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Latest News – 3/9/2014:

  • The Flagstaff Arboretum will be hosting its annual Mushroom Festival on Aug. 22-23.
  • If you were intending to go to the Telluride Mushroom Festival (Shroomfest) in August, the dates have been changed to Saturday the 16th through Tuesday the 19th.
  • Still no word on AMC president Dr. Chet Leathers’ plans for a class on mushroom cultivation, but will pass on any news as soon as we get it.
  • The brief spell of rainy weather is over and no further relief of the drought is in sight at present. Will there be a morel season? Keep an eye on this page and the Arizona Mushroom Club site for news of any April or May forays, but don’t get your hopes up. 
  • Our Facebook page continues to gain subscribers.  “Like” us if you’re a member.

Grassroots effort to open the “Rim Fire” burn in California to the public

Message from Gary Melgaard of the Arizona Mushroom Club – 25 March 2014

Rim Fire in California 2103

(InciWeb)

Hi Fellow AMC Club Members, we are forwarding this for all to review. I know they will appreciate any support we can give them.

I believe we are still facing a similar problem here as a result of the Wallow Fire.

Best Regards,

Gary Melgaard

Message from Curt Haney, President of the Mycological Society of San Francisco (lingking@sbcglobal.net) – 21 Mar 2014

This is an important message to members of all western states mycological societies.

On January 28th, 2014 representatives of the Mycological Society of San Francisco, (MSSF)formally requested a special use permit from the supervisor of the Stanislaus National Forest to enter the 257,000 acre Rim Fire burn zone to conduct organized forays starting in April 2014.  A similar request was made to the supervisor of the Tahoe National Forest, in the American Fire burn zone.  No response was received from either, and the burn zones remained closed.  The Rim Fire burn zone is closed until November 18th, 2014, except for logging operations and scientific study teams.

To date; the MSSF has only been able to gain limited access to the Rim Fire burn zone by volunteering to assist with the post fire strategic survey being conducted by a team from the UC Berkley biology department.

Just to the North of the Rim Fire was the American Fire, which occurred last year in the Tahoe National Forest.  It too was closed, but on March 13th 2014 the closure order was terminated and is now open to mushroom collecting by obtaining a “free” personnel use collecting permit.

Why is one burn zone open, yet others closed?  Is this happening just in California, or is this also occurring everywhere the National Forest Service manages our forests?

We are calling on mycological society members of any society who are interested in maintain free and open access to their national forests to become involved.

The attached letter will further explain our opinion on this subject, and also provides contact information to become more involved.

If this can happen in California, it can happen anywhere!

CURT HANEY
President, MSSF

Follow-up Message from Curt Haney – 23 March 2014

This is an important “follow-up” message to members of all western states mycological societies.

We are calling on mycological society members of any society who are interested in maintain free and open access to their national forests to become involved.

The (2) attached documents further explain our opinion on this subject, and also provides contact information to become more involved in our “grassroots” effort to open the Rim Fire burn zone for public access.

Feel free to share this information with your members and reproduce it in your newsletters.

CURT HANEY
President, MSSF

Attached Documents

1) Grassroots campaign to open the Rim Fire

2) Mycophiles To the Rim!

A Chinese mushroom adventure at the Illinois Mycological Society

The Illinois Mycological Society recently had a “Chinese Mushroom Banquet and Indoor Apothecary Foray” that was a sold-out success.  Such a success, in fact, that they’ll be doing it again this weekend. Cost is $35 per head.

Phallus indusiatus

Phallus indusiatus (Ajaykuyiloor/WikiCommons)

The menu included the famous “Bamboo Pith Mushroom”, Phallus indusiatus, better known in English as the “Bridal Veil Stinkhorn.”  This delicacy was once reserved for the Imperial Palace, and was served to Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger at their meetings with the Chinese leadership in the 1970′s.

Who’s up for something like this down at the Chinese Cultural Center of Arizona on 44th Street and the 202?  We could do a prix fixe mushroom banquet at one of the Chinese restaurants, tour the produce department at the Super L Ranch Market, and visit the Chinese Herbal Shop in the center to learn about medicinal fungi used in traditional Chinese medicine. It could also be done in the burgeoning new Asian district along Dobson Road in Mesa and Chandler.

If you ever wanted to eat a stinkhorn, here’s your chance. Maybe for the Arizona Mushroom Club’s annual meeting in December?…

IMS Chinese mushroom banquet - p. 1

(Illinois Mycological Society)

IMS Chinese banquet, part 2

The Mushroom is the Elf of Plants (Emily Dickinson)

Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)

The Mushroom is the Elf of Plants —
At Evening, it is not —
At Morning, in a Truffled Hut
It stop upon a Spot

As if it tarried always
And yet its whole Career
Is shorter than a Snake’s Delay
And fleeter than a Tare —

‘Tis Vegetation’s Juggler —
The Germ of Alibi —
Doth like a Bubble antedate
And like a Bubble, hie —

I feel as if the Grass was pleased
To have it intermit —
This surreptitious scion
Of Summer’s circumspect.

Had Nature any supple Face
Or could she one contemn —
Had Nature an Apostate —
That Mushroom — it is Him!

Fungi Compete with Meat in Burgers

"Earth & Turf" mushroom burger from Flip Burger Boutique

(Flip Burger Boutique)

From National Public Radio, a story about rapidly increasing interest in using mushrooms as an extender for ground meats, especially hamburgers.  According to this story, a hamburger made of 50% beef and 50% mushrooms is as filling as a regular burger, tastes better, has 24% less fat, and is 27% cheaper.

Worth a try!  Perhaps you could adapt the mushroom sausage recipe we discussed last fall for this purpose.

 

A great resource: Specialty and exotic produce sellers’ websites

Mushrooms at Far West Fungi

(Gabriel B./Yelp)

When you’re learning about edible mushroom identification and cookery, a good place to look is at the web sites of specialty produce sellers. These companies mostly cater to restaurants and chefs, but will sometimes have an on-line or storefront retail operation too.

When you are in search of a particular mushroom that doesn’t grow in your area or is out of season, they are indispensable. The Candy-Cap Cheesecake I brought to the winter meeting of the Arizona Mushroom Club couldn’t have been made without dried candy caps from Far West Fungi.

Their web sites will typically have pictures and other information about the various species they source from growers and foragers, and often a recipe list or blog with information about cooking them. They will usually list what species are currently in season, and they’ll frequently link to other sites with more information, too.

And for travelers, one of the most useful types of information they publish may be a list of restaurants that order their produce, grocery stores that stock their products, or farmer’s markets where they will be selling. If you’re going to a gastronomic mecca like San Francisco or New York City, and want to know where you can get a really well-made meal of wild mushrooms, these sites will point you there and maybe even tell you what’s on the menu that week.

Here are a few that I have found particularly noteworthy:

Specialty Produce, San Diego, CA.

Tons of information. Probably the best of all the sites listed here. They offer many recipe links out to other engaging food blogs and websites, as well as a weekly “Farmer’s Market Bag” and their own iPhone app.  For every item they sell, you can see which restaurants have ordered it recently.  What a great resource for us “Zonies” who love to visit San Diego!  (Wholesale only, except for the farmer’s market bag.)

Oregon Mushrooms, Keno, OR.

Not so packed with information, but has a wide retail selection of dried, powdered, frozen, and fresh mushrooms and truffles.  Perhaps the best selection of fancy gift sets for mushroom lovers.

Wine Forest Wild Foods, Napa, CA

Lots of information and recipes from owner and food writer Connie Green, and highly recommended.  Many kinds of mushrooms are available, and there is also a large retail selection of oils, spices, and non-mushroom wild foods.  The site includes a rather hard-to-find list of restaurants they supply, which will be of interest to visiting gourmets. Her mushrooms are used by some of the biggest names in the Bay Area food scene, which is saying something.

Local Harvest, nationwide

This site is unique in this list because it is not a specific commercial enterprise, but a clearinghouse for “community supported agriculture” in a given locality.  Pick a city, and it will connect you to local farmer’s markets and specialty grocers, a list of what nearby farmers and foragers have in stock, and a calendar of various local events of interest to foodies, foragers, and gardeners. There is a very large amount of informative articles and useful links to other sites.  The mushrooms we’re most interested in do get a little lost amidst all the other categories, but this nonetheless looks like a site that most of our readers would find worthwhile.

Follow the link below to see what kind of local food is available in Arizona:

Local Harvest link for Arizona

Far West Fungi, San Francisco, CA

A moderate amount of information, and large selection of mushrooms at retail.  Their store in the Ferry Terminal farmer’s market is worth a stop when you’re in San Francisco. Try the candy-cap marshmallows and ice cream.

Marx Foods, Seattle, WA

A fair amount of information and recipes, and an immense selection of wild, exotic, and fancy foods, not just mushrooms.  If you are serving a state dinner for the Queen of England and her 300 best friends, look here.

MycoLogical Natural Products, Eugene, OR

Recipes, seasonal charts, and a variety of available dried and fresh mushrooms from a well-known supplier in Oregon. I see their dried mushrooms stocked in Arizona supermarkets all the time.

Gourmet Mushrooms, Sebastopol, CA

No wild fungi here, but numerous kinds of exotic cultivated mushrooms, especially Japanese varieties.  Quite a few recipes and cooking tips.

Pacific Rim Mushrooms, Vancouver, BC

A large selection of foraged and cultivated mushrooms, fresh and dried, including a lot of Asian varieties. Some good looking recipes, and a smattering of other useful information.

If you have other sites of this sort that you like to use, drop us a line and we’ll add them to the list.

 

ADOT Reopening Roads in White Mountains

Just in time for morel season, the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) is reopening some of our favorite high-country roads in the White Mountains that have been closed since October or November.  These include:

  • State Route 261 between Eagar and Big Lake
  • State Route 273 between Sunrise Park Resort and Big Lake
  • State Route 473 between State Route 260 and Hawley Lake
Open country north of Sunrise

Open country north of Sunrise

But yet to be seen, is it worth it to make the trip all the way up there after this distressingly warm, dry winter? Stay tuned for some upcoming scouting reports in the next month or so…

 

The Foraging Wars: Extreme Eating Hits California – The Daily Beast

A thought-provoking story on foraging this evening from the Daily Beast.  It dovetails with our recent post on the problems at Salt Point State Park in California.  As foraging for mushrooms and other wild food becomes increasingly popular, the impact on the environment increases in proportion.

The locavore, slow-food, back-to-nature, urban-forager community has some questions to ask itself.  What does it really mean to live sustainably?  Is it more sustainable for tens of thousands of people in a given city to strip the nearby oceans of abalone and the local hillsides of porcini, or to eat farmed shrimp and button mushrooms from the other side of the world?

I don’t have the answers.  Luckily it seems that the question can be deferred for some time yet here in Arizona, where the ratio of foragers per acre of public land is perhaps lower than anywhere outside Alaska. Not so in the San Francisco Bay area, or Boulder, or the Berkshires….

Abalone shells

(Photo by UniversalImagesGroup via Getty)

 

Chanterelles and their lookalikes in Arizona

The True Chanterelle, Cantharellus spp.

Golden chanterelles from the White Mountains, August 2013.

Arizona Chanterelles

One of the favorite targets of Arizona mushroom collectors is the chanterelle, known for its delicious flavor and distinctive fruity fragrance. These can occur in large numbers in a good year. Both the August and September forays of the Arizona Mushroom Club in 2013 came across moderate numbers of this choice edible, some of which are shown at right.

Like a lot of mushrooms, the scientific taxonomy of the chanterelles is in some disarray, which has only been heightened by the advent of DNA sequencing. The most commonly collected species in this country, and the only one listed in Scott Bates’ Arizona Macrofungi Checklist, is generally called C. cibarius. However, that may change in future, especially for the Western distribution of the species.

This mushroom is particularly prized for its culinary qualities in soups, cream sauces, and omelets. It can be dried and ground into a useful flavoring powder, but does not reconstitute well from the dried state. If preservation of the entire mushroom is desired, it can more successfully be blanched or half-sautéed and then frozen. It can also be pickled or canned with good results. It should be cooked before eating, as the raw mushroom is unpleasantly peppery, and may give sensitive individuals an upset stomach.

The chanterelle is recognized by the following characteristics:

  • The species is mycorrhizal, growing in the dirt near living trees. Douglas firs (Pseudotsuga menziesii) are a particular favorite, but it is found promiscuously with conifers and deciduous trees.
  • In the Arizona mountains, it is typically found from mid-July to mid-September above 7000 feet. It particularly favors steep, north-facing, relatively shady hillsides.
  • Patches of chanterelles grow gregariously but individually. Two or three fruiting bodies are occasionally seen arising together off conjunct stems or bulbs, but large connected clusters of mushrooms are not characteristic of this genus.
  • There is a uniform, conspicuous golden yellow color, much like an egg yolk. Orange and pink tints may be seen, but do not predominate, at least in the species or variants found in Arizona.
  • The fresh mushroom gives off a distinctive apricot or peach odor.
  • There is a flat or even funnel-shaped cap, with a rather wavy edge that may be rolled under at the margin.
  • Stem is moderately thick, may be tapered, and measures approximately as long as the cap is wide.
  • When cutting the mushroom, there is white, firm flesh. No staining of the flesh is seen when sliced or bruised.
  • It throws off a white or light yellow spore print.
  • Chanterelle Ridges in close up

    Hymenial ridges of Cantharellus sp.

    Important: There are relatively thick, shallow, widely spaced, blunt-edged ridges at the undersurface of the cap. (See adjacent photograph). These are rather firm and robust, and difficult to remove from the cap without tearing it. They are decurrent, i.e. running down the stem, and show irregular forking and interconnecting veins between the ridges. This is perhaps the single most useful characteristic for distinguishing the chanterelle from its imitators.

False Chanterelle (Hygrophoropsis aurantiaca)

True and False chanterelles in profile

Cantharellus sp. (L) and Hygrophoropsis aurantiaca (R), seen in profile

This impostor looks very much like the true chanterelle, and can be found at the same times and places. The picture at right shows a true chanterelle and a false one side by side. These two mushrooms were  found side by side under Ponderosa pines (Pinus ponderosa) on the Mogollon Rim in September 2013. They were no more than five feet apart, and it would have been very easy for a careless collector to throw them both into the basket.

The false chanterelle is not deadly poisonous, and a few people eat them with no difficulty. However, they are bitter and vastly inferior to the true chanterelle in taste. They contain high amounts of the sugar alcohol arabitol, which can lead to gastrointestinal distress for some people.

The major distinguishing characteristics are as follows:

  • Gills of False Chanterelle in close-up

    Lamellae of Hygrophoropsis aurantiaca

    Under the cap, there are true gills rather than ridges, as in the adjoining photo. They are deeper, thinner, straighter, more closely spaced, sharper-edged, and flimsier than the ridges of the chanterelle, and can be pulled off much more easily. They show rather uniform peripheral forking, without the meandering interconnections of the true chanterelle.

  • The stem tends to be longer and thinner relative to the size of the cap, and may also be rather tortuous.
  • The flesh of the cap is thinner and softer than the firm, meaty chanterelle. It may have an orange tint that is not seen in a true chanterelle.
  • Its overall hue is distinctively more orange than yellow, as the side-by-side photograph above illustrates.
  • Caps of the True and False Chanterelle

    Pileus of Cantharellus sp. (L) and Hygrophoropsis aurantiaca (R)

    The cap has a target-shaped  configuration, known as graded or zoned coloration. It is darker centrally and lighter at the periphery. The photo at right is not optimal for showing this distinction, but gives you an idea of the difference. (The true chanterelle is to the left, and the false to the right.)

  • When dry, the cap of the false chanterelle will have a slightly fuzzier, felt-like texture compared to the smoother surface of the true chanterelle. It also tends to be more uniformly round and less undulant or wavy.

In most other respects, such as the white spore print, decurrent gills, slightly in-rolled edge, and habitat, it is essentially the same as the true chanterelle. It is thought to be saprobic (feeding on dead matter) rather than mycorrhizal (growing in symbiosis with live tree roots), but can apparently survive on decaying litter and humus. This means it can be found growing from the dirt of the forest floor like the true chanterelle, and need not be attached to any identifiable piece of wood.

Be on the alert for this one, and closely examine the gills of every supposed chanterelle you pick. Here’s one more picture of the undersurface of the true chanterelle (L) next to the impostor (R) to prepare you for the coming season:

Gills of True and False Chanterelles

Hymenium and stipe of Cantharellus sp. (L) and Hygrophoropsis aurantiaca (R)

 

Scaly-vase Chanterelle (Gomphus spp.)

The tops and bottoms of several Gomphus floccosus

Caps, ridges, and stipes of Gomphus sp.

This meaty, firm mushroom also fruits at the same times and places as the true chanterelle. Like the false chanterelle, it is not deadly poisonous, but it has an unpleasant sour taste and may cause significant gastrointestinal symptoms if eaten.

The accompanying photo shows several examples found under mixed conifers on the Mogollon Rim in late July, 2013. This was a loose cluster of perhaps a dozen individuals spread over an area about twenty feet in diameter. The thick funnel-shaped stipe and scaly cap are well demonstrated.

There are multiple rather similar members of the genus Gomphus, again with the typical taxonomic controversies that inflame the “lumpers” and “splitters” of the scientific world. The most commonly described member of the genus is probably G. floccosus. The photographed specimens here, with their especially prominent raised scales and less deeply depressed cap, are typical of the Southwestern version that some assign to G. bonarii or G. kaufmanii. However, some authorities advocate that all the North American Gomphus except the “pig’s ear” (G. clavatus) of the northern and eastern parts of the continent should be considered the same species, and assigned to a new genus: Turbinellus floccosus.

Major distinguishing characteristics are as follows:

  • Ridges of Gomphus floccosus

    Hymenial ridges of a Gomphus
    (Pikes Peak Mycological Society)

    There are thick, blunt-edged hymenial ridges that are even firmer, less prominent, and less mobile than the ridges on the true chanterelle, let alone the the other mimics in this list. They are notably decurrent, extending even farther down the stipe than on the true chanterelle. They also have a more nodular appearance. A close-up photo is at right.

  • The stipe is thick and meaty, with a tapered vase-like shape that is substantially wider at the top than at the base. True chanterelles can show this shape as well, but not as uniformly from one individual to another as is seen with the genus Gomphus.
  • The coloration is more distinctively orange on the cap than yellow, and darker and more heterogeneous than on the true chanterelle. By contrast, the ridges and stem have a conspicuously off-white coloration that is quite unlike the uniform golden color of the chanterelle.
  • The cap of a gomphus floccosus in close-up

    Cap of Gomphus sp.

    The cap is usually depressed centrally, appearing funnel-shaped, with coarse dark scales. These can be sessile (flat) or stick up quite prominently, depending on the age of the specimen, and perhaps the species if you are a taxonomic “splitter”. The cap is typically more rounded and uniform than the chanterelle, with less undulation and with little or no in-rolling of the margin.

  • The spore print is brown rather than white.

 

The Jack-O’-Lantern Mushroom (Omphalotus spp.)

The Jack-O-Lantern Mushroom

(Antonio Abbatiello/WikiCommons)

This mimic of the true chanterelle is probably the most seriously toxic of all its lookalikes. While not known to be deadly, eating it is said to result in several days of very unpleasant symptoms that may even require hospitalization.

I have never seen this one in the wild in Arizona, so I had to borrow some photographs from WikiCommons. This is a pretty widespread genus, so its possible presence must always be considered. The Bates checklist confirms that O. olearius has been collected in Arizona.

Distinguishing characteristics are as follows:

  • Gills on the undersurface of a Jack-O'Lantern mushroom.

    (Treetale/WikiCommons)

    The decurrent gills are thin, sharp-edged, deep, closely spaced, and flimsy, as seen in H. auriantica and as distinct from the blunt ridges of Cantharellus. However, they do not show significant forking. (See adjacent photo.)

  • This mushroom is a wood-rotting saprobe and is never found growing from dirt unless there is buried wood underneath the surface.
  • Numerous fruiting bodies may be found growing in tightly connected clusters. Chanterelles grow in a much more scattered, individual distribution, even when found in large patches in a given locality.
  • The flesh is orange rather than white.
  • The spore print is distinctly yellow rather than white, off-white, or light yellow.
  • Jack-O'-Lantern Mushroom glowing

    (Noah Siegel-Wikicommons)

    Most spectacularly, this genus contains a phosphorescent compound that causes it to glow with a faint greenish light on a dark night (see adjacent photo). This phenomenon is said to be more common in the Eastern and European varieties than the Western, but if you really want to key it out, this may help you.

 

As always, comments, corrections, or additions are welcome. Have fun looking for this conspicuous, delicious and relatively common member of Arizona’s edible fungal flora!

Dr. Chet Leathers with a chanterelle

Mushroom Cocktails are Officially a Thing in Dallas

The truffle Pig Cocktail

(Eater.com)

From Eater.com comes an odd little story about how Mushroom Cocktails are Officially a Thing in Dallas.

To make the cocktail, called a Truffle Pig, Festa combines DeLeon tequila with lemon juice, a honey simple syrup infused with chanterelle mushrooms that have been powdered with liquid nitrogen, and seared and raw maitake mushrooms. The finishing touch — a huge shiitake garnish — drives home the cocktail’s intense, earthy flavors.

I think I’d go for the rum infused with candy-caps, myself.  Something new to try when the fad reaches Scottsdale… But I still think the best combination of alcohol with mushrooms is a good Cabernet to accompany ribeye steak with fresh porcinis…

Flagstaff Mushroom Festival | The Arboretum at Flagstaff

 
Dates have been set for the 2014 Mushroom Festival at the Flagstaff Arboretum.

A wild mushroom tasting and lecture will take place Friday evening, August 22nd, from 5:30 to 8:00 PM at the Arboretum.  The next day, Saturday the 23rd, there will be a guided foray from 9:00 AM to noon on the San Francisco Peaks.

The cost is $30 for members and $35 for non-members.  Mark your calendars!

Unfortunately, I missed this event last year as it conflicted with another event I needed to attend.  Hoping very much to be able to come this year.

Flagstaff Arboretum Foray

The Flagstaff Arboretum