Monday, January 13, 2014

Foraging and Mushroom Observing in Winter

White pine

New England weather in early winter can be quite a roller coaster of ups and downs, snow one week, then mid 50's the week after, rain and polar cold winds with a mix of sunshine. We have five more months before any scheduled mushroom forays with the mushroom club, and the fresh wild food foraging can be scarce. Today was one of the sunshine filled 50 degree days, so I ventured out to a local park here in Norwich for some fresh air and to have a peek around. I only had my cell phone with me, so the photos may not be the best.

I found a few ascomycetes, a family of fungus that you might not recognize as a "mushroom" because of their shape. Ascos are usually small and often grow on decaying wood. They can come in many colors, and perhaps the most famous (and the tastiest!) is the morel. Ascomycetes are distinguished from basidiomycetes by how their spores are dispersed. We often use a jeweler's loupe to view the small features of ascos.

Ascocoryne sarcoides-purple cups

Exidia recisa (brown jelly) and Hypoxylon frangiforme (black bumps)

Bisporella citrina-yellow discs

I also came across several parasitic ascos, Elaphocordyceps sp. They are parasitic on an underground elaphomyces truffle, which is not considered edible. The ground is still a bit frozen. so I did not dig up the truffle for observation.

Elaphocordyceps sp. growing from an underground truffle
 Next were some polypore bracket fungi. They are often wood decayers and can completely cover the trunk of dead or dying trees. They help break down the organic matter back into soil, and are great recyclers of dead wood. Turkey tails are very common and can come in several color combinations, but these blue ones are some of my favorite. The maze polypore is names for Daedalus and the maze he created to hold the minotaur in Greek mythology.

Trametes versicolor- turkey tails

Daedaleopsis confragosa- maze polypore
Partridge berry
There are still a few edible berries to be found in the area, although the birds and deer will be looking for them too. Partridge berries (Mitchella repens) are pretty tasteless, but pretty to find. Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens) prefers a pine forest, and the berries will persist throughout the winter. The flavor of the wintergreen berries are intensely wintergreen, and make a great trailside nibble. White pine (Pinus strobus) needles can be brewed into a refreshing tea filled with more nutritionally available vitamin C than an orange and are very common and abundant in Connecticut.


I am happy I was able to take advantage of this mild January day. I guess I'll keep an eye on the weather and hope for a few more mild breaks throughout the winter for another adventure and hunt in our local woods.


Anonymous said...

Similar findings here in western Pennsylvania. I find that, even though we're right in the heart of winter, it's still worth it to explore the winter fungal kingdom. Even something as common as a jelly fungus can lift our spirits and make us appreciate all that's still out there! Great post.

Pilz Finder App said...

What an awesome blog!!! A must follow :-) We love foraging since a couple of years and this way also found our way to winter mushrooms. Unfortunatly only a fiew posts in our blog are in English :-( But maybe this one could interest you:

All the best, Ron