Saturday, October 18, 2008

Fifty Pounds in one Day

OK, so you have just hiked to the top of a steep hill and find yourself looking at oak after oak to no avail when you come across this. I spotted this one at nearly 100 yards out. It was huge, literally the size of a beach ball.

This has been an incredible year for hens and this one topped all. I had never seen one this large in my years of fall hunting. And get this, I didn't even pick it. I just took some photos showed it to some hunters to be, that were with me and walked away.
I know what you are thinking. How could you do that? How could you turn your back on such a marvelous specimen? Well, there were several reasons so let me lay them all out for you.

First, take a look at this picture. This thing was bigger than my backpack and probably approaching 30 pounds. Hauling that back down the hill I scrambled up and back to my car seemed like more of a chore than I wanted.
Second, the underneath of many fronds were just turning yellow. Yes, it wasn't too far gone for eating, but it was on its way and let me move on to my next point.
Third, did I say I had already found 14 other hens that afternoon and had over 20 pounds in my vehicle?
In the end I only picked about 8 of the 15 or approximately half of the 50 pounds or so I uncovered today. I only came home with two nice hens and gave the rest away to the hunters to be. They were eager to try some, though I cautioned that they only try a bit at first, to make sure they were not allergic, as a few are.

I also came across a small patch of sweet tooth that were big and bug free. Like the ones I found a few weeks ago, these were atop a rocky ridge right above the outcroppings. They were a nice treat. I saw some hericiums of all three varieties, purple gilled lacaria and some oysters but all were too old for the table.

I managed to find one very fresh hen on a nice slope so I could take one of my favorite "uphill underneath" shots. The fresh hens I found today were very dark and brown, however they varied to light tan, as seen in the one above. There were plenty of small ones that I left behind so unless the cold really sets in, the hens may be here for a good while more. So, keep checking those oaks. If anyone is in Mid-MO and wants to try some hen, just let me know. I have plenty to spare.
Happy hunting.


Mike in St. Louis said...

I've got about 10 pounds of hen of the woods in my freezer that I found over the past week. What are some of your favorite ways to cook them?

ahistory said...

Well, I made some duxelle the other night and have been using it to flavor everything from eggs to soup. You can also use it to stuff pork chops and steaks, but I like to use the duxelle mainly as a filling for puff pastry.
But the hen is one of the most versatile mushrooms to cook in my humble opinion. You can slice it thin (including the stem if fresh and dip it and batter and fry it. These Japanese are big on this sort of tempura style and it is tasty. You can pull off fronds and clean them and then simply saute in oil. It is good baked and I have seen (though never tried) a few ways to cook it boiled. But one of my favorites is the simplest. Pull off nice chunks, clean them, drizzle them with olive oil and a little salt and pepper and throw them on the grill.
Its really hard to go wrong with this one. If anyone else has any good recipes or ways to cook them please share. I came across a recipe for maitake stroganof but I haven't tried it yet, though it sounds very good.

. . . Lisa and Robb . . . said...

Oh! This is so awesome!

(Thanks for your thoughtful comment on our blog by-the-way!)