We took a tour with Steve Brill this past weekend, October 11, at Putnam State Park in Redding, CT. We had been here before, almost one year ago, so we knew what we would find--mushrooms! Our knowledge of mushrooms is almost nothing, so we decided that we should start learning, join some discussion groups, take some tours, buy some books, and take some pictures.
Someone spotted rotten logs covered with pear-shaped puffballs (Lycoperdon pyriforme), enough for the whole group to pick a bag full. They are edible when young, when they are still white inside. The pear-shaped puffballs grow on dead stumps and logs, most often in great clusters, and usually year after year in the same place. When easily pulled from the rotting log, you can observe that the mushroom is pear-shaped, there is no "stem", and there is a white thready growth on the bottom to anchor the mushroom to the log. We brought them home, washed them up, sliced them in half, and cooked them into a mushroom cream sauce for millet.
Then some honey mushrooms (Armillaria mellea) were found, and we grabbed a few choice caps and stems, which Robert made into a vegetarian soup with carrots, potatoes, cream and chestnuts. Honey mushrooms have gills that will extend a bit down the stem, and a ring around the upper stem. The color can range from yellow to brown, and there may be scales on the top of the cap. The mushrooms are found on or near dead trees, usually being the cause of the tree's death.
Robert was scouting around ahead of the group and came across a bear's head tooth (Hericium americanum) growing on a fallen tree. I (Karen) had never seen a mushroom like this before! It was a large mass of white, icicle-like fingers hanging down from the tree. This specimen was a bit old, since it was not pure white anymore, it was turning light brown, so we left it. It is supposed to be delicious cooked slowly. I thought it was surprisingly durable, it is not as soft as it looks. You can rub the fingers and they will not break or turn mushy.
There were other mushroom finds, but many were too tough to eat, old, or deadly!! It is incredibly important to go mushroom hunting with someone who knows exactly what they are doing. A common saying is "There are old mushroom hunters, and there are bold mushroom hunters, but there are no old, bold mushroom hunters".