Last Friday, Miss McAtamney’s AP Environmental Studies class took an hour-long field trip across the street to Wissahickon park. Although it was only an hour-long foray, ideal weather conditions meant we didn’t have to travel far for a bounty. Here’s some of what students found:
Armillaria mellea a.k.a “honey mushroom.” The largest organisms on the planet are forest-clearing, meadow-creating patches of this tenacious, and delicious, parasite. An arboretum’s worst enemy but an essential element of a healthy temperate forest. Makes a nice broth.
Trametes versicolor a.k.a. turkey tail (notice a bird theme?). Well-studied for its immuno-modulating, chemotherapy-enhancing, and antiviral effects. Versi-color means you can find it in just about every color. Individual specimens often display tiny rings of sharply-contrasting hues.
Calvatia cyathiformis a.k.a “purple-spored puffball.” If you ever played outdoor sports, or better yet, spent hours daydreaming in the outfield, you probably noticed these mushrooms in their mature phase, when they emit clouds of purple “smoke.” You may have even helped them propagate their genetics by jumping on them while fly-balls whizzed by you unnoticed. Native Americans used the spores to clot and disinfect wounds. When harvested in their immature phase, they can be used like tofu, that is if you can resist kicking them through the uprights.
Just like last year, I’m impressed with the students’ curiosity, interest, and keen eye for mushrooms. We’re going to have a great time this year!
It wouldn’t be early October without some proper fungal eye-candy:
Laetiporus Sulphureus: the yellow-pored chicken mushroom, chicken of the woods, sulphur shelf, namesake of this blog and the reason I don’t get enough sleep. This beauty was growing on an Ash, which was a first for me, and my nephew, Dustin, spotted her sister 30 feet overhead!
Enteloma abortivum (carpophoroid). Just because honey mushrooms are forest parasite #1 doesn’t mean they are invulnerable. What you see is the mycelium of an enteloma parasitizing the mycelium and/or immature fruits of a honey mushroom, converting it into a white blob which takes on the flavor of the victor.
Hericium americanum: bear tooth. One of two varieties of hericium we have on the east coast. If the axon-like tendrils didn’t already give it away, this genus produces compounds which have completely novel effects on the brain. For one, they stimulate nuerotrophic growth factor which in turn restores myelin (the fatty coating which insulates axons). If you suffer from Lyme disease or MS, this should be on your dinner plate. Did I mention they taste sweet, caramelize nicely and have a texture similar to crab? They’re easy to grow too.