Category Archives: edible wild mushrooms

It’s not time. Not yet.

Reports of morel harvests in southern Illinois have started to roll in, inflaming the imaginations of shroomers in northern climes.

Mayapples. Immature, baby mayapples - weeks away from blooming.

But it’s not time yet.  Not up north.  A good rule of thumb, people say, are mayapple blooms. I spotted these babies last weekend – and we’re weeks away from blooms.

Up here, morels happen in May.

It’s not time.  Not yet.

The first find.

hen of the woods miatake

I keep my beloved retired horse at a farm that’s ringed with oak forests.  One summer day, as I was paying my steed a visit, I looked off into the woods, and thought “mushrooms.”

The summer before, a friend of mine had found a good size hen of the woods.  She showed it to me, and I convinced her to let me make a wild mushroom lasagna with it.  The dish was a hit.   I tried to remember exactly when that had transpired, but I wasn’t able to recall when she found that mushroom.  I did remember that it was cool, however.

At home, I consulted Google, and ordered “Edible Wild Mushrooms of Illinois” from Amazon.  Happily, I learned that the season for Hens wasn’t yet upon us.    I had a few weeks to wait.

The following weekend, when I went to check in on my horse, I took a walk through the woods.  I noted dead and dying trees.  My pulse quickened.  I also saw a lot of nettles, burrs and poison ivy.  Ugh.

The next few weeks were dry, and hot.  Not a single fungus was to be seen, aside from a lichen here and there.  I continued sallying forth, teaching my eyes to distinguish patterns on the forest floor, and to pick out lichens.

And then it rained.

I eagerly headed out, and found a gorgeous reward – a big, beautiful Hen of the Woods (also called maitake, or by its Latin name, Grifola Frodosa.) Reverently, I kneeled down, felt underneath it, and pulled it free.  I strutted out of the wood with my prize, and went home to make a mushroom lasagne. (Cheesy, no tomato, just some spinach and ricotta filling, napped with bechamel and Parmesan.)

And that was just the beginning.