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It's the Season - For Mushrooms

Some would think Tis the Season with the activity that is happening currently on social media. So much excitement and enthusiasm going on with many who are talking and sharing photographs of their latest find, you guessed it, mushrooms.

After taking a walk in the woods at the nature centre and with Bob's help, we found 15 different species of mushrooms within an hour. I now know why people get hooked and excited when they find a new species of mushroom on a dead tree or the forest floor! Questions arise; what kind is this? is it edible? poisonous? is it hallucinogenic? how could there be so many in one area? how do they grow? what exactly is a mushroom? are the edible species good for your health? can mushrooms kill you? and the list goes on.

After doing some research I am in awe of the number of various species and what a mushroom is exactly. So we'll start with, What is a Mushroom?

According to Wikipedia a mushroom is:

A mushroom or toadstool is the fleshy, spore-bearing fruiting body of a fungus, typically produced above ground, on soil, or on its food source.

Mushrooms are the reproductive parts of (some) fungi. Only some fungi, not all, produce mushrooms. They are only a part of the fungus.

Mushrooms are neither plants nor animals. They are in a different kingdom — the fungi. As for species, over 10,000! That's right over 10,000 species of fungi produce mushrooms. And mycologists (the scientists that study fungi) believe we are only scratching the surface. Memory look out...

For this blog, I'd like to narrow it down and talk about 3 edible species. The first important action to take is to ensure you have someone qualified that can confirm the mushroom species and that it is edible. As we know mushrooms can be extremely toxic and poisonous.

Another fact to consider is that many mushrooms are only edible during certain stages of their growth and that all mushrooms need to be cooked. Mushrooms are a fat-free food, high in fiber, and packed with nutrients like potassium, B-vitamins and contain important antioxidants.

Our first edible mushroom is Ash Tree Bolete (Boletinellus merulioides). This mushroom grows on the ground under or near ash trees. It is brownish with a leathery, smooth cap and medium to large in size.

Topside and Underside of Ash Tree Bolete with ash leaves

The second edible mushroom we found is Chicken of the Woods (Laetiporus sulphureus). This mushroom grows at the base of a dead or living tree. It has large clusters of overlapping brackets and is yellow-orange in colour. It has a meaty taste, some think it tastes similar to chicken, lobster or crab.

Chicken of the Woods at base of tree

The third edible mushroom is the Honey Mushroom (Armillaria mellea). These mushrooms grow on stumps and dead roots. The colour ranges from honey-yellow to red-brown as it ages. As you can see in the photograph we collected older mushrooms. The cap flesh is white and firm.

Older honey mushrooms on stump of tree

We will continue with mushrooms in a future blog since It's the Season. Remember foraging for edible mushrooms can be both challenging and rewarding. Carry a field guide with you and always ask an expert until you become familiar with the mushrooms you are hunting for.

Photo Credit June Crinnion

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