Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Winter What??

I was outclassed by the lady at the annual Missouri Mycological Society Photography Night whose slide show of fungi was not only gorgeous--so was mine--but she had everything identified and labeled with its Latin name. It's the way the Society closes the year, and I'm a bit sad because morel-hunting season is four months away and in the meantime, in winter,  there are no fungi to hunt, eat, or study, outside of books.


In a city park so dull I usually walk its half-mile path while reading my phone, I look up and see mushrooms growing high on a dead tree. Into the tangle of trees I go to investigate. What to my wondering eyes should appear at that tree's base but the hugest freaking trove of edible oyster mushrooms, each six to eight inches across (they're usually oyster-sized--not very big). Oysters have no poisonous lookalikes in Missouri.

Pinpointing the tree with GPS I get a bag from my car and remove about three pounds of mushroom--hoping no one is watching because I don't know what the laws are. An ethical forager takes only what she can use. At home, I take a spore print to confirm my ID. Poach some in beer, and roast and make quiche and pizza with the rest. They're delish. The next week, I take another four pounds and share.

Okay, I was simply super-fortunate to find an oyster log. Today I'm out puttering next to my propane tank, and spy there my first-ever Earthstar mushrooms, side by side, like petaled flowers, each with a central sphere full of spores. These are very old and dry so I can't identify which type of earthstars they are; when fresh, they're grayish-white. Earthstars are inedible. But I'm still bowled over: Earthstars at Christmas! What could top this? But something will!

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