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As a newbie, I’m curious, do you have or develop a hunting strategy before going out?  My approach this fall was to concentrate on hemlock forests to look for hedgehogs (Hydnum umbilicatum) because that’s one species I could ID.  I did pick some other mushrooms there also to bring home to ID, even though I didn’t eat them.  These included some past prime honey mushrooms, a small crested coral, and some in the Suillus group.

In the spring I’ll focus on morels, in summer on milky and chanterelles, and in the fall on hedgehogs and Siullus, as well as chicken of the woods and hen of the woods.  And will pick others for ID and to further my knowledge.  I’m studying milky and boletes extensively this winter, and hope to find some of those.

Do you head out focusing on one or two species, but willing to harvest other things  to encounter?  Or do you just go out to see what you can find?

 

 

 

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14 minutes ago, Kevin Hoover said:

As a newbie, I’m curious, do you have or develop a hunting strategy before going out?  My approach this fall was to concentrate on hemlock forests to look for hedgehogs (Hydnum umbilicatum) because that’s one species I could ID.  I did pick some other mushrooms there also to bring home to ID, even though I didn’t eat them.  These included some past prime honey mushrooms, a small crested coral, and some in the Suillus group.

In the spring I’ll focus on morels, in summer on milky and chanterelles, and in the fall on hedgehogs and Siullus, as well as chicken of the woods and hen of the woods.  And will pick others for ID and to further my knowledge.  I’m studying milky and boletes extensively this winter, and hope to find some of those.

Do you head out focusing on one or two species, but willing to harvest other things  to encounter?  Or do you just go out to see what you can find?

 

 

 

I'd say you are making a very sensible plan. Others will disagree, but I mainly go out targeting one or two choice edible species but try hit areas where other edibles may also come into the mix. Like any other forager, I have my year to year honey holes for various species and if it's a good year I will specifically target these areas with one species in mind. I can't recall too many times where I went to my hydnum spots and didn't come away with some leccinums and other boletes or go for chanterelles and not come away with a good haul of agaricus varieties etc. The nice thing about wild mushrooms is that whether you target one species or several, there is a good chance that your walk will provide some unexpected bounty.

For my first several years, I stuck to about 5 or 6 varieties of mushrooms similar to your list above. I ate very well and always had a bounty of dried and frozen mushrooms through the winter. Good luck!!

If you are willing to pick mushrooms that are new to you and will require ID at home, bring a 2nd basket to put them in just in case.

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  • 1 month later...

Kevin, you are on the right track, sort of. In my opinion if you want to collect edibles then wandering through some random forest looking for things that are interesting is pretty much a sucker's game. The high success plan is to develop an inventory of 'spots', ie places where you know an edible fruits reliably and where you know pretty much exactly when it will fruit. Ideally you will eventually have enough spots to cover the whole season and you can simply go harvest rather than go search.

Having said that, I have to point out that there are 2 problems with that approach. The first and most obvious problem is that everyone starts with zero spots. You said you have places that reliably produce edibles so you are off to a great start. What you have to do now is find places that are reliable to cover those gaps in your calendar when your hemlock forests arent producing. That is going to take legwork, almost no way around that. When looking for new spots I would look in other than hemlock spots, you already have that. If you already have a morel spot or two my next order of business would be to target Pleurotus populinas, the spring oyster mushroom. These fruit on dead poplar trees right after the morels finish and where I live the fruitings can be spectacular. The really nice thing about a forest with a lot of dead poplar is you have a forest with a lot of dead trees on the ground which will feed other species and in my experience a good oyster spot will yield other mushrooms later in the season. I would have a perpetual search happening for Boletus edulis. These are not so common where I live but they are easy to look for. Here the main tree is Norway spruce. Norway spruce generally hasnt naturalized in our forests and generally they are found at the edges of lawns like park land or university campuses. The tree is pretty distinctive and with practice you can spot some at 60 mph. If I see even as few as a half dozen mature Norways I will make a point to check them any time Im nearby from late June right through to the end of the season. It takes about 2 minutes to check a dozen trees and sometime you can find a nice reliable spot that will give up a couple of meals with no work at all. I live in Ontario Canada and the go to summer mushroom here is the lobster mushroom. Im not sure if they are common where you are. Mostly you have to just keep working at closing all the gaps in the season so that there will always be something for dinner and you know exactly where it will be. Oh ya, the second problem with having an inventory of good spots is that sometimes a species will just stop producing in a spot. It happens and you have to deal with it. I deal with it simply. When I visit one of my spots and finish harvesting whatever it is Im picking that day I try to make a point of spending a half hour to an hour doing the random walk in a random spot thing. It probably wont be productive but if 2 or 3 times a year you stumble on something edible then you are adding to your inventory of spots in anticipation of one of them stopping production.

I would also concentrate my efforts in forests that are nearby. A good spot that is a 2 hour drive from home isnt a good spot in my opinion. I hate to drive more than 15 minutes if I can possibly help it. Driving for an hour or 2 and finding nothing just sucks. Driving 15 minutes and finding that the soil is too dry this week is no big deal. I also make sure I talk to anybody I meet about mushrooms. So you live on 20 acres? Do you have any woods? Do you ever find any mushrooms? Asking is free and every so often something spectacular happens. I live an hour north of Toronto and a few years ago the Toronto mushroom club held an organized foray in a forest about 5 minutes from home. They were after morels but I knew that season was finished here and the 20 people who went off into the woods were going to come back with nothing. I stopped in at the foray just to say hi to some folks I knew. I was having a bad knee day (arthritis) so I had no plans to go for a hike but there was a mountain bike club out riding in the woods. Perfect. As they started coming back to the parking area I started talking to them. Any chance while you were out riding that you saw a stump that was just covered in an ugly orange fungus? One guy said ya he saw something like that and he told me exactly where it was. About 3/4 mile in along a trail that club members were never going near and my knees werent going to let me walk the round trip. I found a club member who had come out of the woods without seeing a mushroom and yes he willing to go for a walk. So I told him how to find the trail and off he went. I was hopeful but I couldnt know if my info was reliable. An hour and a half later the guy emerged from the woods toting 2 of those fabric re-usable grocery bags full to bulging with fresh chickens. About 20 pounds. We split the haul and the beauty of it was I never left the parking lot. Dont be shy about asking folks if they own woods or if they have seen a mess of mushrooms, you just never know...

 

 

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Thanks, good info. Norway spruce, in my opinion, are easy to spot. Likewise, around here I don’t see them as a major forest trees, but planted all over yards and other places.  Tree ID isn’t a problem for me generally (I majored in Forest Science). 

I agree that I need to put some major time in different woods. I’m lucky to have practically unlimited public lands available, between state forests, state parks, state game lands. I even have a large National Forest within easy driving distance. The place I hunted this fall was heavy on hemlock and white pine. I need to spend some time in the mixed oak and maple woods. 

I’m spending some time looking at maps of nearby areas and comparing them to imagery to see general tree types in the area. And I’m studying both Lactarius mushrooms and boletes heavily. 

I joined the local mushroom club and plan on participating on their walks this summer.  Lots to learn about mushrooms! But that’s what makes it fun. 

At the same time, I have king trumpet oysters fruiting on a sawdust block I ordered. I have shiitake and about eight varieties of oyster plugs waiting to pick up logs from a friend who logs. I started six varieties of oysters in quart mason jars using birdseed as substrate this week. I need to get some straw and a load of sawdust (which we need for horse bedding anyway). I have eight five-gallon buckets drilled to start in, and I plan to grow oysters and winecaps on outdoor beds. Lots to learn and try!

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  • 2 weeks later...

If you are messing around with growing mushrooms here is something that you can try that is pretty interesting, free, and might result in creating a new patch of mushrooms growing sort of wild where ever you want them. The technique goes by a number of names but perhaps the most common would be stem culture. What you are doing is basically cloning a mushroom from an existing mushroom then planting it outdoors. Here is how it works:

First you need to find a suitable mushroom to clone. It needs to be a saprobe and you need to have dug it up with at least some mycellium still attached to the stem. You want to be doing this with fresh mushrooms.

Get some clean corrugated cardboard from a cardboard box and cut it into some squares that are about 8 inches on each side. Rinse it under running water to remove any dirt and surface chemicals then soak it in warm water until the cardboard is quite soggy. Once it is soggy get some sort of bowl, turn it so its open side faces down on the counter and drape your soggy cardboard over it to let excess water drain off. You want the cardboard to be soggy-damp but not so wet that water runs out of it when you pick it up. While it is draining you can start to cut up your mushroom into small pieces. Just use the stem. The ideal piece will be about a half inch long, maybe a quarter inch in diameter and will have a bit of mycelium attached to one end, maybe an eigth of and inch or a quarter of an inch. You dont need much. Sometimes just a piece of stem without mycelium will work but I have found that the bit of mycelium pretty much guarantees success in getting your colony started.

Lay the cardboard out flat and place 6 - 12 stem pieces spread out across the cardboard keeping an inch or so away from the edge of the cardboard. 12 is better than 6 but sometimes you just work with what you have. If you are lucky you can get away with just 1 piece but you are trying to colonize the cardboard quickly so you will have more luck with the extra pieces. Once the stem pieces are on the cardboard you roll up the cardboard into a sort of burrito. To want the result to be moderately tight without being super tight. You will see that because the stem pieces were spread out they will end up sort of evenly distributed among the layers of cardboard. Then put an elastic band around each end so the cardboard cant unroll on its own. Now you have to put the burrito into a plastic bag so it wont dry out. I suppose any sort of bag would work but I have always used a large zip freezer bag and zip it closed.

You are done now with the setup. Put the bag somewhere where it will stay at a warm room temperature and wait. Examine the burrito every day or so to make sure it is neither drying out nor sitting in a puddle of water in the bag. After about 2 weeks you can peek. Very carefully start to unroll the cardboard. With luck you will see that live growing mycellium has started to grow and colonize the burrito. You shouldnt have to unroll the whole thing and when you see some extended mycellium stop unrolling, roll it back up and replace it into the bag making sure it is still damp.

Now comes the tricky part. Patience. What you want to end up with is a burrito that is really well colonized with mycellium actually penetrating 1 or 2 layers of the cardboard. Having just a couple of the stem pieces with 1 inch hairs of mycellium growing on them isnt going to get the job done. You want to get the burrito to the stage where you can say geez look at all that mycellium. That might take another couple of weeks or even longer although different mushrooms have different growth rates.

When you are happy with your burrito you will plant it outdoors. I like to have made a half dozen burritos because well something horrible might happen to a single try. This next part is important. You are going to plant the burrito(s) where you want to establish a wild patch. because of that you must find a spot where your patch will find an environment it will like. Blewits like wood so put them in a place where there are buried branches and dead wood on the surface and shade. Meadow mushrooms like ummm meadows but they also appreciate a lot of organic matter like a couple of shovels of manure. Use your imagination but know that if you plant blwits in a meadow they will surely die and if you plant meadow mushrooms in deep woods they also will likely die. I dig a hole about a foot deep and replace half the soil so the bottom half of the hole has sort of loose soil then I dump a bucket of water into the hole and let it drain. I never know how deep to plant the burritos so I compromise a bit. I place the burrito in the hole at about a 45 degree angle pointing down so that parts of it are at different depths. Im not sure this helps but I doubt that it hurts. I fill in the rest of the hole and water it then walk away and just forget the whole thing. With a bit of luck the mycelium in the burrito will keep growing right out into the soil and you will have established your new colony of mushrooms. I said forget about them because it is unlikely that your efforts will result in an immediate flush of edibles although they might. More likely the planted organism will continue to grow quietly underground and fruit at some point in the future when you least expect it but I have seen reports of getting a flush of edibles in a couple of weeks. At this stage though there is nothing much you can do if you dont get a quick flush. If your organism survived it will fruit when it gets the urge. If it didnt survive well just forget about it. The only thing you can do after planting is try to keep the spot a bit damp if you can especially if the weather turns hot and dry. Digging up your burrito to see if it is alive will almost certainly kill it and I wouldnt do that unless I had planted a lot of them in one area.

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One thing to note about stem culture (often referred to as stem butt culture) is that it works best with young mushrooms, the younger the better.  Also, if you have lots of young stem butts (with soil attached) but don't have the time to propagate the mycelium in cardboard, you can just plant the stem butts in an appropriate environment.  This is probably not as successful as the cardboard technique, but it does work some of the time.  I've had some success with Shaggy Parasol stem butts.  For more information about stem butt culture, including a list of  appropriate mushrooms to use, Mycelium Running by Paul Stamets is a good source.

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I appreciate that and will try it when I get a chance. I’m lucky enough to have a property that has several habitats. Pastures with plenty of manure (we have horses), an upper boundary that was planted with Norway spruce, some white pines, a red pine plot, and a decent size oak/maple forest habitat that already contains a good patch of chanterelles.  I’m in the middle of a 16’x32’ hoophouse build and will use oysters and wine caps to build a good soil base. 

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