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Grifola frondosa “Hen of the Woods, Maitake”

    Grifola frondosa is a polypore mushroom found mainly on oak trees and dead stumps in the late summer through autumn. I have never found one on any other kind of tree other than red oaks but it is said to grow on other hardwoods as well. I would’ve personally called them “Grouse of the Woods” as the remind me more of a ruffed grouse than a chicken.

Underside of Grifola frondosa

     Grifolas are in the top 5 of my favorite mushrooms to harvest. It doesn’t take more than one day of finding them to usually have enough for plenty of meals, they can grow very large, 10lbs+! Grifola frondosa has no poisonous look-alikes, although Meripilus_sumstinei “Black staining polypore” has similar features but much larger, wider caps that bruise and turn black with time. Grifolas grow from a central stalk, in large clusters of small petals. Much like a head of cauliflower. Grifolas have white pores under the caps and a white spore print.

    Some people can have allergies to this mushroom so as with any wild mushroom, never eat more than a small amount the first time you eat them. Once you know that you do not have any reaction to these very popular edibles, they are excellent in many sorts of dishes. I have had them fried, in soups, chili, roasts etc. Yum!!

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Laetiporus sulphureus “Chicken of the Woods”

   This species of bracket fungus can be found summer through fall growing on dead or dying hardwoods (usually oak). While it is not rare to find them during the summer months, I usually encounter these mushrooms more often in the late summer/fall months. This polypore is very easily distinguishable and has no poisonous look-alikes. (The Northern Tooth has a similar appearance but it is a white colored fungus and so tough you can barely cut a piece off a tree). It’s not uncommon to find a downed tree in the woods covered with 20+ pounds of this mushroom!

        Laetiporus sulphureus stand out in the forest with their bright orange/yellow colors. The spore surface is also a bright yellow and these are surely one of the prettiest mushrooms in the woods. There are also Laetiporus cincinnatus with look almost identical but will grow in a rosette shape and have a white spore surface.  Both are excellent finds and make a delicious meal.

   As always with all mushrooms, you should only try a small portion if you’re eating them for the first time, Laetiporus species have been known to not agree with some people, however they are a very popular edible and worth trying.

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Cantharellus cinnabarinus “Cinnabar Chanterelle

    Choice and a delicious edible. Found in early autumn in mixed hardwoods. Easily identified by the reddish orange color, pastel appearance and false gills commonly having spreading veins in between. The spore print will be white to a light pink color. When cut they will have a white flesh inside. Cinnabar chanterelles are generally very small and delicate and have a sweet fruity fragrance similar to apricots.

**Care must be taken when harvesting as there are similar look-alikes including the poisonous Jack-o-lanterns “Omphalotus olearius” and the red waxy caps.**

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Armillaria mellea “The Honey Mushroom”

Armillaria Mellea

Armillaria mellea also known as honey mushrooms or “stumpers” is a choice autumn edible and one of my favorites. Found growing in large clusters around dead oak trees and stumps and occasionally on the ground following the decaying roots.  They are easy identified by the size of the cluster, white ring under the cap with a golden yellow outer edge, white spores and a solid white pith inside of the stem.

**Caution should be used when harvesting Honey mushrooms as a dangerous look-alike Galerina autumnalis can easily be mistaken for a honey mushroom. The deadly Galerina will be found growing on dead wood, spread out, not clustered and has a brown spore print. Study both species well before you harvest honeys for food. Mixing in a Galerina will be a fatal mistake that you will only make once.**

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Craterellus cornucopioides “Black Trumpet Mushroom”

Craterellus cornucopioides, or horn of plenty is very delicious and sought after by mushroom enthusiasts and chefs alike. 

Found in early autumn in hardwoods around oak and beech trees. These mushrooms are delicious fresh or dried. There are no poisonous look-alikes to these when they are found in the late summer/fall, however Devils Urns have a slight resemblance but are found early spring.