Summer Foray registration closed

What? But it just opened!

Indeed. Response to our member announcement regarding online registration for the Summer Foray was immediate and overwhelming! Clearly we’re all jonesing for some time in the woods. We’re so sorry that we can’t accommodate everyone who wants to attend – it comes down to space limitations.

If you are a current member and would like to be placed on the waiting list, you can email Lonelle Yoder to make that request. Please include your phone number and the number of adults and children in your household who would like to attend.

In the meantime, keep an eye on our Events Page for a mini foray near you!

Membership Renewal Reminder

If you haven’t sent in your annual membership dues yet, now’s a great time to do that!

Here’s how: Print the membership form, fill it out, and mail it to the address on the form, with your dues.

Here’s why: After two years off, we’re finally getting back to offering our 2-day Summer Foray in July. However, responsible organizing in COVID times dictates that we limit attendance to allow for social distancing. This means Summer Foray attendance will be by registration only, and spots may fill quickly. “Early bird” registration will open soon for current, paid members – so get that membership form and check in the mail!

(If you’ve signed up for a life membership, of course, no renewal is necessary)

Members, look for an email within the next week or so with foray details and a link to the online registration form.

Of Slimes and Slimariums

contributed by Crystal Davidson

Sneakily slithering, seeking sustenance, single celled slime molds slowly slide through the forest…

It takes a keen eye, and a good amount of moisture to catch a myxomycete! These tiny friends of fungi are often found on dead wood, but can sometimes even be seen creeping across your lawn.

The first myxo that ever caught my attention was Arcyria denudata, which I first saw in a field guide. I immediately loved the common name “Cotton Candy Slime Mold”. Getting to meet one in real life, however, was even more thrilling, as the tiny pinkish red fruit bodies really do evoke memories of the fluffy fair food! One of the most prolific slimes in our area is Fuligo septica, which has the stomach-churning common name of ‘dog vomit slime mold’. Since I’m not a dog owner, I can’t speculate as to the visual accuracy of this name, but I’d guess it exists for a reason. You’ll often find it creeping through a flower bed in urban areas, though it can be found in the wild as well.

There are also many species of Trichia, Hemitrichia, and Metatrichia that frequent Ohio. Careful examination of the subtle features of the fruiting bodies can sometimes aid in distinguishing them. For instance, this specimen is most likely Hemitrichia clavata, which looks very similar to, but has a more elongated cup at the base than H. calyculata.

Hemitrichia clavata

Another common myxomycete is Physarum polycephalum. “Polycephalum” means “many headed”, and the fruiting stage makes it clear from whence this name came. In the plasmodial stage, P. polycephalum can be difficult to distinguish from Badhamia utricularis and other myxos, but most slimes can’t be identified solely from this stage. Once they fruit, however, the differences are obvious. P. polycephalum usually fruits upwards, away from gravitational forces, whereas B. utricularis typically hangs down.

A fun thing to do with myxomycetes is to capture them and bring them home to start your very own personal slimarium! To create one, you’ll need an enclosed container to keep in both your slime and any unexpected visitors that may sneak home with you. An old fish tank with a bit of plastic wrap over the top worked quite well for me, although any clear enclosure will suffice. I added some large rocks, well decayed pieces of log, a few handfuls of live moss, a bit of water at the bottom, and I periodically misted inside to maintain humidity. When you’ve found a specimen, simply remove a small bit of the substrate along with the myxomycete, and carefully transport it back to the tank. In a pinch, you can even use a clear plastic food container with a moist paper towel at the bottom as a living area.

While slime molds love oats, and they are a consistently consumed food source, I’ve found it to be more interesting to offer them a variety of foods and see what they prefer! They typically love mushrooms, though they have strong preferences on which they will eat. Pleurotus spp. are always a favorite, Postia sp. was not a big hit, they only eat the bacteria off the surface of the Trametes versicolor, and they absolutely abhor Rhodotus palmatus. Additionally, they will eat pasta and the bacteria on the outside of acorns, but despise raspberries and broccoli. This is an example of how slime molds navigate to make choices and select food source.

If you’re wondering how this blob-like organism moves, it does so through a pulsing locomotion. The slime forms “veins” which are wrapped in proteins that squeeze, creating a wave like effect. The waves move forward and recede slightly less with each pulse through the finger-line extensions known as pseudopods. You can see the progress over time here, as well as the ripples of the waves in the second photo.

Since I was eager to find out exactly what my most recent slime pet was, I forced it to fruit by denying it food. Despite the fact that myxomycetes can perceive light and typically avoid it, when they are ready to fruit, they will sometimes climb up to a high point, which may help to increase the range of the spore dispersal. I was quite pleased to discover upon fruiting, that this specimen was in fact Physarum polycephalum, which is often used in lab studies, including the semi-famous study of slime molds solving mazes.

Physarum polycephalum fruiting body

Now you might have thought this story was over at the fruiting, and I did too! Imagine my surprise when after a few months of not introducing anything new into the slimarium, a second slime suddenly appeared! Remember, they are sneaky! In the plasmodial stage, this Arcyria cinerea doesn’t look much different than its roommate, P. polycephalum. Once it fruited, however, the differences were obvious.

Arcyria cinerea fruiting body

It is also interesting to note that there are some fungi that feed off of slime molds. I only discovered this Polycephalomyces tomentosus feeding on this Hemitrichia calyculata once I got home and was editing my photos. Next time, I’ll try to be more observant of the even tinier things.

Polycephalomyces tomentosus feeding on Hemitrichia calyculata

To learn more about these fascinating life forms, consider also joining the Facebook group Slime Mold Identification & Appreciation, which was even mentioned in the recent NOVA special on PBS, “Secret Mind of Slime”.

Winter Mushrooms

While we’re all gazing at the snow and dreaming of summer, enjoy these photos from OMS Board member Pete Richards of the mushrooms he found in Lorain County one one of those balmy days we had in December!

Galerina sp.
Exidia recisa
Stereum complicatum
Panellus stipticus
These puffballs have puffed their last puff
Tolypocladium longisegmentatu
Phebia incarnata
Stereum ostreum
Lycogala epidendron
some unidentified fellows (possibly Mycena?) demurely tucked away in a hole
Trametes betulina
…and last, but certainly not least, this stunning Trametes versicolor

Notable Events in 2021

by OMS board of volunteers chairperson Debra Shankland

Your volunteers in the Ohio Mushroom Society were happy to return to offering in-person forays in 2021.  Although we took another year off from large, full-weekend forays, nine limited-participant mini forays were conducted in Ashtabula, Columbiana, Darke, Hancock, Lorain, Perry and Portage counties.

In addition to our own events, our members were informed via email about local mushroom-themed movies and regional events hosted by others, such as a two-hour mushroom ID webinar hosted by OSU Extension.

Our Mushroom Log newsletter had undergone a change in editors in the past year.  We appreciate Bob Antibus for taking on this huge task, and thank Dave Miller for his many, many years of putting together this interesting and informative read.  We conducted a survey of our newsletter readers to gauge their interest in the Log’s different departments, and importantly, their willingness to receive the newsletter electronically only.  A large majority welcomed the change, which will allow us to feature full-color photos, resource links, and even more pages without the limitations of print starting in 2022.

In addition to our formal newsletter, six blogs were posted to this website in this past year, providing recipes, humor and timely tidbits.

If you value all of these services, don’t forget to renew your membership for 2022.  OMS memberships run from Jan 1 – Dec 31, and lifetime memberships are offered as well.  Another benefit of OMS membership is a discount on the North American Mycological Association membership, saving you $5.  You can check out NAMA at https://namyco.org

Finally, I’m going to boast that OMS was listed as an important resource in a two-page color spread in the 6 Oct 2021 issue of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, leading their “Taste” section.  We take pride in helping people further their knowledge and appreciation of fungi, and it feels good to be recognized for our efforts.

Look! In that field! Are those horses or crocodiles?

contributed by Pete Richards

Well, of course, they’re mushrooms.

For the last several years, I have found large mushrooms of the Agaricus group very late in our season – mid-October to mid-November.  I have seen these primarily near my home in Oberlin, but also at several locations along Route 2 from Maumee State Park to Oberlin.  Individual “buttons” can reach a pound in weight, and they often occur in rings where it is possible to gather several pounds of mushrooms from a single ring.

Mushrooms are white, typically slightly scaly, and tend to occur in clusters.  Unopened caps can be the size of softballs; the stems can be several inches in diameter.  The cap separates from the stem during growth, leaving a prominent ring.  The gills, when first exposed, are tan-pink, and become almost black with age.  The odor is of almond, but not as strong as what I think of the typical Agaricus arvensis, the horse mushroom.  The spore print is dark chocolate brown.

In attempting a better identification of this Agaricus species using MushroomExpert.com, I was surprised to discover that there are hundreds of species (nationally).  I was thinking in terms of three species –  A. arvensis; A. campestris, the meadow mushroom; and an uninteresting woods-dwelling species that I thought I remembered seeing pictures of.  Working through the lengthy key of 100(!) species, I encountered A. crocodilensis, noted for its large cap.  It seems to be a better choice for my specimens because of its scaly cap – the key indicates that A. arvensis tends to be smooth.  But the distinction based on field characteristics is very minor, and may not always be reliable.

So, are those horses or crocodiles in that field?  I really do not know.  Given my resources, I cannot know with certainty.  I do know that they are locally and seasonally abundant, large, pretty distinctive, and, for me, edible and tasty. These mushrooms sauté very nicely when cut into spoon-sized pieces.  The almond smell is conspicuous early, but apparently cooks off, as it disappears before most of the liquid is boiled away.  The resulting mushrooms have a nice solid texture and a good flavor, and they freeze well. Given the right place, it is easy to gather a winter’s supply of frozen mushrooms in one outing.

This commentary should not be construed to invite casual eating of mushrooms that the reader may think are the same species.  Neither the author nor the Ohio Mushroom Society warrant the edibility for you of this mushroom, or a mushroom you may find and think is the same.  The actual species in this commentary is not known.  It is known to be edible to me, but others may not have the same experience.  If you think you have found the same mushroom and wish to eat it, follow the standard procedures:

* Use all resources available to you to identify what you have found
* If you choose to eat the mushroom,
– cook it well
– eat only a small bite for the first time; imbibe no alcohol
– if you have no bad reaction, try a bit more, but still be cautious
– keep a sample of the mushroom to give to poison control if you have problems

A Spoonful of Umami

contributed by Lonelle Yoder

It’s shaping up to be a fantastic July for mushrooming, with rain, rain, and more rain. I hope many of you are finding basketfuls of chantarelles, chickens of the woods, and other delicious things. I, sadly (or not?), have had all my free time commandeered by the baby opossums, bluebirds and robins I’ve been fostering for the Ohio Wildlife Hospital, with little time left for me to make it out into the woods, so my mushrooming has been limited of late. Happily, though, I’ve found a great way to preserve and enjoy the flavors of mushrooms harvested in times of plenty, which allows me to enjoy them during dry spells: mushroom seasoning powder. If you’ve got more than you can eat right now, consider making this umami-packed powder, which has the added benefit of taking up very little space in your cupboard. This is also a great way to use the non-tender parts of mushrooms like chicken of the woods, which don’t make for good fresh eating. 

SHROOMAMI SEASONING POWDER 

It’s important to cook your mushrooms first, even though you will ultimately dehydrate them, since wild mushrooms should nearly always be cooked before consuming. So once you’ve cleaned them, roughly chop them, toss them with a little (not too much!) oil, and spread them on a baking tray. Roast at 400 or 425 F for 25-35 minutes, until the edges are browned. 

Roasting time will depend on the type of mushroom. For mushrooms that are on the tough side, like the stem pieces of chicken of the woods, you may want to use a wet cooking method rather than (or in addition to) roasting, as this will tenderize them a bit. Either add some cooking liquid (water, stock, or white wine or sherry) to the roasting pan, or braise them in the liquid on the stovetop for 10-15 minutes. If there is cooking liquid left in the pan after the mushrooms are cooked through, it begs you to make a quick sauce or gravy or add it to another dish! 

When your mushroom pieces are cooked through and lightly browned, chop them into smaller pieces and dry them in a dehydrator or in your oven on the “warm” setting.  

Now it’s time to pull out your kitchen gadgets! A food processor will work in a pinch, but I like to use an electric coffee grinder to get the finest grind possible. Working in small batches, grind the dehydrated mushrooms into a powder. Take care when taking the lid off of your grinding device, since the mushroom powder will be very light and apt to drift up and out of the bowl – give it a few seconds to settle before removing the lid. 

You’ll probably end up with some powder and some larger nubs; gently sifting it through a fine strainer will let you separate out the larger pieces, which you can re-grind or save separately from the powder. 

The mushroom powder can be used as is, but you can boost its flavor power by adding salt, pepper, dried herbs like thyme and sage, or anything else you fancy. Proportion-wise, aim for at least 3 parts mushroom powder to 1 part other seasonings.  

I like to save the larger pieces that I sifted out for adding to risotto, soup, tomato sauce, or anywhere else I’d use fresh mushrooms. The seasoned powder is great for adding to gravies, sauces, and soups, mixing into pasta dough, sprinkling on hamburgers, grilled or roasted vegetables or eggs, or rubbing onto meat roasts and anything else that benefits from an umami boost. I’d love to hear in the comments how you’ve used it!

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go feed some baby robins.

A Nice Collaboration

Pete Richards

The Vermilion River north of Wakeman in Huron County features the Augusta-Anne Olson State Nature Preserve, well known to birding enthusiasts.  Immediately across a sharply meandering stretch of the river is Bellwether Farm, a 137-acre nature preserve and demonstration sustainable farm owned and operated by the Episcopal Diocese of Ohio. It includes mature woods and steep slopes that separate the river valley from the glaciated shale surface into which it has eroded, as well as residences and farm lands, mainly on the uplands. The farm features educational programs to teach about farming, sustainability, and nature as it is seen there. Several places along the Vermilion are known as good places to look for morels. In fact the entire valley is a good candidate, though lack of access and careful secret-keeping obscure the details of the picture. Morels have frequently been found at Bellwether in the past. General foraging for morels is no longer permitted on the property, however. Instead, morels have been folded into the programs of the farm.

In keeping with their educational goals, the Farm Manager set up a morel program this spring. Saturday forays were held during late April and May to look for morels and provide participants with an introduction to mushrooms. Morels that were collected were sautéed and frozen, and augmented by collections made during the weeks by staff members. These were a feature of a gourmet celebration dinner and program, “Magnificent Mushrooms”, held on May 29 in the farm’s central building, the “Grange.” Chef Lonny Gatlin prepared pork steaks from the farm, with a gorgonzola sauce richly endowed with morels; mashed potatoes; salad with greens from the farm’s gardens; and lightly baked baby hakurei turnips, also farm-grown. Dessert was carrot-cake cupcakes, featuring farm carrots. Pete Richards, OMS board member, presented an illustrated talk on morels and how, when, and where to find them (and avoid false morels). Concern about telling people things they’d already learned on the Saturday hikes dissipated when it turned out that only one of the diners had been on one of the hikes.

OMS and Bellwether have also collaborated in the past with fall forays with the more traditional OMS focus on documenting the entire suite of fungi present at the time. The farm is a great place to look for mushrooms, and our findings fit nicely with their goal of cataloging the complete biota of the farm. There will be such a fall foray in 2021, scheduled for August 22 with a September 12 back-up date. For more on Bellwether Farm and their programs, visit www.bellwetherfarm.com/about.