Hen of the Woods (Maitake) “Bacon”

Hen of the woods mushroom "bacon"

Hen of the Woods "bacon"

I’ve been working dried maitake mushrooms into our menu lately for their awesome medicinal properties.

I reconstitute them for 20 minutes in warm water, then use the tough stalks to make broth, and the more tender tips in other recipes.

The broth is great for cooking brown rice in and for making gravy.  The mushroom itself can be a little chewy, so I cut it in thin strips before cooking.

hen of the woods mushroom broth

Maitake mushroom broth

The other day I wanted something different, so I cut the caps into small strips, then fried them until crisp, sprinkled them with salt, and drained them well on paper towels.  They were very savory — intensely flavored — and would work wherever you would normally use bacon crumbles — over scrambled eggs, in salads, and my favorite–sprinkled over mashed potatoes and maitake gravy!  They are superb, and addictive!

I did one batch in virgin olive oil with a little butter, and other batch in peanut oil with a little butter.  The peanut oil batch was definitely the best!

bolete

Here's the bolete in my earlier post in its mature stage. Inset is when it was younger.

Here’s an update on the bolete I wrote about in my last post.  I found a fully mature version near where the others grew.  The cap has changed to brown.  The only way you can tell it is the same mushroom is by the stalk and the yellow pores.

The interior of the mature mushroom — stalks and cap — were riddled with bugs, though.  I will spare you a photo of the gory details.

I normally stick to chanterelles and boletes, and avoid gilled mushrooms except for a handful of distinctive ones that I know are safe.  There are so many dangerous ones that it’s not worth taking the chance on misidentifying one.  But I thought I really ought to branch out and start trying to learn more about them.

So I photographed these mushrooms in several stages of growth.  They had white spore prints.  I believe they are in the Amanita family — a family that has many fatally poisonous members.

amanitas

Amanita family mushrooms

Our weather is predicted to be in the 90’s for the next two weeks, at least.  So I won’t be out doing  much mushroom hunting until it cools down a little.

P.S. David Fischer has identified these mushrooms for me as Amanita “close to A. rubescens,” as far as he could determine from my small photos.

A New Bolete

Bolete with heavily reticulated white stalk

Bolete with heavily indented white stalk (not true reticulation)

The first picture is a little fuzzy due to condensation on the lens.  Coming from an air conditioned house into 90+ degree muggy temperatures will do that.  🙂

The lemon yellow pore surface and the creamy white heavily indented stalk stumped me.  I went through all my books and spent a couple of days on the net looking at mushroom photos, and I couldn’t find a match.

The velvety cap is 2-1/2″ wide.

Reddish, velvety cap

Reddish, velvety cap which turned true brown after I brought it inside.

The pore surface is bright lemon yellow.  It has a white reticulated stalk (although I am not certain that those indentations qualify as reticulation.)  I found it under pine trees.  The spore print is olive brown.  The white cap flesh darkened over several hours to tan.  There was no hint of bluing anywhere.  The reddish color disappeared from the cap after a while indoors, becoming a true brown.

And, finally, a drop of ammonia on the cap flashed a vivid blue green.

What I’ve been able to deduce so far is that it is definitely not poisonous because it is a bolete, it does not have red or orange pores, and there is no trace of blue bruising.  The cap flesh has a mild taste, so it is not bitter as some boletes are.  So it is safe to eat.

[NOTE:  Some orange capped Leccinum are poisonous.  (A Leccinum is also a bolete.)  If you cannot confidently identify a Leccinum, then you should also avoid all orange capped boletes.]

bright yellow pore surface

Bright yellow pore surface

It is in the mid nineties this week with little chance of rain, so I may not see any more mushrooms for a while.

We have been having the most beautiful summer sunsets lately.  It’s a real treat for us because we are so surrounded by trees that we seldom see the actual sunset.  But sometimes, as in this case, we get the gorgeous colors reflected in the clouds over us.

 

no blue staining

Not a hint of blue bruising anywhere

buttons

Young button caps

spore print

Olive brown spore print

sunset clouds

Pink sunset clouds

R. Shaefer Heard COE Campground

Aliner high on a steep bluff

Aliner high on a steep bank

It is 99 degrees at 5:50 p.m. in town.  I think it must be cooler where we are.  We are in the shade and there is a nice breeze off the lake.

It is scary backing just the truck down the steep driveway to our site.  It was hair-raising backing the Aliner in.  But I got it done, even managing to miss the tree at edge of the drive after several — no, make that MANY– tries!

Aliner at R. Shaefer Heard Army Corps of Engineers campground

Our site

The campground is gorgeous.  There are all kinds of sites.  There are some that have smooth, grassy lawns gently sloping right down to the lake.  We drove by that section earlier and there were kids splashing in the water.

My only complaint about the campground is that something died in the nearby woods, and we get a whiff of it now and then.

We haven’t done any hiking since we got here.  When we are active, the heat really gets to us.  If we take it easy, it’s not bad.  It helps being a Florida native and adapted to hot weather.  But we do take a nice air conditioned siesta in the afternoons.

Sunset over West Point Lake

Sunset over West Point Lake

Last night’s sunset over the lake was gorgeous.  A breathtaking palette of mauves and oranges.

I brought my new mushroom book by Michael Kuo and have been studying it.   It is an excellent guide — a great addition to my library.  I am praying for rain so that mushrooms will sprout up while we are here.  It’s never too hot for me to hunt them!

We may get thunderstorms tomorrow.  In fact, it sprinkled lightly

Another sunset shot

Another shot of that gorgeous sunset!

earlier, and we are getting occasional flashes of lightning and distant thunder now.

It’s a pretty steep path to get from our site down to the water.  But there are trees to hold onto.  It has been too hot for us to want to fish, then deal with cleaning them, but we will probably do that before we leave — especially if it cools down a bit.

We are loving being here.  It is so peaceful, so beautiful, and it feels so safe.  We normally don’t like to return to the same campground as there are so many others to explore.  But this one is special to us.

Rocks at the edge of West Point Lake

Rocks at the edge of the lake in front of our site

And the fact that Ron’s senior pass makes the sites 50% off makes it irresistible!

The Aliner at sunset

Ron relaxing by the Aliner at sunset

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