Saturday, September 15, 2018

Fall Mushroom Season - Edible Mushrooms Of Illinois

As the poultry season begins to slow down a little, Larry and I find time to sneak off and do something that we love, forage for fungi.  There is nothing more relaxing than getting into the woods and just start walking.

Yesterday morning, I headed out on the four wheeler to cut Bittersweet to fill orders for my Etsy shop, what a great time to also do a little mushroom hunting.
If you love Bittersweet for fall decor head over to the Chicken Scratch Store and get yourself a bouquet.
While cutting the Bittersweet I noticed all around me growing right in the grass was big beautiful Puffball Mushrooms.

Puffballs are easy to find and great if your a beginner in wild mushroom foraging.  The purple spored Calvatia Cyathiformis Puffball pictured to the left are easily found in Illinois.   The only thing to check before cooking is the inside of the Puffball.  Slice it open, if the inside is completely white like a marshmallow it's safe to eat.  If there is any color other than white discard it.
If you find one Puffball there is very likely many more close by so keep searching.  You can find Puffballs growing beside wooded areas in the grass.
If you find Puffballs that have reached the puff stage, go ahead and give them a stomp, this is how the spores are released and you'll very likely be able to find more Puffballs in this are the next season.

Another type of Puffball easily found in Illinois is the pear shaped Puffball.  They're very small but on the good side, if you come across pear shaped Puffballs they always grow in huge clusters and usually never alone.  Same rule goes for this Puffball, the inside must be pure white if you plan to eat.

This is a nice cluster of pear shaped Puffballs.  It's fun when you come across a bunch of these little guys.
Pear shaped Puffballs are found in the forest along side dead trees or growing on dead trees.  September and October is a great time to start looking for this type of shroom.

One of my favorite fungi to find is the Wood Ear.  Wood Ear grows on dead tress or live trees that have dead areas on them.  There is a look alike for Wood Ear that is poisonous but is easy to identify as not edible.  The look alike is bright orange, smelly, and easy to smear.  Wood ear is rubbery and can not smear.  The orange look alike is call Witch's Butter, yuck!!
You've probably eaten Wood Ear before if you've had Hot And Sour Soup in an Asian restaurant.  Wood Ear has no flavor, it is really more about the texture with this mushroom.  Wood Ear fungi can be dehydrated for storage and easily reconstituted in water.
I cooked these lovely ears in a vegetable stir fry, yum!

Hen Of The Woods, another one of my favorites!  September is a good time to start hunting for this delicious shroom.  They're a little difficult to find, they're very camouflaged and look just like a pile of leaves but if you do find one they're usually as big as a basket ball or bigger, so they're a nice find!  I've even heard of people finding enough to fill a pickup truck bed.
Hen Of The Woods does have a look alike but they're also easy to identify so do your homework before eating.
It's a good idea to soak this mushroom in salt water before cooking, the overlapping lobes hide many Beatles and bugs.

The Chicken Mushroom, also easily found in Illinois.  It can be found growing on dead hardwood logs in the forest and will be spotted a long distance away by it's very bright yellowish orange huge.
The Chicken Mushroom grows in huge clusters.  If you find this shroom you will likely fill a bushel basket in one location.  Chicken Mushroom also has a look alike but can also be easily identify, so just do a little research before eating.

On this particular foraging day we found baskets of Chicken Mushrooms.
I have found that Chicken mushroom doesn't agree with me for some reason.  It causes stomach upset, not sure why, it didn't have that effect on anyone else in our family.  I have even tried it a second time with the same effect, so I no longer eat this fungi.
Chicken Mushroom freezes well for storage if you happen to find a bounty of it.

One of the most unique mushrooms we've ever found is the beautiful Lion's Mane.  We went on a hunt just as the leaves were beginning to turn, just so happens this is the prime time to find a Lion's Mane.  My daughter found this one growing on the inside of a fallen dead tree.  They looked just like snowballs!
The taste was amazing!!  Sauteed in butter they taste just like lobster.  Very sweet!
I'm ready to check this particular log again this year.

This week we fried up some Puffball mushrooms.  They're dipped in egg then Parmesan cheese and fried golden brown, I served them with pasta and marinara sauce. Super yummy!
They tasted very much like fried mozzarella cheese sticks.

Get outdoors and do some foraging, even if you don't feel confident enough to eat what you find, it's still fun to hunt.  If you keep researching the mushrooms that you come across, you will soon begin to recognize what is good and what is not good.  When in doubt throw it out.  Only eat if you're completely sure of what you have.

Happy Foraging!!

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