Those Slimy ‘Shrooms: Hygrophorus flavodiscus

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When I first started learning about mushrooms, I found myself under the tutelage of an amazing mushroomer and teacher; ripe in his years, he had spent many seasons in the fields and forests, walking along roadsides, kicking over ‘shrooms as a hobby. After retirement, he had gone on to volunteer for the state poison control department offering help in cases of mushroom poisoning. He was also an excellent artist. He has, of course, since passed, but he did not go without leaving me with a wealth of information.

These Yellow-centered waxy caps, Hygrophorus flavodiscus, were some of the first really distinct mushrooms I found in mass quantity that I was quite confident of in my identification. Of course, before I cooked them all up for dinner, I wanted to verify with the master. I emailed him pictures of the ‘shrooms, the spore print, and detailed my identification, then said something to the effect of, “I can’t wait to cook them up!” His response was typical: “Well done on the ID, but why would you eat that?”

H. flavodiscus is covered in slime. That shiny coating in the photograph is not dew, rain, or melted frost; it is slime reminiscent of a wet slug, and as they like to grow under hemlock trees, they are often coated in shed needles and other detritus, but this did not stop me. I spent hours that night, scraping the slime off with a paring knife and foolishly rinsing them under the faucet. When I had finally cleaned my bounty, I cooked them up and had a heaping mess of something edible, but certainly not worthy of the preparation time. I emailed my teacher back, confirming that, in fact, there is no reason to eat them.

Later that fall, when I was out ‘shrooming, I went back to where I found them the first time, and could not help but pick more. (It is a compulsion.) I had learned a bit about cooking mushrooms since I first found them, and I had also dabbled in raising slugs as food. Slugs, like snails, are edible and when cooked thoroughly, are quite safe to eat, but they have that same slimy coating as these waxy caps. You can remove the slimy coating from a slug by dropping them in vinegar, or you can use the slimy coating as something of an egg bath before rolling them in bread crumbs and frying them up; H. flavodiscus would prove to be no different. Rather than spend hours cleaning and preparing the ‘shrooms, this time I picked the debris off, rolled them in bread crumbs and fried them up. They were delicious and still remain one of my favorite foraged fare.

Willowy Oysters

I love mushrooms. I’ve always been slightly intrigued by them – maybe it’s because my mother told me to stay away from them? I think part of what piqued my interest in mushrooms is the amount of diversity in them. They come in all colors and seem to pop up overnight. They exist in a network of mycorrohizae that we walk on and around all the time, but are totally unaware of. But, the thing with mushrooms is that once you open your eyes to them, they seem to be everywhere. Now not all of them are edible – and I’ll write a post about that soon – but a good many of them are, and if you’ve priced mushrooms in the store, (not just the white button ones) you’ll know that they can get fairly expensive. So whenever I find edible mushrooms, I get really excited.

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Dirty little willow.

One of the things I noticed about our house when we moved in three years ago, was a willow tree near the side walk. My wife loves the willow, and I admit they are pretty trees, but they get big, they drop lots of leaves, they’re heavy, and they have a pretty big root structure; I certainly don’t want a willow growing 20 feet from the house. In fact, it is already starting to buckle some of our sidewalk. So I put in my head that I would take it down in the winter; winter came and passed into spring, and the willow still stood. Part of it was lazy, part of it was other tasks, and part of it was wanting to root a twig to move the willow somewhere else where we could enjoy it in the future, after all they make a dynamite shade tree.

Three years later, and the willow still stands. I think this spring will be it’s last, but instead of using it for firewood, I have another plan. You see, after a recent rain storm, I went outside to find the willow full of dinner: Oyster mushrooms! Now I got out there a little late and these guys got a little old (see the yellowing?), but they aren’t buggy which is a huge win for Oysters. While oysters aren’t always the best, they can make a mean burger when cooked right. So now, instead of cutting down the willow and putting in the woodpile to cure, I’ll be relocating the willow logs to a damp, shady area and will hopefully be able to keep the willow log producing dinner for sometime to come.

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Hooray for mushrooms!