeing and fishing. Plus we went mushroom hunting. When he spotted the Chickens growing in a long line on a log Dave hooted and hollered: it was quite a find. And when he noticed a Comb Tooth on a log that we biked past he crashed into a tree because he was so startled by such a choice find. So these are not trivial food discoveries.
CAUTION: As in all things mushroom, be sure to study well for yourself before eating then also go with an expert and doublecheck. Particularly research the lookalike options.
Dave does spore prints and other testing for anything he's not positive about and experienced with. A good plan. But, of course, make sure you understand spore testing, too, before relying on it. The common fall species I mention are readily enough taught to be ID'ed without the need for spore testing.
All mushrooms have greater potential for causing allergic reaction than other foods. They're close to mold, after all. So it's always best to test small amounts of a new shroom to see how YOU like them. Everyone is different. Also, it seems well known that alcohol enhances the allergic potential. So the first test of a new shroom should also be a dry one. Next, as regards the Chicken, there is one simple rule: get 'em growing on Oaks not Evergreens. I'd guess it's doubtful, tho, that Midwesterners would see the Evergreen one -- it lives in the NE U.S. -- and it's not dangerous, just more likely to cause allergy. leslieland.com/2009/09/hunting-laetiporus-sulphureus-the-sulfur-shelf-or-chicken-mushroom/]
He sauteed the thinly sliced Comb Tooth -- perfect. He did up the Chicken as Chicken Mushroom Parmesan -- double floured in egg then fried and served on pasta with Marsala sauce. ...Wow!
I've also recently had Dryad's Saddle or Pheasant Back. It also seemed like it would be really tasty -- but ya gotta pick em fresh (easily broken, not rubbery) and cook em fresh and not overdone. It seems like a wonderful chicken substitute.
Then there's Hen of the Woods, which Dave says is the best of all -- in its own way. It seems like there are different types of shroom: some are meat-like, others more mushroomy, creamy, saucy -- "slimy" being a bit accurate also but not the right food word.
Dave also says the puffball can be fine, if handled right. I cooked one last fall and it was nasty. I'll try again. Dave says to saute to crispy on outside, creamy on inside.
But back to the Chicken and the Comb Tooth. The Chicken is said to taste like chicken, of course. And the Comb Tooth is like crab. But, ya know, I'm now almost more inclined to say that chicken meat tastes more like Sulphur Shelf than the other way around. It's really a perfect food, perhaps more delectable than chicken itself. And I might say that crab tastes something like Comb Tooth, because that mushroom, too, seems perhaps more ideal as a food than crab.
Now some might say that shrooms don't really have the nutrients that meat does and in some ways that's true, but shrooms have other benefits to offer and perhaps some unknown ones as well. They are among nature's most potent items. So I doubt they're as "empty" in positive food value as some might think. They do have vitamins. And they're good for the immune system. And who knows what else. (Comb Tooth apparently helps nerve regeneration.) They are still mysterious.
Here's a link to some nifty details on the nutrient values of shrooms. www.sierrapotomac.org/W_Needham/TheMushroomChronicles_Nutrition.htm Turns out, the only thing they're low on is calories. And, catch this: they're high in chitin which was found to cut body fat by 8% and cholesterol by 30% in a month. Huh? ...A little googling seems to support the idea that chitin has this effect when used as a supplement. It's not like you have to eat only mushrooms.
I'm also starting to encounter Oyster shrooms -- so that's another specie to consider.
Googling brings up a few other species as well.
Always make your first go-rounds with an expert! And double and triple check your finds. Study hard for dangerous lookalikes!
Here are some "top 10" lists by enthusiasts. Likely amateurs won't hunt from this list but it's handy to learn more and to familiarize and get tips for picking: www.mushroomhunter.net/top_10.htm.
Here's another link to lots of autumn edibles. Again, probably not a beginner's list, but will confirm the basics within. mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/outdoor-recreation/mushrooming/edible-mushrooms
Another great link with a simple list of safe edibles at the end: americanmushrooms.com/edibles1.htm
There's another great link out there that I can't refind right now titled something like "Favorite Fall Five" mushrooms for autumn harvesting.
Lots of good ones here: mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/outdoor-recreation/mushrooming/edible-mushrooms
First big Chicken found near base of oak tree where Dave found one the previous year. The detour we took in our paddling to check the same lakeside tree paid off. It was partly under a partier's littered pizza box.
Then Dave spotted this log FULL of Chickens and hollered and jumped around.
We picked them and turned them over to show their bright sulphur yellow under color -- thus their "Sulphur Shelf" name.
Back at the ranch Dave served homemade tamales while he whipped up some corn and shrimp chowder. Mmmm!
Here's the Comb Tooth. (Next to fine reading.)
Sauteed Comb Tooth with Shrimp/Corn Chowder. ...Whoa!
Chicken Mushroom Parmesan. ...So tasty!