Friday, September 26, 2008

Fall "Fowl"age

The colder nights not only bring on the glorious fall foliage that Missouri is known for, but it tends to stir up some most delicious fowl as well. This is not the traditional birds that most hunters seek out, but rather the fungal variety that us mushroom hunters are hoping to track down. Namely Grifola Frondosa or the hen of the woods mushroom. In Japan it is called the Maitake mushroom, where it is sought out high and low as a delicacy and medical remedy for many forms of cancer and other health conditions. Maitake literally means dancing mushroom, which is what happens when you first come across a nice clean one.

I happened out with my kids today. They love to hunt mushrooms but being only a month shy of turning four, they are not quite ready to traverse the woods. However, that is the good thing about hen of the woods. They are so big and in this area no one else really hunts them, so you can usually spot and pick them right off the trail when conditions are right. And right they have been for the past two weeks. So I was not surprised when a known hen producing tree had a nice beauty sitting at its base. That is a bonus of finding a hen, note that tree for years to come because they grow year after year in the same spot. The one we found today weighed in at a little over 2 pounds (another bonus of finding them, lots of mushroom). The one in the picture measured about 13 inches across by 10 inches wide by 9 inches tall. I usually find mine at the base of oak trees but they do show up around other trees as well. When prepaering for the table, brush of any dirt and cut or break off the fronds. If it is a young specimen you can also use the central stem, however, I find it a little tough unless you prepare it slow like in a stew. I prefer to lightly saute mine in oil and serve over fish or on a salad. But they are excellent grilled, baked and about anyway. It has a taste that is hard to describe but many, including myself prefer it to morels, so it is a worth a try if you are lucky to find one. See for more information.

We also happened on some chicken of the woods or sulfur shelf mushrooms. These would have been ripe for the table had I been out last week. They were beginning to fade and a little long in the pore so we left them behind. But that is another fowl fungus that can be readily found in fall and the bright orange really stands out. I usually find them on old black fallen logs and stumps, but you can also find them on scars and breaks in live trees (primarily oak).

If you haven't managed to get out in the woods, it is time to get hiking before the winds of winter move in and end the mushroom season for good. Hen of the woods dries very well and is a good mushroom to store and eat on those cold winter days.

Ahistory and kids on the maitake trail (photos by Jon Rapp)


Jon Rapp said...


Nice job with this Blog!

Reading from the beginning of the year gives a nice picture of the progression of mushrooms throughout the year.

We still have a ways to go, but this has been a great year full of many nice findings.

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