As summer comes to an end and the fall trees begin to burst into beautyful colors of red, yellow, orange, and purple, the mushroom season continues to be in wonderful bloom. Recently I went out and found some beauties! In the picture above is a nice find of hen of the woods or Maitake (Grifola frondosa) mushrooms, also known as the king of the fall mushrooms. This is one of my favorites to eat and forage for. They are a sort of ghost mushroom for me, they often blend in to the forest floor and can be challenging to spot. They grow often at the base of oak or maple trees. They grow in large clusters like the one I fetched. They have high medicinal value including being high in vitamin D, boosting the immune system, great for diabetes, antioxidants and they are studying it in the battle against cancer. It’s a special mushroom indeed.
Next up is honey mushrooms (armillaria), also one of my favorites to cook and enjoy. They can found in large groups like this find. They taste really good, some of the best parts being the stringy stems. These need caution when foraging as they do have a close look alike that’s not good called galerina marginata or funeral bell mushrooms. There is some distinct differences and should be closely examined or run by an expert but once you get to know the honeys they are easy to decipher. It was a great honey season here in the western North Carolina mountains.
These two friends are pretty great in their own right. On the left are puffballs (calvatia gigantea). They are tasty but cook down really small, which is ok as they grow in numerous clusters. I find them often near the honeys and usually always on tree stumps. Crack them open, they should be white on the inside and not gray. I love their taste personally. There is a variety called giant puffballs, which are truly giants growing quite large and fun to find. I’ve two of those ever but I was pretty happy. The one on the right is a birch polypore (Pitptoporus betulinus). This is a good one used as a Immune tonic, anti-inflammatory, anti-tumour, anti-parasitic, anti-septic, anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and styptic. It is edible when young and fresh. It can be thrown in your bonfire to keep it burning longer (: It shot to fame after it was found on the body of Ötzi’, a 5300 year old mummy found preserved in the ice in the Italian Alps. It’s a special mushroom for sure, I encourage you to read about it if your into mushroom hunting, it’s a fascinating one….click that link above!
Here are some great medicinal plants they are out and about as well. First to the far left is one called jewel weed or spotted touch me not. It is hollow stemmed and juicy, the juice is super good for your skin in general. A special quality is that juice is key in treating poison ivy, many people use the stems and leaves raw and simply rub it all over any ivy spots. It is often added into soap making or ice cubes in treatment of ivy rashes. Besides that it’s leaves are proven to have anti-histamine and anti-inflammatory properties. The second to the left is stinging nettle. This plant is hard to handle as it has stingers that can be irritating, wearing gloves when handling helps. Those stingers are actually good and the leaves can be used topically to relieve joint pains. It can be made into a tasty tea or around these parts nettle soup is rather good and popular. It’s benefits include being used as a natural allergy reliever, benefits skin, bone and urinary health as well. You gotta make sure you cook it right to get rid of those stingers! Next in line is Indian pipe or ghost plant. It’s my absolute favorite to look at and enjoy, it is rare so not to over harvest. It’s known for being used to treat pain and neurological disruptions, such as seizures, convulsions, insomnia, extreme mental states, and regular muscular spasming. Best as a tincture, it turns purple and tastes of mocha. Lastly is smart weed or knot weed. The leaves are beneficial for chronic ulcers and haemorrhoids, in tympanitis and flatulent colic, and as a wash in chronic inflammatory erysipelas. The tiny flowers are edible and nutty tasting, a nice little trail treat.
As you see there are many treasures out growing in the forest backyard right now. Lots of good eating and medicines for us to enjoy and use. I love this time of year, getting out to soak up the fall color and weather is refreshing and fills up my soul and senses! Hope you click on the links and learn some good information. Happy foraging and hiking y’all…..until next time with many more adventures to come, I’ll be out in the forest……