Monday, June 27, 2011

Mushroom Monday

When we are out foraging for edible mushrooms we see a lot of varieties we can't identify. Upon spying an interesting specimen we usually whip out our handy pocket guides and race to see who will be the first to "key it out" (identify by matching a series of characteristics). For this one, guides remained holstered; M immediately knew  what it was. I still had to look it up, though, to reinforce the identification and -- most importantly -- to see if we could eat it.

Let's see... we found it on the ground under a mountain conifer in August...

It's about 5-6 inches across and has a distinctive pattern (if you embiggen you can see that the top has big ol' scales)...

And when you turn it over to see whether it has gills or pores... looks like it might it bite back; so a toothed fungus* of some sort. (The teeth or spines are actually very soft and brittle.)

Yes, it's a Hawk Wing, Sarcodon imbricatus, aka Hawks Wing, Hydnum imbricatum, Scaly Urchin,  or Shingled Hedgehog. They are supposed to be edible (Arora says to simmer for 20 minutes to get out the bitter taste) but that was not our experience (blech). They don't seem to hold much interest among the culinary set either: it's not easy to track down a recipe on the internet (even the recipe wiki is empty!) and neither of the two mushroom-specific cookbooks we have (Fischer & Bessette, 1992 or Kuo, 2007) address the Hawk Wing specifically, instead they concentrate on other toothed mushrooms like the Hedgehog and Bear's Head Tooth (we saw a little one of those in AK; you can check it out here).

Sure, we'll harvest another Hawk Wing to try, but the next time we're in the right place at the right time,  I'll be on the lookout for those hedgehogs.

*Toothed fungi are a good mushrooms for beginners because there are no poisonous look-alikes; they might cause a little indigestion but they won't deliquesce your liver. A great book about maximizing safety in the face of uncertainty as you foray into the world of wild mushrooms is Schwab's Mushrooming Without Fear. Along with various sizes of paper bags, mushroom knives and the aforementioned guides, without Fear  lives in the truck during mushroom season.

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