Last week, we took a look at the precipitation that fell in spring and early summer, as well as the forecast for further monsoon rains, and predicted an early start to the summer season for mushrooms. It turns out that this was correct. Since then, a dozen or more of our readers have sent pictures here, or posted them on the Facebook page, showing a cornucopia of choice edible species.
The Flagstaff area, having received the lion’s share of the recent rains, has also produced the most quantity and variety of fungal fruiting. However, many other areas around the state are seeing action too, including the Mogollon Rim, White Mountains, and even on the Navajo Nation.
Among the highlights are the following:
- King boletes (Boletus rubriceps) on the San Francisco Peaks, found by Brian Marshall
- Barrows’ boletes (Boletus barrowsii) found in Flagstaff by Emerson Jones, and in the Chuska Mountains on the Navajo Reservation by Kellie Gatewood.
- Oyster mushrooms (Pleurotus spp.) at a number of sites. Ed Coleman found them in the White Mountains, and four or five others have collected them in the Flagstaff area.
- More scaber-stalks (Leccinum spp.) than you can shake a stick at. Most of these were in the aspens outside Flagstaff and are presumably L. insigne. (Please note that this genus has caused some unexplained gastrointestinal distress for a number of people in the northern Rockies, but never to our knowledge in Arizona.)
- Shaggy manes (Coprinus comatus) near Flagstaff, by Emerson Jones
- The first chanterelles (Cantharellus cibarius) of the year, from the Pinetop area by Katey Kowalewski and from the Mogollon Rim by Scott & Susan Woodward.
- A solitary and rather sunburnt Caesar’s amanita (Amanita caesarea/”cochiseana”) from the White Mountains, by Chris Adams.
- A small cauliflower mushroom (Sparassis americana var. arizonica) from Matthew Lewis.
- A Western giant puffball (Calvatia booniana) from Jennifer Cannon on the Mogollon Rim.
- Some young and relatively tender Dryad’s saddles (Polyporus squamosus) from Matthew Lewis, who reports they were delicious when sliced thin and sautéed.
- Mike Dechter found a few less commonly collected edibles on Bill Williams Mountain, including velvet-foot (Flammulina populicola), suede bolete (Xerocomus subtomentosus), and giant sawgill (Neolentinus ponderosus). The velvet-foot mushrooms in particular are for knowledgeable collectors only, being possible to confuse with the deadly Galerina marginata.
- Mike also found a roll-rim Paxillus, P. vernalis. This is a very close relative of P. involutus, which in years gone by was commonly consumed in Europe, but has been found to cause a potentially deadly autoimmune hemolytic anemia. Do not eat!
- Another attractive mushroom to keep off your dinner table is the mock oyster, Phyllotopsis nidulans. If its hairy cap and orange color don’t alert you, its foul odor will certainly differentiate it from the sweet-smelling oyster mushroom. This one was found by Emerson Jones in Flagstaff. They will very likely upset your stomach if you are so foolish as to eat one.
- A common, conspicuous mushroom you will see on every summer foray is the shaggy scalycap, Pholiota squarrosa or P. flammans. While there are a few people who can enjoy its garlicky flavor without trouble, many others report unpleasant gastrointestinal symptoms after eating it. These are accentuated if it is consumed with alcohol or after sitting several days in your refrigerator. This is another species better photographed than eaten. Emerson Jones found this one.
- Coral fungi are quite common in the early season, and can be a challenge to identify. Get it wrong, and you will discover the powerful laxative effect many members of this category possess. This one found by Jessica Garnello on the San Francisco Peaks may be Clavicorona pyxidata.
- Katey Kowalewski collected some wood-ears, Auricularia auricula. They sometimes fruit in vast numbers on old downed logs after rains, and are worth taking home, especially if you like Asian cookery. They dry and reconstitute well, and have a crunchy texture, though little flavor of their own. They are a natural anticoagulant and should not be consumed by people who are taking blood-thinning medication.
Finally, let’s not forget that there is more good stuff out there in the woods than mushrooms alone. Katey also came across a very large patch of wild strawberries near the San Juan burn in the White Mountains, and tells us they were sweet and delicious, at the peak of suitability for picking.
We are now headed for a four- or five-day dry spell until about Saturday, with any ongoing rains likely to be confined to the farthest eastern reaches of the White Mountains. This may seem disappointing after the great start to the season, but it’s actually going to help the fruiting of some species such as the porcini that require a certain amount of warmth before they will flourish. And have no fear, another series of rainy days should be in store for us starting Sunday and continuing into the following week, and the medium to long term outlook for the rest of the month and the entire season through September is still predicted to be quite wet.
This weekend should kick off the high season in earnest, and with any luck, it will continue well into September. I’ll be in the field somewhere, and hope to see you out there. Safe hiking and full baskets![Addendum 7/7/2015 7:15 pm — And now lobsters! —
— Found today in Flagstaff by Patty Wiley.]