by Jack Sedlak
It’s not even been a year since Christine Craycroft and I became OMS members but what a year it has been!
Actually it was about August of 2013 that I met Chris while trying to become a park volunteer. During the “interview” and then months later during our courtship we both discovered our love for mushrooms. Some of the first texts we exchanged were photos of Chris’s oyster mushrooms growing on coffee grounds, and my carved-wood landscape mushrooms. We both had well over a dozen books on fungi and foraging, and as we cultivated our mushroom love we just plain became spore addicts!
We eventually turned our love of mushrooms into starting a business venture. In April and May I had a tree harvest on my tree farm, and my neighbor had the same Amish logger select-cut her 5 acres. We just couldn’t resist the opportunity to use the leftover branches, so we got some books, built an inoculation table, had a few parties with friends and family, and inoculated about 600 logs and stumps with shiitake, chicken of the woods, lion’s mane and oyster spawn. Phew!
Little did we know that the logs would almost ‘explode’ with mushrooms upon returning from our long September camping/canoeing trip (including the ‘must-visit’ Porcupine Mountains in UP of Michigan—black trumpets so numerous in areas you almost couldn’t avoid stepping on them!). After reading up on various food regulations, (who knew that mushrooms were not automatically considered an “approved food”??), our Forest Fungi Farm was inspected and got the official blessing of the Ohio Department of Agriculture to sell cultivated mushrooms to restaurants and grocers.
And what a fabulous year for wild mushrooming! The OMS forays exposed us to dozens of new species. In our neck of the woods we found an unbelievable specimen of Hypomyces hyalinus infecting an Amanita, photos of which elicit a jaw dropping OMG! Close to 100 pounds of Golden Chanterelles were growing in the woods around the house, well into October. A special treat was finding a 27- pound Hen of the Woods on the old oak tree at the house where Chris grew up. Between us we added 22 new species of edible mushrooms to our life list.
Funny though, as thorough as we were in our ID process, there is still the occasional doubt, as during a summer hike when we found a floodplain absolutely loaded with Friendship Mushrooms, Armillaria tabescens. We did our due diligence by making a spore print and keying them from multiple books, and with confidence cooked some up for breakfast. Pretty enjoyable too–until Chris decided to continue reading about them hours later, along with a poisonous look-alike, the Deadly Galerina. Here’s what she read from Tom Volk’s page that prompted her somewhat frantic call to me, then mine to poison control:
“Here’s the scenario: Sometimes you’re lucky (or skilled) and find lots of these edible Armillaria and Flammulina. You find so many that picking them becomes more of a chore than a pleasure. You stop paying attention to every mushroom you place in your basket. You accidentally cut off a Galerina or two or more and place them in with the edible mushrooms. You’re so tired and hungry when you get home that you just dump your mushrooms into a skillet and fry them up. You accidentally eat some Galerina. Two or three days later you die.”
Luckily, we didn’t accidentally scoop up any Galerinas along with our Armillarias, and we’re still here to write a thank you for all the helpful and warm OMS members, great pot lucks, and expectations of future forays and gatherings!