Conditions have been just right this autumn for mushrooms to…mushroom. Southwest Virginia has been sauna hot, steam bath humid and deeply rainy.
As far as I know, only one type of the mushrooms pictured below is edible— the Chanterelles, shown at the very bottom. Photogenic as they all are, I wouldn’t touch any of the rest of them with a fork.
I’m not a mycological expert by any means, but I do trust myself to identify a Morel, wash it, dust it with flour and fry it in butter. Yu-um! However, Morels are springtime ‘shrooms and I haven’t seen one in the wild for years. A lifetime ago my dad took me along when he searched for them. He told me I should look under May apples’ leaves. I don’t remember if I found any there or if that was a ruse to keep me out of his way.
A few weekends ago Chanterelles were the centerpiece of an evening meal at one of my very favorite places, above a river, in the mountains. We had fresh local tomatoes, local corn, and pie made from local apples. Really, a meal doesn’t get any better. (I must confess I’ve made better crust, but the apples were good.)
The National Audubon Society Field Guide to Mushrooms says, “Mushrooms are among the most mysterious life forms. Ancient Greeks believed they came from Zeus’s lightning because they appeared after rains and reproduced and grew inexplicably.” The Guide goes on, “Though mysterious, mushrooms often appear suddenly and often in places where they’ve never been seen before. They have been out of sight, growing underground or beneath bark.” And they disappear quickly too. Yesterday there were a gang of little ‘uns huddled together under my downspout. They’re gone today.
Indeed, these fantastical-looking life forms are nothing if not bewitching. And their names add to their allure—Big Laughing Gym, White Dunce Cap, Lawn Mower’s Mush, Fading Scarlet Waxy Cap, Sweating Mushroom, Emetic Russula (emetic?!), Pinecone Tooth, Old Man of the Woods, Jack o’Lantern, Hen of the Wood, Saltshaker Earthstar. If any of these are shown below, I don’t know it. I’m a mushroom admirer, not a mushroom professional. For the real low down on mushrooms read Gloria’s posts. She writes “Virginia Wildflowers,” a beautiful, informative blog. Mushrooms are included.
Click on photos to enlarge them.