Just as the print version of Heartland hits mailboxes and readers hands, when I wrote about the difficulty of foraging in the winter - Mother Nature once again proves me wrong. Bags, buckets, and boxes of winter oyster mushrooms are littering my kitchen right now.
I had that feeling over the holiday weekend that the weather was right - after shrooming as many years as I have been you can just tell when the weather is right for producing each species. The heavy fog/light rain, the temps that made made me need an extra layer under my rain coat, the same grey , soggy, chilly , early winter days that usually equal good waterfowl hunting also usually equal good flushes of winter oyster mushrooms.
The winter oysters are little darker, a little meatier, and usually of larger size than the warm weather ones. I decided that a short walk to tree that I knew as “known producer” wasn’t anything that would upset my doctors restrictions. As my mother often said - it’s healthy to go outside and get the stink blowed off. A short quarter mile walk along the field edge back to big brush pile that has always been good to me was in order. Easy flat terrain, I could park on a well traveled road, where the neighbors always watch how long my car sits. If I’m in that patch of woods and field too long they call and check on me to make sure I’m okay. Seemed like a good place and time for my first excursion “to the woods” alone.
At the outermost edge of the brush pile the first log I encountered was covered..literally covered in them. There I was.. only a cell phone camera, no bag, no sack, no pack.
Not to worry friends- I quickly pulled off my jacket and fashioned it into a makeshift bag and commenced to cutting. I periodically picked it up gauging the weight , as I knew the amount I could carry was restricted. I wasn’t about to try the hike back carrying more than my allotted “nothing more than a half a gallon of milk” .
I’m not sure that when designing the Eliminator Series Rain Jacket the gals at Prois factored in “use as a mushroom pack”- but it worked!
But after getting home with them I knew..just knew it was game on and the winter flush was on. Whining until my dearly beloved could take no not one more utterance of ” Oh c’mon.. take me drive by shrooming..you know I can’t drive much yet” we set out Sunday for day of gravel scratching and drive by shroom hunting. Winter oysters are incredibly easy to hunt from the car - in barren winter landscape they flash as bright as a deer’s warning tail flag. Sunday’s excursion also gave me the opportunity to check waterfowl numbers throughout Randolph, Perry , Jackson and Union county - which were pretty dismal. I’m not sure where all the birds were hanging out - but it sure wasn’t any of the places I visited..
one of Sunday’s first bundles
Who is that crazy woman hacking away at that log?
Lifelong friends “Boo-Man” and his wife Tracy look on and help with the harvest
It didn’t take long and we filled every sack, pack, two empty twelve pack boxes I scavenged, and even an extra shirt made into a sack- all spotted from the car and quick hop, skip, and a jump to cut.
So keep your eyes peeled these cold wet dreary days - look for that flash of of beigeish white on the trees and grab yourself a shroomy winter treat! As always - be certain of your ID, and only try a small amount the first time you consume any foraged wild food!