foraged lately?

ClareBroommaker's picture

We were able to get a handful of chestnuts in a park, but I see people there picking up nuts every day, so I decided to leave it to others. Did you know chestnuts are very high in vitamin C? I just read that last night. What a surprise!

There are only a few chestnut trees in the park. The number of foragers reminds me that foraging in general would not be terribly successful in a time when many people have learned when, what, where, and how to do it, at least in an area of concentrated population.

We picked 8 apples from a tree alongside a public bike & hike path. Most years that tree gets totally picked out, especially since it is also by one of the few car parking areas along the path. People start pulling off fruit very early in summer, out of curiosity, I guess. Besides, those apples usually are wormy and scabby. This year I noticed a few good-sized fruit high up where casual pickers could not reach. I could reach them, though, with our clawed basket type picker mounted on a dry viburnum branch. These apples are really tasty. No idea what they are. They are medium yellow apples but better than typical Golden Delicious! The flavor at the skin is intense.

At first my husband did not want to get those few apples. But they are so good, that now he's motivated and wants to go get the few apples from a declining tree on the edge of an adult daycare property. We've harvested there several years, but the tree is almost "gone" now.

There were apple trees all over that we keep a watch on. Most of them have been in parking lots. They keep getting removed, I guess as they look ratty. But the crab apples with the rosy-orange-yellow fruit were beautiful, leafy, disease-free trees when cut down to get machinery in to rehab the old YWCA. So sad.

What have you foraged lately or have plans to forage soon?

Sweet Tatorman's picture

I suppose I could be said to forage daily. Except in the worst of weather I take a walk before breakfast and keep an eye out for things to eat. My median daily harvest is definitely nothing at all. My average take is very biased to mushrooms. The armadillo which was the subject of a recent post could be said to be foraged as I spotted him on my morning walk. He had managed to get himself stuck in a situation from which he could not extricate himself. Since he obviously was not going anywhere I had a day to consider whether I wanted to deal with him which I eventually chose to do.

I have never foraged for an armadillo, but it is early spring here and I collect chickweed from my backyard most days to add to my lunchtime salad. The drawback of chickweed is that you have to snip off the leaves as the stems are stringy and unpalatable, but it is very nutritious. I did not plant a winter garden this year do to my partner Paul's cancer diagnosis, and all the craziness around surgery and chemo, but still my jungle garden came through with self-seeded chard, silverbeet and mustard greens, and endless chickweed:)
In autumn I foraged walnuts from a tree at the end of the street, and I have been eating them every morning chopped up on my porridge. Fresh walnuts are so flavoursome and a thing of beauty.

ClareBroommaker's picture

I bet you have good walnuts! Our native ones are everywhere, but difficult to get at through their thick, hard, rough shell. I much prefer the taste and crack-ability of what we call English or Persian walnuts, but I don't know if they will even grow here.

Chickweed is reliably everywhere, isn't it?

kma's picture

A few years ago we found an abandoned apple tree a short walk from our house and bought the picker to get to it. We harvested a big bag of apples and made apple sauce. We've already eaten it all! I have a picky eater for a child but she can't resist warm applesauce right off the stove. Plus, I let her work the food mill to puree it.

ClareBroommaker's picture

Are you still near that tree? Can you go get more apples this year?.... Ooh, I'm starting to want some hot-off-the-stove cinnamon spiced apple rings. Some people tint them red and I bet I could do the tinting with my Rozelle hibiscus. Thanks for setting my mind's appetite to imagining.

Sweet Tatorman's picture

I picked 5 1/2 lbs of prime oyster mushrooms today. I first saw them starting to form two days ago and waited until now to pick to maximize yield but not letting them get past prime. These are growing on a persimmon tree that fell ~5 years ago. It has been a very reliable producer of oyster mushrooms with multiple fruitings each year for the past 3-4 years. The photo below was actually taken last month when it last fruited. I did not have phone with me this morning but today's fruiting was even more abundant. As soon as I finish my last cup of coffee I will be cooking all and freezing.

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ClareBroommaker's picture

Oh, that is just wonderful! They look so clean, bright, fresh, and beautiful! How did you learn mushroom identification? Did you grow up with it?

You said you would be cooking them all up to freeze. What method do you use to cook them and have you tried to just freeze them without cooking?

Sweet Tatorman's picture

In the case of oyster mushrooms I cook in a frypan with butter until there is not any free liquid in the pan and some are starting to brown a bit which enhances the umami flavor. Assuming they did not start out waterlogged from a recent rain this will be cooked down to ~40% of starting weight. I mostly keep the pan covered with a piece of foil until most of the liquid that exudes from the mushrooms has cooked off. For chanterelles it is similar except if I happen to have an open bottle of a white wine I will add a bit while cooking as this enhances the fruity flavor aspect of chanterelles. Final weight is in range of 35-40% of starting. For shitakes (not foraged but I grow these) similar to chanterelles except using red wine which I mix in the the prepped mushrooms before they ever go to the frypan. After cooking they get vacuum bagged and then frozen. I doubt that freezing fresh would be as satisfactory (I think they would turn mushy) but I have heard of it being done with at least one species.
Cooking greatly reduces the volume vs fresh which is also an advantage. I have tried drying chanterelles but found the result inferior to cooking and freezing. I did dry some morels once with good result but this is one that I generally find in such small quantities that there is no need to preserve.

Sweet Tatorman's picture

I learned them one species at a time.
I did not grow up with it but have been doing it for most of my adult life. For about 40 years was only collecting a handful of the easy species. It was 12 years ago that a friend expressed an interest in learning and that was the motivation to make the effort to really up my game as well as expand my collection of references. Since then I've probably sampled well over a hundred edible ones.

There are old mushroom hunters
There are bold mushroom hunters.
There are no bold, old mushroom hunters.

How do you make a definitive diagnosis if a mushroom is safe? There must be thousands of kinds (based on my extremely casual observations as I walk around) and some of them look awfully similar.

Sweet Tatorman's picture

Your comment which is adapted from an expression in aviation is much more applicable to general aviation than to mushroom foraging. In the US, general aviation fatalities annually may number in the 100's, adult fatalities from misidentified mushrooms average around 1 though that number would be higher in the absence of medical intervention. This would exclude free-range rug rats grazing on toadstools in the back yard.
To be clear, there are species of mushrooms that eaten in sufficient quantity will be fatal. Those species are few in number and in the US around 90% of fatalities are associated with a single species in a single genus (Amanita phalloides). There are others in the Amanita genus as well as a few other genera that can produce fatalities. Simply learning the common characteristics of the Amanita genus and avoiding them would eliminate a major portion of risk. There are a few edibles in the genus but I have never eaten any though I did once provide a concurring ID for one that a mushroom buddy wished to try. She only intended to eat just one.
>How do you make a definitive diagnosis if a mushroom is safe? There must be thousands of kinds (based on my extremely casual observations as I walk around) and some of them look awfully similar.<
I suppose the correct answer in the strictest sense is you cannot. There certainly is no one characteristic that is diagnostic that can be applied to all species. You need to learn them one species at a time. Identification is at the level of "good enough". I have been collecting for over 50 years and have never experienced so much as minor stomach upset from a misidentification. I have knowingly eaten some that I only had identified down to the genus level not the species level because it met my personal criteria of "good enough". Even the oyster mushrooms pictured up thread which are ones I would be willing to teach to a beginner are only identified "good enough". If those were handed to a knowledgeable person they would give you an ID as Pleurotus ostreatus. I am certain that if someone had the money and inclination to do genetic sequencing on a large number of collections of Pleurotus ostreatus it would be shown to be a collection of several and perhaps many closely related species. Again, ID is only "good enough".
You are quite correct that mushroom species number in the 1000's and some are very similar even on close inspection. The Russula genus is a good example. These are very common, I am sure you have seen many. There are 100's in the genus and many are very hard to sort out, the red capped ones in particular. I know, I've tried and found it beyond my limit of patience.

Wow. Thank you.
You put a lot of thought into it.

As to the mushroom hunter adage, I only ever hear it connected to mushrooms. Never aviation.

ClareBroommaker's picture

I found these three earlier threads which included mushroom discussion and include more pics of Sweettatorman's finds.

I haven't done much foraging this year, aside from harvesting apples from the tree on our property. We have a black walnut tree as well, but this is a reminder to get cracking (!) with harvesting some of the nuts. We've been pretty scattered with other tasks to do.

Last year I bought a book on foraging local species, and there are lots of edible plants around that are less well-known. Here in Nova Scotia, we have plants like highbush cranberry growing wild. When doing this, one should probably be a bit careful - I discovered I'm slightly allergic to sea rocket, a plant in the mustard family which grows all over the coastline here. My tongue turned mostly grey when I ate some leaves.

Thrifty1's picture

I'm lucky enough to live on the edge of a city, in a little old market town surrounded by countryside that's been farmed and managed for the best part of a thousand years. That includes "drove roads" with hedgerows full of edible species like blackberry, hazelnut, sloes, bullaces & damsons (all varieties of tiny wild plum) crab apples, elderberries, and even black walnuts in places. Places I can just walk to. There are also plenty of field mushrooms and other varieties, but I'm not well-educated enough to identify anything more than puffballs and chicken-of-the-woods. Various edible leaves pop up from early spring, including garlic mustard or Jack-by-the-hedge, and wild garlic. For many years I hardly saw anyone else out there filling their bags and boxes, but foraging's become more popular again now & people pay good money to go on "courses" to learn how to do it & what to do with their "finds". Though of course most of them are too busy earning money to bother with preserving or fermentation - why would you, when you can just buy it & have it delivered?!

I used to take our local "Brownie" (8-10 year old girls) groups out on foraging walks, but sadly that got discontinued in case any child inadvertently ate something poisonous (at any time) & the organisation got the blame for making them think that not everything out there was designed to kill you. To my mind that seemed very wrong - knowing what's safe to eat, and what's NOT, could save their lives one day. Ah well...