Edible Mushroom: The Old Man of the Woods

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Since I’ve started branching out into fungi identification, I think it’s a good idea to start cataloging some of my experiences with wild foraging for edible mushrooms.

Hopefully what I write will be helpful. And hopefully no one dies.

Perhaps in the future, once I’ve become significantly more experienced at hunting down tasty fungal bounty, I’ll be able to do a series of “Survival Mushroom Profiles” similar to my Survival Plant Profiles.

For now, I’ll just tell you where I found edible mushrooms, how I identified them, and how they tasted.

(FYI: If for some reason this blog ceases unexpectedly, it means I screwed up on an ID.)

A couple of weeks ago I was foraging in the same empty lot where I discovered chanterelles and Lactarius indigo mushrooms. While there I came across an edible mushroom I only knew from photos – the “Old Man of the Woods:”

The “old man of the woods”

The Latin name on this bolete is Strobilomyces floccopus, though Michael Kuo notes in his article on the “Old Man” over at MushroomExpert.com that the classification is rather shaky.

It’s a pretty easy mushroom to spot for beginners. It’s flaky and fluffy and has pores beneath the cap – NOT gills. If it has gills, you have something else and it may be poisonous.

The Old Man of the Woods lacks gills. My thumb looks ugly.

Slice or damage the flesh of an Old Man of the Woods and it will turn pink and eventually fade to black.

As for flavor, it’s decent. It tastes pretty much like a typical store-bought button mushroom to my unpolished palate. Sauteed in butter it’s definitely good.

I found this mushroom growing in mixed pine-oak woods near the base of an oak tree. It was all alone, though there were chanterelles and other varieties of boletes growing in the same patch of open woods.
As edible Florida mushrooms go, this isn’t at the top of the list – but it certainly isn’t as blah as some authors report.
For more photos of the Old Man of the Woods, check out this link. For a list of great books on identifying mushrooms, click here!
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Must-have Wild Mushroom Foraging Books!

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Are you ready to hunt for wild mushrooms… safely?

Since I’ve gotten on a mushroom kick, I’ve been doing a LOT of fungal reading and have acquired a good number of new books for my library so I can ID mushrooms, especially edible mushrooms.

Below are some of the ones I’ve been enjoying thus far, along with their Amazon links (remember, if you decide to buy anything on Amazon… click through one of my links and I’ll make a few pennies).

All That the Rain Promises and More: A Hip Pocket Guide to Western Mushrooms

one of the funniest wild mushroom foraging booksThough I’m in Florida there’s a lot of bleed over in mushroom species from the west coast. Even if that wasn’t the case, this book is worth buying just because David Arora is brilliant and hilarious.

You wouldn’t think that a mushroom guide would be funny, but this one is a scream. I was laughing out loud and waking my wife up.

Here’s the more in-depth book from Arora that’s a must-have for serious wild mushroom aficionados:

 

Mushrooms Demystified

Mushrooms Demystified is a hefty book with a ton of information in it. Very worth having, if somewhat unwieldy. It’s also packed with snarky jokes and visual gags, despite its scientific pedigree. I really like David Arora’s writing and endless enthusiasm.

For the person just interested in getting started with edible mushrooms, here’s another option:

100 Edible Mushrooms

Micheal Kuo isn’t nearly as fun as David Arora and some across as a little persnickety after the wild exuberance of “All That the Rain Promises,” however, 100 Edible Mushrooms is in-depth and thoughtful, plus it’s easier to dive into than a tome such as Mushrooms Demystified. It also has recipes. I own it and have been enjoying picking my way through it.

Now if you’re ready to hit the field, I’ve found this guide to be the best so far:

National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Mushrooms (National Audubon Society Field Guides)

This guide was actually written by the brilliant mushroom hunter Gary Lincoff and the expertise shines through. It’s well-organized and contains excellent photographs in color, unlike the black and white of most of the photos in Mushrooms Demystified. Gary Lincoff also wrote this book, which I own as well:

The Complete Mushroom Hunter: An Illustrated Guide to Finding, Harvesting, and Enjoying Wild Mushrooms

The Complete Mushroom Hunter will fill you with excitement for the hunt. It was the first book I read after Paul Stamet’s must-read book Mycellium Running and it really pushed me out the door.

Speaking of Paul Stamets, here’s a link to his book:

Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World

Finally, don’t forget to get a copy of Common Florida Mushrooms from the UF bookstore!

Over the last week I’ve eaten boletes, chanterelles, puffballs, three Lactarius indigos, plus I picked an “Old Man of the Woods” yesterday which I’ll be eating for breakfast today.

I’m feeling rich – I’ve never been able to afford to eat as many mushrooms as I’d like… and here they’ve been growing under my feet all the time and I was too scared. Armed with lots of reading material and guides I’m no longer afraid – and it’s not like I’m taking risks! None of the species I’ve eaten has any dangerous lookalikes that can’t be weeded out with a cursory examination of the mushroom in question.

Grab some books and give it a go yourself!

edible mushroom guides helped me find chanterelles
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Eating Chanterelles and Indigo Milk Caps: Wild Florida Mushrooms!

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NOTE: Don’t eat any wild mushroom unless you know for sure what you have. And don’t follow my example, then get sick, then sue me. Not everyone has my iron constitution or taxonomic giftings.

I’m cautiously learning my edible and poisonous mushrooms at the moment.

The first mushrooms I ever picked and ate from the wild were puffballs. Those are really hard to miss and with a few precautions (cut every one in half to make sure they aren’t baby Amanitas or something horrid – also make sure they’re white inside) they’re a safe, if sometimes rather bland, wild edible.

Then I read this book:

Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World

and caught the mushroom bug.

It also helps that this is mushroom season and there are wild Florida mushrooms ripe for the foraging. The cooling weather and the rain have made our fungal friends appear everywhere.

The other day I decided to take a stroll around the block. On the way home I wandered through an empty 3-acre lot with a few trees and a lot of weeds… and I found these:

indigo milk caps

Indigo milk caps are strikingly beautiful and edible.

I whipped out my mushroom guide books and discovered they were Lactarius indigo – an edible mushroom with no poisonous look-alikes.
Not only that, I discovered more chanterelles:
edible chanterelle mushrooms in Florida

Chanterelle mushrooms, freshly harvested!

Take a look at the two species together:
Beautiful, aren’t they?
Unfortunately, I made a beginner’s mistake and plucked the mushrooms and put them in my basket without cleaning the dirt off them first. Cleaning them at home when they had dirt in the gills was really a pain – don’t do what I did.
The night I picked the Lactarius indigo, I ate them for dinner. They were like big portobellos!
Unfortunately I had to sautee them in Olive oil since I was out of butter (#firstworldproblems) but they still came out nicely… especially with scrambled eggs. Look at how weirdly green they turned my eggs:
indigo milk caps scrambled eggs

Lactarius indigo makes some weird scrambled eggs.

The little bit of dirt left on the mushrooms was unpleasant but overall it was edible. Not great, but edible. Free food. Hehheh.
As for the chanterelles… Rachel and I ate them for breakfast the next morning with bacon, sauteed in bacon grease and served alongside eggs and that wonderful persimmon I posted on a couple of days back.
Wild mushrooms aren’t for everyone; however, once you nail down a few good edibles, you’ll be saving money on groceries, plus wild food is really, really healthy.
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Mystery Bolete: Solved!

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I was 99% certain I could eat the boletes I found on Thursday… but that 99% wasn’t enough. Here are some shots:

My Audubon mushroom guidebook didn’t contain the species, so this morning I decided to try again via my copy of James Kimbrough’s Common Florida Mushrooms.

Lo and behold, it was in there! And it’s edible! Check out these scans:

 

Everything matches… from the color to the look and the odor. And it was discovered under live oaks on a shaded lawn. Definitely Tylopilus tabacinus. With a confirmed ID in the bag… I put the mushrooms in the dehydrator and will soon make soup. How do you like that? Florida porcini mushrooms!

A thanks also must go to permies.com, particularly to those who gave suggestions in this thread.

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Foraging for yams and mushrooms

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Yesterday was a banner day for foraging.

On my way to the bank I re-visited a vacant lot where I’d previously identified a good-sized colony of Dioscorea alata, the DELICIOUS winged yam, also known as the edible air potato. Unfortunately this species is listed as invasive, meaning I can’t sell it in my nursery (and I can’t send them to you in the mail… so don’t ask)… but that doesn’t mean I can’t find it and eat it!

The bulbils and the large roots are both edible. I didn’t come across any good roots (and I didn’t want to dig any of them up anyhow), but I did get a gallon or two of the bulbils:

Though I’ve eaten the roots before, I’ve never eaten the bulbils because they were generally small or few in number. This time I don’t have that problem!

After finding all these I called my brilliant friend Mart and asked how he prepares his bulbils.

“Cooked until soft, just like a potato.”

Good deal. I’m going to have to see how they taste.

After running my errands, it was time to pack up and go to the 326 Market for my afternoon plant sale. As I pulled in, Kathy (the organizer) told me I ought to check out the mushrooms and pick them before they got trampled.

To my delight they were some variety of bolete and were in great shape.

Florida edible bolete mushrooms

edible bolete mushrooms

I’m 99% sure these are edible… but that last 1% keeps me from eating them.

Mushrooms are nothing to play around with. I’m working on learning my species and the dangerous types but I’m not there yet. Unlike most plants, fungi can be super-duper crazy poisonous.

Dang it. They smell and look delicious.

Update – they were edible and I ate them! More here.

 

At the 326 Market I ran into many wonderful friends (Hi, all – you know who you are!) and met some new ones. The Dwarf Mulberries sold out and I also managed to give away quite a few peppers to people buying other things.

I was also visited again by the wonderful gal (the older of the two) I wrote about here and we talked seeds, plants, writing and more about plants.

When the market closed and I’d packed up, a couple of my children and I wandered further into the field to look for more mushrooms… and we hit the jackpot. Our recent rains have brought plenty of fungal bounty to the surface:

florida mushrooms

A wide array of mushrooms. Some edible, some poisonous, all beautiful!

I wish I knew which of these were edible and which were poisonous. I’ll get there one day.

For now I’m taking notes and pictures as well as making spore prints. I’m also reading multiple books on mushrooms at the same time.

Maybe next year I’ll be brave enough to start eating what I find. Maybe.

UPDATE: I know now and I eat mushrooms without fear – check out these books for mushroom foragers!

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Making Spore Prints from Mushrooms

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Making spore prints from mushrooms is easy – today I’m going to show you how!

On the way home from church I spotted a fairy ring of mushrooms I believed were Chlorophyllum molybdites.

I stopped the car and turned around to take a closer look. There was a pretty good patch going on a mowed and empty lot.

Since I couldn’t carry the delicate things and drive at the same time, I handed three of them to my helpful wife to hold until we got home. She complained a lot… but didn’t drop them.

When we got home I showed the children how to make spore prints. If you’ve never made them before, it’s a fun exercise as well as being very helpful in identifying your mushroom’s species.

Step 1: Pick Some Mushrooms

This is easy and fun. Just don’t eat them because death.

Step 2: Get Some Paper

Take it from Dad’s printer. He won’t care.

Step 3: Cut Off the Stems

This is important. If you don’t do it, your spore prints will look blurry and stupid.

Here – do this:

Step 4: Lay the Caps on Your Paper

Spore-side down, of course.

Leave them alone for some hours, preferably overnight.

Step 5: Reveal Your (Well… God’s) Art!

 

Spray your mushroom spore prints with some sort of a fixative if you intend on framing them. They smudge very easily.

Alternately, you can print on glass… then scrape the spores off and spread them around your yard to start new mushrooms. I also toss the mushrooms I find right into the mulch of my food forest.

And that, my friends, is how you go about making spore prints from mushrooms.

If you’re ready to go deeper into mushroom foraging and hunting for wild edible mushrooms, I highly recommend picking up a few good guide books. I created a list here – check them out.

Have fun!

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39 pictures of mushrooms in a food forest!

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A couple of weeks ago I finally read this book by Paul Stamets:

Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World

It was a fascinating read, containing info on mushrooms as food… mushrooms as medicine… mushrooms as toxic waste crews… mushrooms as water filters… mushrooms as firestarters… mushrooms as a biological internet… mushrooms as pest control… mushrooms as plant feeders…

Mycelium Running is well worth reading just for the insight into one of the lesser-known Kingdoms. (If you end up buying a copy, buy it through the link above and I’ll make a buck or so from Amazon.)

That said, it’s been nice and rainy lately and the wood chips in my food forest are really starting to rot into the soil. With that rot has come a profusion of fungi. Since I’m on a mushroom kick right now, I figured I’d re-start my blog writing with a bunch of photos I just took of the various species popping up in my yard.

I wish I were better at identifying mushrooms so I could give you the species. Sadly I’m a much better horticulturalist than mycologist.

Ready for some close-up pictures of lots of mushrooms in a food forest? Here they are – enjoy:

 

 

 

 

mushrooms in a food forest

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A pretty unbelievable selection, eh? These are all growing inside my half-acre food forest.

How did I end up with so many mushrooms? Well, it’s a combination of lots of wood chips, lots of chop-n-drop, lots of logs being dragged onto the property, plus when we take walks I’ve been known to pick mushrooms and then spread them around the yard and in the mulch.

Anyone recognize any of the species? Let me know!

If you’d like to find wild edible mushrooms, I recommend you start here.

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