"Bayou Bill" Scifres
Dedicated to the conservation and enjoyment of Indiana's natural resources
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Fall Mushrooms
Copyright © 2006 by Bill Scifres

Although most of the fall mushrooms are not yet appearing hereabouts, the questions keep rolling in, mostly about those we eat, and some on preparation, especially about cooking and identification.

Incidentally, in Indiana, the origin point for this column, the giant puffballs are starting to show now, which means that the shaggymanes hickory jacks, honey and other edibles are not far in the offing, especially if we get some good rains.

As I pointed out last week in this space, the shaggymane comes normally in the wake of the first cold rain of October and keeps coming on (intermittently) with the rains and chilly days that stretch into the first part of November. The shags may dry with dryer days, but they’ll be back with the good rains so long as it doesn’t freeze. As a matter of fact, I have picked shags in the past with big flakes of wet snow on my back.

Before the shags come on the weather usually is right for the honey mushroom, the field mushroom, chanterelles, and puffballs, the latter a rather bland-eater. Still, sliced half an inch thick (or slightly less) and fried, the giant puffball is edible so long as the insides remain white. I eat puffballs if I have no other mushrooms. The softball size seems better--more solid--than volleyball size or larger. But they are all edible if white inside

After the shags are gone--or even while they are fruiting--the hickory jacks will be found on dead trees, stumps and logs into winter, especially during warm streaks.

Last year I discovered the honey mushroom (Armillariella milla), and a close relative of the hen-of-the-woods (Bondarzewia berkeleyi). The hen relative has the propensity for being much larger or the two (gargantuan is a good word to describe it), and is somewhat whiter on the fronds. But it reminds me of the hen though it seems a trifle bitter raw. Bitterness leaves when it is cooked.


One of the questions we get most often on mushrooms deals often with keeping shaggymanes in good shape long enough to use them for food. I experimented with this problem for several years, and finally realized that having shags exposed to oxygen is the force turning them black and making them inedible.

It is rather common knowledge that shag caps start turning black at the outer perimeter of the caps soon after they break away from the stems near the earth. Thus, I started picking only shags that were still attached to the stem at tops and bottoms of the caps, or in very good shape.

Furthermore, I covered them in cool water and weighted them down to keep them below the surface of the water. Refrigeration solved the problem. Since my original experiments, I have learned to keep shags in good shape for extended periods. But if kept them too long, they become soft and saturated.


All columns, essays, and photos are copyrighted by Bill Scifres and may not be reproduced in any form without prior permission from the author.  For reproduction permission and media usage fees, contact: Bill Scifres, 6420 East 116th Street, Fishers, IN 46038, E-mail: billscifres@aol.com

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