We just got back from our last vacation of the summer at our friend's lake house on the New York-Pennsylvania line. There was some rain, some lightning, a little hail—but not for the whole week like last year. We were very grateful to see the sun for most of the trip, and the rain offered a side benefit for at least one of us:
Mushrooms by the dozens! They were EVERYWHERE. Giant, storybook mushrooms that could shelter several small creatures underneath at once. See those brown oak leaves under there? Those are normal-sized oak leaves. It's the mushroom that's super-sized. Here's another view:
Notice my friend standing back there? That's the scale we're talking about for some of these. I was in mushroom heaven.
Some had warty, spotted caps:
These look like some kind of poisonous amanita.
Some had smooth caps:
I kind of wonder if this is an edible king bolete (Boletus edulis), also known as porcini or cep. It was growing under conifers and had pores instead of gills. I love porcinis, but they make me ill, so I wasn't about to take any chances even if I was sure I identified it right (which I wasn't).
There were tiny ones, too.
I have no idea what that is, but I think the next one is the famous reishi mushroom, so well regarded in Eastern medicine.
There were tons of these deep red mushrooms jutting out of the tree trunks like lacquered shelves.
This next one, though, I'm almost positive is a Destroying Angel (Amanita virosa):
If so, it will kill you. It will kill you dead. If you stop vomiting for even one second over a five-day period, it's only because the complete and utter destruction of your liver is well underway. Seriously, guys, there are better ways to get attention. One of the identifying characteristics of this mushroom is a swollen cup-like base, also known as a volva (not to be confused with a similar-sounding word). You need to dig around down there to see it, but it's there. This mushroom often has a ring around the upper stem, though this one did not. I don't mess around with dangerous mushrooms like this one, but I think it's important to be able to recognize them. Know thy enemy.
Other mushrooms I found: a tree volvariella, which looks just like a destroying angel but grows out of a wound in a tree trunk instead of the ground. We also saw what looked like some oyster mushrooms growing just a few feet above it on the same tree. This was interesting to me because I thought only one fungus would fruit on a single tree trunk at a time. For example, I count on only shiitakes growing on my shiitake logs for several years. This is another reason why I feel it's important to know about wild mushrooms.
Am I boring you?
Okay, we'll stop here for now. FYI: I'm a little behind on my e-mails and comments, but, yes, I'm still collecting recipe-testers for my cookbook. If you're offering, I'm accepting. I'll be in touch soon!