It’s that time of year – not only are my eyes watching the sky for the early migrating waterfowl, but most recently I have been fully entranced by the large number of dragonflies that are buzzing around every little piece of wetland, every little moist pothole on the prairie, and all the ponds, streams, and bodies of water I have visited lately.
Indiana Public Media gives us this great tidbit about dragonfly migration -
“Did you that some species of dragon flies migrate?
Of the 400 or so species in North America, scientists believe only about a dozen migrate from the northern United States and southern Canada to the southern United States and Mexico. In fact, even in species that have been shown to migrate, like the green darner, not all populations make the journey.
Dragonfly migration remains quite a mystery altogether. Scientists have wondered why they migrate, how they know where to go, and where precisely they go when they fly south. That could be changing though. In the last year and a half, scientists have begun fitting dragonflies with tiny radio transmitters in order to track their migration. They actually glue the transmitters, along with tiny batteries, onto the undersides of the dragonflies’ abdomens. Scientists can then track the insects by plane since it is almost impossible to follow them on the ground.
So far, their research has revealed that dragonfly migration seems to be remarkably similar to bird migration. Like birds, the southbound dragonflies seem to use the tailwinds generated by northerly cold fronts to aid in their southbound flights. Other similarities to birds were that they refrained from migrating on windy days, and they followed visual landmarks such as coastlines and lake shores. Still, there are plenty of unanswered questions, like why some species are on the move, while others stay put.”
Generally speaking dragonfly migration takes place through Illinois in August. There’s a wealth of great information, as well as an opportunity to be a citizen scientist and help track and record dragonflies at the Migratory Dragonfly Partnership web site. Check it out! Consider too, becoming a citizen scientist and sign up to participate in the Pond Watch program. Be forewarned, these flying jewels will steal your attention, and like me you may find yourself spending a great deal of time just watching and wondering about these flying jewels.
I spent almost the whole morning yesterday neck deep in reeds, grass, and that devil of all devils phragmites, watching the busy as could be hordes of dragonflies that are currently inhabiting Pyramid State Park. It was nearly at swarm level in several spots. The multitude of dragon flies were constantly whizzing around my head, landing on my camera, on me, on most any stationary object. Each year I am reminded of how fantastic these prehistoric creatures, these flying jewels truly are.
How can YOU not be fascinated by these unique looking creatures too? Get outside this weekend Heartland friends – go find some dragonflies! Let us know what the dragonfly numbers and species are like in your neck of the woods right now!
I’ve spent the last week like many in southern Illinois, out roaming chasing the brushy tailed tree rats. My success rate has been exactly - well NONE. I had one of those AHA Moments yesterday and figured out why I have such poor success with the very early season squirrels. I don’t look up enough -
The first weeks of squirrel season is usually a really bang up time for late summer mushrooms, and I seem to find myself trudging through the woods, waving my spider web stick like some half crazed shaman trying to clear away the spirits, while being distracted by the bright orange and yellow of summer’s tasty treats chanterelles and chicken of the woods. I also realized yesterday that my eyes are most often on the ground; not gazing around the tree tops and branches for our fuzzy tailed friends. Dare I admit that on more than one occasion I’ve leaned the gun against the tree to look at or photograph some mushrooms only to remember it after a short walk following the mushroom flush trail?
Enough about my disastrous luck with squirrels thus far and on to the shrooms!
This is rapidly developing into a banner year for late summer mushrooms, especially here in southern Illinois. I am also getting good reports further north as well, including a report from Pike county that told me they found “hordes” of yellow chanterelles over the weekend. For once Mother Nature is on the shroomers’ side this year!
The yellow chanterelles – mostly smooth chanterelles in my neighborhood are flushing like crazy – it’s been several years since I have seen this big of flush, the smaller orange cinnabar chanterelles are also going like gangbusters, and best of all – so are the highly sought after black trumpets.
Looking at a black trumpet, one is likely to be put off a bit by their rather bland and somewhat ugly appearance. They honestly don’t look like something that would be very tasty!
The black trumpet (Craterellus cornucopioides) is an often overlooked or ignored treat in the forest. Conversely, they are highly sought after culinary mushroom, given their smoky, delicious flavor and because they are very difficult to cultivate and grow commercially.
It’s easy to see in this photo, why it’s sometimes a little tough to readily see them on the forest floor.
Black trumpets are notoriously hard to spot on a casual walk through the woods, they are smallish and blend in extremely well with the leaf litter. They also prefer deep shade, adding low light to the mix. Traditionally look for black trumpets in hardwood forests especially in areas with lots of oak and beech, along hillsides, in large mossy areas and along washes or areas where water runs or washes down the hillside and along creek edges. If you start finding them in wash or water runoff area, it’s not unusual to find them all the way along the wash from top down.
Black trumpets generally start in mid-July and run through the end of September depending on weather conditions. Lots of rain, warm days and nights will really bring them out. This year, I am seeing bigger flushes than usual, but we’ve also had more rain events than usual in my neighborhood.
Black trumpets are funnel shaped and gray, brown, or black often growing in small bunches or singly and range in height from 1-6 inches. The stem is hollow the entire length of the mushroom. The flesh is very thin and delicate.
The cap (pileus) is 3/4 - 3 inches across with very thin flesh with a gray, brown or black flower-like appearance. They often have very strong perfume-like aroma.
Gills are not present in black trumpets. The surface will be smooth or have just the slightest hint of ridges and be black, brown, or rust color. Spores range from white to rust color.
One of the most common questions about black trumpets is how to cook them – please, please, I implore you – do not bread, batter and deep fry these mushrooms! Just don’t! Simple preparation is best for these delicately flavored mushrooms. It’s also good when pairing them with other mushrooms to be a bit cautious as some of the stronger flavored mushrooms will quickly overpower their more delicate flavors. They do work well with chicken of the woods and other varieties of chanterelles, which you are likely to find during the same time period.
Preserving black trumpets is best done by drying. Additionally, the dried mushrooms can be ground into a powder that will make for excellent flavoring to this coming autumn’s sauces, soups, stews, and butters.
Here two of my favorite black trumpet recipes, although I have to say just simply sautéing in a bit of olive oil and butter with a few herbs remains a standout favorite.
This recipe came from Health Starts in the Kitchen blog.
Wild Foraged Black Trumpet Mushroom Spread
1 tablespoon ghee or butter
2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic scapes or shallots
1/2cup coarsely chopped Black Trumpet Mushrooms(cleaned)
8 ounce cultured cream-cheese
1 pinch sea salt (real salt) to taste
1 pinch white pepper to taste
In a skillet over medium/low heat, sauté garlic scapes in ghee until soft.
Add in black trumpet mushrooms continue sautéing until mushrooms are cooked through and any liquid is evaporated.
Reduce heat to low, add cream cheese (cut or scooped into roughly 1 tablespoon sized chunks). Stirring constantly until the cream cheese is melted and mixed thoroughly.
Transfer to an air tight jar or container and chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours prior to allow the flavors to come together.
Remove dip from at the refrigerator roughly 30 minutes prior to serving to allow it to warm to room temperature. Serve with crackers, toasted bread or raw vegetables.
Use 1 ounce dried black trumpets that have been reconstituted in warm water in place of the fresh.
Another favorite at our house is this delicious wild mushroom tart recipe from our friends at Whole Foods
Olive oil cooking spray
1 (9-inch) frozen piecrust, thawed for about 10 to 15 minutes
1 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup thinly sliced shallots
3/4 pound mixed wild mushrooms (such as chanterelles, hedgehogs and creminis), roughly chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup dry sherry or white wine
1/2 cup vegetable or low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup crème fraîche
Preheat oven to 450°F. Spray a 9-inch tart pan with cooking spray. Remove pie crust from aluminum tin and press into bottom and sides of tart pan. Prick the bottom of the crust all over with a fork then line crust with parchment paper and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Transfer pan to a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes. Gently remove paper and beans, then sprinkle 1/2 cup of the cheese evenly over the bottom of the crust and set aside. Reduce oven temperature to 350°F.
Heat butter and oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add shallots and cook until golden, about 5 minutes. Stir in mushrooms, salt and pepper and cook until soft, 6 to 8 minutes. Add sherry and broth and simmer, stirring often, until liquid has almost evaporated, 6 to 8 minutes more. Stir in crème fraîche and simmer again until liquid has almost evaporated, about 10 minutes.
Transfer contents of skillet to tart pan and spread out evenly. Sprinkle remaining 1 cup cheese over mushroom mixture, arrange pan on a baking sheet and bake until crust is golden and tart is bubbly, 35 to 45 minutes. Set aside to let rest for 10 minutes then cut into slices and serve.
Per Serving: 290 calories (190 from fat), 22g total fat, 10g saturated fat, 35mg cholesterol, 570mg sodium, 15g carbohydrates, (1 g dietary fiber, 2g sugar), 9g protein.
Head outside Heartland friends, it’s a mushroom hunters paradise out there right now!
A Pokémon Go “gym” is located next to the iconic BoatUS Buoy at the recreational boating association’s national headquarters in Alexandria, VA
I’ll be the first to admit - I really have no clue what the whole Pokemon Go craze is really all about. I’d just as soon shoot myself in the foot as play any of the mobile or electronic games. Not my cup of tea. But what I can gather from others this Pokemon Go business is at least getting people outside and up and moving. Although - I’d rather they were actually looking at the natural world around them, rather than at a screen on a mobile device.
I also have to admit I find it a bit unsettling to read the reports of the number of accidents that seem to be happening while folks are absorbed in finding some mythical electronic creature. That said - I didn’t even consider the implications for boaters and people on the water until the email from BoatUS hit my inbox this afternoon.
According to BoatUS, the reality-game-meets-exercise app currently taking the nation by storm, “Pokémon Go,” now has 21 million users every day – reportedly the most successful mobile game ever in the US. The game features characters called Pokémon that players capture in the real world using a combination of GPS and augmented reality. That also means that Pokémon-mania has also come to the water and with it, BoatUS, the national boating advocacy, services and safety group has three tips for playing Pokémon Go while boating:
1. Be aware: The US Coast Guard reports “Operator Inattention” as one of the five main primary contributing factors in accidents. When searching for a “water type” Pokémon such as “Magikarp” ( I have to ask is a Magikarp anything like a flying silver???) on a waterway, let the first mate or friend handle the cell phone while the captain keeps a safe lookout.
2. Watch cell phone battery use: Users report the game eats up a smartphone’s battery charge. With many recreational boaters today relying on their cell phones for communication, it would be wise to bring along a spare charger, or use battery saving mode. BoatUS also reminds boaters that only a VHF radio can summon emergency help from the closest rescuers, ensuring the fastest response.
3. Have fun: The BoatUS National Headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia offers a Pokémon “gym” located next to the iconic BoatUS Buoy at 880 S. Pickett Street. At lunch, some BoatUS employees can be seen playing the game. (Insider’s tip: The yellow Pokémon Go BoatUS Marine insurance underwriting team often battles other BoatUS departments, and for a limited time, free boat insurance quotes will be available to all players.)
Even though many have encouraged me to give it a try, I think this is one fad / craze I will probably sit out. I’m more happy hunting for real creatures! How about you?