Mushroom season wrap-up

This being my last article for this mushroom season (please, don’t all clap at once) I thought I would use this space to do a kind of seasonal wrap-up. I’m sure some of you were hoping to see photos showing buckets of morels. But no, for that to happen the morels would have needed to pop up in our house on the carpet or linoleum, and that didn’t happen. So, instead I will start with an amazing photo of one of our Shiitake logs that was inoculated about 18 months ago. I submerged the oak log in water for 48 hours then put it in our garage where it stays fairly warm and is out of direct sunlight. As I do not like to be braggadocios, I’ve invented a fictitious friend named Casper to comment on my mushroom log instead.

Casper:  Damn Ron, that log is loaded with shiitake mushrooms.
Ron:     Yes well, I guess I got lucky as I’ve had some failures before.
Casper: Are you kidding me? You’re like an inoculation genius, a regular shiitake savant.
Ron:      Please, you’re making me blush.
Casper: This is the best crop of shiitake mushrooms from one log I’ve ever seen.
Ron:      Thank you, you’re being very kind.
Casper: I’ve seen videos of Japanese experts doing this and you’re much, much better.
Ron:      OK, let’s not overdo it Casper.
Casper: What? Isn’t that what you invented me for? To brag on you, stroke your ego?
Ron:      Well yes but even that’s over the top for me so thanks but, you’re fired.

Moving right along, I do want to show a few more pictures of some random mushrooms popping up in our garden beds and pots where we layered them last fall with wood chips, wood pellets, and straw. In turn, all the nutrients released from these layers of organic material by fungi and other microbes have created a great soil amendment for our spring plantings. Like us, I hope you also took the advice of Charles Dowding and encouraged fungi into your garden by top-layering with organic materials. Edible or not, these fungi play a very important role in the health and well being of our soil and are very cool to look at when they do pop up.

By the way, the Garden Giant mushrooms (Stropharia rugoso-annulata) in the top left of the composite picture are quite tasty and return every year. I’ve also included a picture of our crop of snow pea plants growing where the mushrooms in the top right of the above picture came up. I believe they are Agrocybe praecox and are also listed as edible, although we have not tried them. On the other hand, the resulting snow peas that are just now developing will most assuredly be tried over and over again.

So, we know what’s going on at our house today but what about the earlier part of our mushroom hunting season. While it seems like such a long time ago, it was one of our better seasons of the last decade. We blew away our old Mount Pisgah Arboertum Mushroom Festival record by displaying 539 species of mushrooms, which included 88 new to the show. There was also an abundance of some of our favorite woodland mushrooms like King Boletes, Queen Boletes, Matsutake, Chanterelles, Lobsters, and Shrimp Russula to name a few. It also seems each fall showcases  a few very prolific fruiting species and the several that come to mind this season are Pigs Ear, Admirable Bolete,  Cauliflower mushroom, and the amazingly beautiful Coccora, which we found fruiting in fairy rings.

If that wasn’t enough, the hedgehog season started out with nice fruitings of the larger Hydnum repandum followed by Hydnum umbilicatum, commonly known as the Bellybutton Hedgehog. We also had some great CMS sponsored mushroom forays where everyone came home with mushrooms and big smiles on their faces. All in all I can honestly say that we had a great time foraging in the woods for some of our favorite mushrooms, listening to interesting and informative speakers at our CMS meetings, and helping to make the annual October Mushroom Festival a great success. Great job everyone.

Almost lastly, I must confess that morel mushroom fever has hit Sandy pretty hard as she kept seeing Facebook postings of boxes and bags with morels. And since we did not have any popping up inside or outside our house, I gave in to the pressure, made a picnic lunch, loaded  up the car, and we headed east to hunt for morels. Our objective was to hunt in and around the Suttle Lake area where we had some success years earlier. After arriving, we spent an hour or so hiking around with our eyes fixated on the ground looking for that first sign that morels were in the area. Well, having zero luck at Suttle Lake, Sandy suggested driving further east toward Sisters to the Metolius area. When we got there, it took around another hour of hunting but Sandy finally found the hot spot for morels and success was achieved. After all that picking, we then drove to the head of the Metolius River trailhead, grabbed a picnic table and enjoyed lunch while chatting about our big score.

I believe this photo of our success after driving 230 miles fully encapsulates why I am so reluctant to venture out on a quest that almost assuredly will result in what you see here. I could say this is a glass half full, half empty situation, but really. Do you see a box half full here? I’d be OK with just quarter full but one lone morel! On the bright side, we did get out of the house and spent part of the day in the woods, although most was spent sitting and driving around in the car. At least for now, Sandy has recovered from her morel fever, that is until she reads the next posting of someone else filling boxes and bags with morels. Please, if you do find a big score of morels, wait to make your online postings for sometime in late August. By the way, that lonely morel in the box became the star feature in an egg scramble that Sandy said was the best ever. I don’t know about it being the best ever but I dare say it was the most expensive egg scramble we’ve ever made.

Lastly, Sandy and I hope all our fellow mushroom enthusiasts and their families are staying safe and sound during these tumultuous times. I’ve seen people doing many innovative things to help them manage these difficult circumstances we now find ourselves in. If anything, we are resilient and there is no doubt we will all see each other again on a mushroom hunt on some future occasion, just not a morel hunt anytime soon.

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