Fungus for thought

The number of kingdoms of classification varies depending on who you ask.  Furthermore, this number is always changing with advancements in scientific technology and capabilities.  There was a time when there where only two: Plants and Animals.  However, according to multiple sources including Wikipedia-The Free Encyclopedia, there are currently 6 recognized kingdoms of classification: Animalia, Plantae, Fungi, Protista, Archaea and Bacteria.  As you may have guess the one we will be focussing on in this section is: the kingdom Fungi.  

"Mushroom are among the most mysterious of life forms. The ancient Greeks believed they came from Zeus's lightning because the appeared after rains and reproduced and grew inexplicably.  In the Middle Ages, the circular patterns formed by some mushrooms were dubbed "fairy rings" and were thought to be the work of the "little people," who supposedly danced around them at night, performing magic rites.  In the New World some hallucinogenic mushrooms have been called "the food of the gods" and invested with supernatural powers."

-A passage from "National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Mushrooms" by Gary H. Lincoff and Knopf.

Puffballs (Lycoperdon, Perlatum)-Jade

Hello Adventurers! So sorry for the long hiatus. But now that we are fully in mushroom season, we will have tonnes to talk about! Just a quick note on collecting mushrooms: please, please, PLEASE! make sure you have a reliable resource to reference your mushrooms before you PICK and/or eat them. A human is best. Google Images are also helpful. And a book, such as 'The New Savory Wild Mushroom' by Margaret Mckenny and Daniel E. Stuntz. 

Fungi are extremely magical and mysterious and can seriously bite you back, or worse. Remember: 'There are old mushroom pickers and there are bold mushroom pickers, but there are no old, bold mushroom pickers.' So, take heed of this warning, and respect these powerful organisms. 

On that note, I found some puffballs! Puffballs are delicious! Puffballs are cute! I didn't know you could eat these spongy little mushrooms. The kind I found are scientifically known as Lycoperdon perlatum. It is one of the most common type of puffball. The type you find on a lawn, or around rotted logs. The fruiting body is described as white, or sometimes a pale cream or a pale brownish color, pear-shaped and about 3-4 inches tall. The top will be scaly and/or spiny. The stem is fairly large and attached to the ground by rhizomorphs (roots, thicker than mycelium).  As the puffball develops, it will form a pore at the top of the fruiting body, then, a dry, papery shell taking on an olive or rust color. Definitely don't pick them at this stage. Only young puffballs of this type should be collected, otherwise they will taste bitter and you'll get a mouth full of spores. Wait til next season. This mushroom has also been called "the devil's snuff-box", I guess because if you sniff closely, you'll get a whiff of dusty spores!?! Not cool devil, not cool. 

Anyway, care should be taken before eating these, as the young, deadly Amanita virosa looks similar to the puffball before it "blooms". So, when slicing these up, be sure that they are white all the way through, with no outline or grey-ness on the inner flesh. If so, toss 'em. How do they taste, you ask? Mmmmm, like tofu, but way better! I say tofu, because there are a bit foamy-er than other mushrooms I've eaten, but they are still pleasant. Fry them up in butter, and maybe some nori or tamari sauce. Japanese stylee! Enjoy, and happy hunting! 

-Jade, Adventurer

Black Morel (Morchellaceae, Pezizales)

My first morel hunt had me bent at the hip walking around like an ostrich trying to find a good hole to hide his head in.  I proceeded like this for hours until I finally had to take a break succumbing to a pretty bad headache from straining my senses too hard. "Where the heck are those little things?" I was convinced that I was either too early in the season or too late, not in the right spot or not looking in the right spots.  However, I was determined so I carried on anyways. Finally my eyes focused on this little black honeycomb like thing sticking out of the ground on the side of a bank.  My heart started to race and as my eyes adjusted to the contrast, I began to see more and more and more of these delicious mushrooms. It was like an Easter egg hunt and I was filling my sack, just as excited to find the next one.  I took a bunch of photos, incase I couldn't find anymore than at least I had documentation of where I found them before and would hopefully be able to use that to find them again in the future. Through my studies I read that mushrooms have to spread their spores in order for more mushroom to grow, so I left about every 5th one that I found.  That way I could come back next time and enjoy the same awesome excitement.  When, I figured I had enough, about 2 dozen, I returned to my trailer in Northern B.C. were I was living for the summer with 3 other great friends, forest fire fighting.  I fried up the mushrooms with a a dollop of butter and a little salt and pepper.  Once cooked, I drizzled them over a steak and shared the flavor with my awesome roommates.  They all loved it, and I can't wait to go picking morels again.

Look how well they blend in to their surroundings!

Not well enough to elude the dinner menu though!

 Identifying Features

 A black-ribbed honeycomb like cap resting atop a whitish to off-whitish stalk.  The stem is is hollow and thick.  

-Cap is 2-4cm wide and 2-5cm tall.

-This mushroom does not have any gills, instead it has yellowish pits much like a honeycomb, it shoots it's spores out of these pits.

-Stalk is 5-10cm long and 2-4cm thick and hollow.

This mushrooms is very tasty and can be found in coniferous woods, especially spruce. Most of the ones I have found have been spotted amidst young poplar stands. They are also found in association with pines and can be abundant in recently burned areas.  Sandy soils seem to be favored by these elusive little shrooms. These mushrooms beat the rest of them out of the ground and appear from April to May and in Northern regions into June. The black morel is the first true morel to appear in the spring. It has been known to cause stomach upset especially if consumed with alcohol.

Some Black Morel Recipes

I find the Black Morel to be very rich in taste and excellent in sauces. However, there are many different equally as tasty ways you can choose to enjoy this tasty treat from the woods.

The following is a very long list of awesome recipes you can use to cook your harvest of morels:

The Great Morel-A Tribute to Shroomers