Thursday, August 21, 2014
There's Food in Them Thar Woods!!
I was very excited the other day as I found my first ever Hen of the Woods mushroom (Maitake). I started mushrooming a couple years ago. My Dad and I went for a walk in the woods and he told me about puff balls. Puff balls are in the last picture. Most people know what puff balls are. If you pick them before they turn to puff, they are edible. They are pretty good but not nearly as good as Chicken of the Woods and Hen of the Woods (My husband is waiting for the Rooster of the Woods, but I don't think they exist.)
I was working at the library at the time I started mushrooming and so I checked out a full color book on mushrooming in Wisconsin. I brought it home, looked it over and, excited, went out into the woods and brought a small basket of different mushrooms home. I opened the book happy with myself. Wouldn't you know, not one mushroom in my basket matched a picture in that book. Okay, that was frustrating. So next I did some online research. I found Chicken of the Woods and Hen of the Woods online.
Later I was in the woods as saw my first Chicken. It was beautiful but I was scared as this was my first ever potential chicken and I wanted to make sure I was for sure correct about what I was looking at. But I had to go to work and when I got out there a day or two later, the mushroom was past it's prime and definitely not good for eating. Sad, since I was sure this was a chicken.
Later that fall, I found another Chicken. Chickens are not Hens. Confusing, I know. This was definitely a Chicken because it was orangish. I brought it home and it was the best mushroom we have ever tasted.
So to the other day. I had never seen a Hen of the Woods before. I was walking around and spotted it and thought "I think I have found a Hen!" I wasn't sure though so I went home and researched. I went through the checklist a couple of times to make sure it was the right kind of mushroom. 1. Brownish gray. CHECK! 2. Matched photos. CHECK! 3. Base of an oak tree. CHECK! 4. Porous underside, not gills. CHECK!
Awesome! So, I cut it at the base as it said in the videos and put it in a bowl. I was very glad because a lot of bugs crawled out. It put it upside down in the rain for a while and shook it. I took a very small piece, cooked it and ate it. 5. No death or stomach ache. CHECK! So, time to feed it to the Fam.
It is very, very good. I read online that per pound, this type of mushroom fresh goes for about $18.00 a lb! Mine was about 5 lbs so that's $90.00 worth of Hen or $60.00 an hour.
It took a long time to clean it and process it (an hour plus 1/2 hour hunting) but I feel it was well worth it. I froze what I didn't think we could eat fresh as I hear it makes a great cream of mushroom soup. Also, I can see it in spaghetti and a lot of other dishes as well.
So, don't take my advice on mushrooming. You're on your own on this one. :) But sometimes life is a risk and you are glad you took it.