Sunday, September 29, 2013

Mushroom Season Extended and the Hawks Wing

Location: Nederland, CO 80466, USA
Mushrooms up here in the mountains have quite a range of diversity, from some of the most delectable mushrooms found in the wild, to some of the most dangerous. The great trick is knowing the difference.
Rule #1: When it comes to picking mushrooms, be certain that you know what you have. If you're not certain, either leave it alone, or save it in a separate bag from the mushrooms you do know, then have someone else identify it.

When starting your foray be sure to look up lookalikes of the mushrooms you are hunting so you know what to look for that looks "a lot like the one I want". The old saying about "there's old, and there's bold" rings particularly true when it comes to mycology (study of mushrooms). That said with the recent torrent of rain that came through and made a mess of many areas, we also have an extended bumper season of many of these fruits of the forest popping up in mass. If you're an experienced hunter you've certainly been taking advantage of the situation, even if just stopping to grab a few near your home there is such an abundance right now it's difficult to spend anytime looking at the ground and not see a few.

Hawk's Wing Mushroom near Nederland
For those that are new to the field, this picture is easier to identify and includes a basic recipe that can be applied to most mushrooms, whether from the field or a grocer.

This species is commonly called Hawk's Wing (Polyporus squamosus) for the shape and coloration that it resembles. When walking in the woods keep your eyes on the ground. I've found most of these guys on the ground near fallen pine and aspen in the shade. When they get bigger they do get tougher so finding one in the 2"-6" range is often best for culinary reasons. They are a "tooth" mushroom (you'll know why when you see one) which are rarely poisonous but do collect debris from the surroundings so be sure to give them a good wash before throwing them in the pan. A method I often use is to fill a large bowl with cold water, rinse thoroughly and let them air dry, repeating as needed, then slicing into thinner strips.

Hawk's Wing is not the most delectable that you'll find, but it is hard to make a mistake identifying it, as we don't have any look-alikes in the area – very low risk. This mushroom can be sauteed with onion, garlic and oil/butter then seasoned to taste (salt/pepper) and make for a delicious introduction to finding your own food. If you've ever eaten a full meal straight out of a garden, then you likely know the satisfaction that goes with experiencing the full cycle from field to plate. 

As funny as they may look they are rather tasty, which may be a shock if your previous exposure to mushrooms has consisted of the standard button or portabella that you find in the grocery store. The taste is certainly similar but has a fair degree of difference which you find with each species.

This is the second post on mushrooms in the field in Nederland, I plan to continue this series and will be branching into applications of mushroom mycelium, both here and abroad in posts to come. If you have a particular topic and/or application that interests you please send me a message through MycoMountain.org or leave a comment below.

Good Hunting

Here are some further reference sites for the Hawk's Wing:
MushroomExpert.com  ,  Mushroom-Collecting.com  ,  rogersmushrooms.com

About the Author: Alvin Mites – is the Principal at Mites Creations.

Dad, Geek, and Fan of the Outdoors. Alvin is often found hacking at an idea, playing in a lab, biking around town, taking up space in a board meeting, or out hiking.
You can catch him on FacebookTwitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Google+.
He is a contributor to the NedSustainable blog.
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