I heard a funny quote on the farm: “There are old mushroom hunters and bold mushroom hunters, but never old and bold mushroom hunters.” While we are cultivating and not hunting, this relates to the relatively small number of safe-to-eat species of mushroom when compared to how many are poisonous.
We learned the basics of identifying mushrooms in the field, and can be done in three steps:
- Identify body form. Most edible mushrooms have gills attached to the stem or “stipe”.
- Note cap features. You can determine the rough age of mushroom by examining whether the veil is intact.
- Take a spore print. If you remove the stipe and place the cap spoor-side down on paper or something similar, the cap will eject spores and the color can be an identifying feature.
Mike’s passion at the farm is shiitake mushroom cultivation. There is a structure about 50′ x 30′, draped in industrial agriculture shade cloth and assisted by shade given by a near stand of spruce trees. There are rows and rows of logs leaning in A-frame formations. Each log went through the process of inoculation with shiitake spoors and then lied stacked and dormant for 12-18 months beneath a different shaded area. After this period, they are forced on a weekly schedule and stacked in the area beneath the shade cloth and will eventually fruit shiitake mushrooms. We harvest mushrooms weekly to sell and eat!