Tuesday, October 05, 2010
A Hen In Hand is Worth, well you know the rest.
It has been a great fall for hens so far in Mid-MO, which is good because if the arid forecast holds, it looks like the fall season will dry up almost as quickly as it began.
I went out with a few local hunters for a long stroll around a local wilderness area. I knew we'd find a few because one of the fellows with me, who is new to hen hunting, had left behind several. Being new he didn't know what was a good one and what was a bad one and having a lot of success he had fairly high standards and only took the freshest.
Myself, not having found but three or four hens the night before was happy to go back after the ones he left behind which were barely showing signs of yellowing. So we knew we would at least come home with a few. In the end we probably pulled 15 to 20 pounds finding just over 10 hens during the hunt. The one below was the freshest of the day, but not the biggest.
I learned a bit today myself, as for the first time I was with someone who knew his oaks. All of the hens we found today were on red oaks, those are the oaks with the dark bark. Although I have found ones on white oaks in the past, we did not find a one on anything but a red oak today.
There is a great little piece on fall edible mushrooms in the most recent edition of the Missouri Conservationist . Mr Rogers, who has had great luck with hens, was one of the hunters with me today. During our hunt, he pointed out that there is a great recipe for hen of the woods soup in the article. He and his wife made it and really liked it and his parents did the same. I think I may give it a shot this weekend. It sounds pretty tasty. There are several good mushroom recipes in that edition. You can read the article here. Note that the cover photo and several of the other photos in the issue are by local fungal photographer Jon Rapp, whose photos I often use in here. Way to go Jon!
The article also highlights a new book for Missouri mushroom hunters both avid and amateur alike. It is called Missouri's Wild Mushrooms. Written by Maxine Stone, former president of the Missouri Mycological Society, and one heck of a cook and fungiphile, not to mention a decent writer, the book provides the best overview of edible mushrooms in our fine state. Jon Rapp also contributed a lot of the photos. All in all, it is well worth the $14.
But I digress, getting back to the hens, it has been an odd year for me. Of the 50 or so trees that have produced hens in past years, none of them are producing. One had a small dried up hen and one only have stumps (I have yet to figure out who cut those). However, despite this lack of success with my old tried and true trees, as we were out walking I decided to check a really old tree. It had fallen over a few years back and hadn't produced a hen since 2007, but i figured since we were in the neighborhood I would take a look and see. Boy I am glad I did. This old log was right on the edge of a field. The tree had actually fallen into the field, but the hens didn't seem to care.
A straggly looking specimen on the right but a nice 8 pound beauty on the right. This was the biggest of the day for me, but in the end I probably came home with a good 12 to 15 pounds of very usable hen.
Here is an older hen but still a good one. I like to dry the older ones for using all year. You can also freeze them. Some lightly sauté each side and I know others who freeze it fresh. Seems to come out fine in both cases as long as it is a nice fresh mushroom. If it is starting to yellow a bit on the edges, in my own experience, it is better to eat fresh or dry rather than freeze them.
Work will keep me out of the woods over the next week and with the beautiful but very dry forecast, I fear that even the hens that are out there will soon dry up. All of the other mushrooms are already starting to do so, though we were able to scare up 3/4 of a pound of trumpets that had yet to succumb to the sunny days.