Mushrooms in the Mountains

Chicken of the Woods

Summer mushroom season has come!

For those of us who froth at the mouth for the sumptuous flavor of wild mushrooms July is an exciting month in Appalachia. The hot sun combined with mid-day rain showers awakens many fungal friends from their secret hideaways. This week has heralded the birth of a new summer mushroom season. Reports have been coming in from West Virginia to Georgia about Chanterelles, Hedgehog, Chicken of the Woods, and other tasty morsels.

5 Summer Mushrooms of Appalachia

Foraging for wild mushrooms can have hazards. Learn from a professional and do not eat any mushroom unless you are positive in it’s identification. This is not meant to be an identification guide nor substitute for professional training. 

  1. IMG_0571Chanterelle (Cantharellus) – I love this mushroom! It’s flavor is so rich that often the Chanterelle will be the focal point of the dish. These trumpet shaped beauties are found in second and third generation hardwood forests in the Appalachian region, most often associated with oaks. In other parts of the country their habitat is much different. I tend to find them in areas that are naturally disturbed either by mild erosion or the passing of animals. Also, be on the lookout for cinnabar chanterelles. These little red chanterelles prefer to lounge creekside.
  2. chicken of the woodsChicken of the Woods (Laetiporus sulfureus) – Also known as the Sulpher Shelf Mushroom, is one of the first edible mushrooms many folks learn. It looks like a fire burning in the forest. This is a shelf polypore that can be found growing on oak logs in similar conditions to the chanterelle. In addition, in North Carolina there is also Laetiporus cincinnatus which can be found growing “on the ground” feeding off the roots or decaying stump of a tree. COTW can be identified by it’s glorious orange and yellow color and most often displaying its growth pattern in rosettes or overlapping shelves. A word of caution: although this polypore is quite delicious some people have found it to upset their stomach or cause mild allergic reactions. Always thoroughly cook wild mushrooms and try a small amount the first time you eat a new species.
  3. black trumpetsBlack Trumpets (Craterellus Fallax) – This mushroom looks just like it’s namesake. I often find this in the same areas as chanterelles and would even say their taste has a slight similarity. They are awesome dried for a hearty flavored soup stock in the winter time or sauteed with onions and garlic as a topping for your summer pasta or veggie dish. These mushrooms are only around a few inches in size and their dark color makes them hard to spot on the forest floor .
  4. Hydnum_repandum reuseHedgehog Mushroom (Hydnum rapandum) – The “furry” hedgehog likes to grow in oak and beech forests on the ground. Their underside has little “teeth” which lends to their name. They are a cream colored delicacy which stands up well in the frying pan. They have a nutty flavor and often will be free of bugs when other fungus are getting demolished. This common edible is a must learn for the budding forager.
  5. Lobster_MushroomLobster Mushroom (Hypomyces lactifluorum) – This is a choice edible and I love it because it is two comprised of two organisms. The telltale orange-red color, fishy smell, and seafood like flavor is caused by a mold which infects young Russula and Lactarius mushrooms. This means that the habitat for Lobster mushrooms can be varied; they occur equally in coniferous and hardwood forests. In our region they frequently are found in hemlock, oak, and polar groves. Lobster mushrooms can look crazy and coupling that with their flavor make them a joy to find.

If you want to learn more about the incredible world of mushrooms join us for a class this weekend!

You can get more information on our upcoming weekend intensive here Apples, Plants, & Shrooms Weekend Intensive



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