Eating My Words

Not that this is unusual for me, but this time, they were quite tasty…

Hen of the Woods mushrooms

In yesterday’s post, along with my fungi photos, I lamented the fact that I have no edible mushrooms on my property. But, Bill’s e-mail got me thinking about a spot in the empty field next door…

About three years ago, I found what I thought at the time might be a hen. It was pretty far-gone before I stumbled upon it, and full of bugs. Knowing that this is a mushroom that repeats year after year, and a choice edible, I made a mental note of the location and time of year, and kept the trail to the site open. I checked it repeatedly the last two years, and found nothing.

Close up of the Hen

I haven’t spent much time maintaining my trails this summer – the work closer to the house has been more pressing. Most of that is done for the year. So, I decided to ramble around back there yesterday morning, to see how badly it had grown-over in my absence. I took no tools with me to clear – this was just going to be a recon mission.

The dog and I walked along for about 20 minutes. I was pleasantly surprised at how many of the trails remained (mostly) open – the deer probably were using them. I pulled some weeds in the old cemetery, apologizing to Mrs. Hannah for letting it go untended for so long. Wandered up to the cellar hole – the last remnant of her 19th century farmhouse – to see if everything was in order up there.

Loaded Apple Tree

A little ways off from the ruins of the farmhouse, I got my first pleasant surprise of the morning. The old apple tree was absolutely loaded with fruit! This is a very late apple, of no known variety. Was it planted by the Almy family back in the long-ago? Or did it come up as a volunteer in the time since their passing? There’s really no way to know. Most of its original trunk is rotted-away. The canopy you can see here is all from a side shoot. It’s a very firm, sweet-tart apple, good for baking. I made a note to come back up next week with a basket.

The apple tree sits not far from the afore-mentioned mushroom site, so I couldn’t resist taking a peek. Now, to be honest, I wasn’t expecting much. It had been so long since that first discovery, with no repeat performance, that I had just about decided that I had mis-identified it to begin with. I pushed aside stands of goldenrod taller than my head, and re-grown honeysuckle branches to reach the site.

Still a few yards away, my breath caught in my throat. There sat TWO hens, soaking up the early October sun. I rushed to examine them closer…

And something else caught – my backside was stuck in a wild rosebush!

With no clippers to help, it took a few rather painful minutes to extricate myself and make it to the mushrooms. Perfect specimens, both of them. As I was also without harvest equipment, a return trip to collect was in order.

Hen of the Woods, with James' hand for size comparison

After lunch, armed with clippers, basket and harvest knife, my trusty assistant – James -and I made the return trek. We took down the bloodthirsty rose canes to avoid another assault on my wounded – ahem – pride. I harvested only the larger of the two hens, leaving the other to mature and spread spores to other parts of the field – hopefully. James looked at the enormous mushroom in my arms, then at the basket in his hands.

“Umm, I don’t think it’s going to fit…”

Yeah. No kidding. I separated it into pieces, some going into the basket, the rest carried home in my arms. 15 pounds of mushroom!

Oh, my…

We cleaned off the debris and roly-polys outside, took a little bit to the kitchen, and packed the rest into baskets to wait in the basement fridge until I can process it later today. Sautéed some with butter and garlic to go with a steak for dinner last night.

Once again, Oh, my…

I’ve got my work cut out for me this afternoon. The thick stems will be sliced and dried in a slow oven. The tender caps, given a quick saute and packed for the freezer in meal-sized portions. And, just maybe, a pot of simmering mushroom soup, to warm a wet and windy October night…


8 thoughts on “Eating My Words

  1. I love the story of the mushrooms. Thanks for putting James’ hand in the picture. I would never have imagined the size of them. The apples sound wonderful!! I’m glad that you found your trails in fairly good shape. I enjoy the stories from the trains, so am glad that you will be visiting there again.


  2. Pingback: A New Toy « My Little Corner of Rhode Island

  3. Pingback: Mushroom Time Again | My Little Corner of Rhode Island

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