It’s Mushroom Season

Amazingly enough, Hen of the Woods does not necessarily have to grow in the woods. I have found it in lawns, too. Many friends call me when they find an odd mushroom or fungus growing in their yards, and hardly anything competes with the oddness of the one that I collected this week. I found a maitake on a neighbor’s front yard several years ago, but when I knocked on her door to ask permission to take it, she wasn’t home. When I returned to try again that night, it was goneā€”in her garden trash bin, she said. I fished it out and it fed me for the winter, it was so large. Now she calls me when it returns.

Hen of the Woods, also known as a Maitake, is highly prized as a generous edible and medicinal mushroom, especially in Japan, where it can grow to 50 pounds. It is sold online and not cheap. My mushroom was very young and difficult to clean and weighed only 3 pounds, but it was still a whole lot of mushroom.

Mushroom hunting this year hasn’t been too successful for me, as my usual territory has been discovered by someone who takes everything and doesn’t even leave enough for spores. My habit has always been to take only what I need and leave plenty for next time. Sigh. I haven’t found a new place yet that can accommodate my bicycle, as my feet won’t walk miles any more. This is especially sad as I am working on my mushroom book this year. But I’ve kept logs for fifteen years now, so there is no dearth of material.

This especially cool photo was taken by my adventurous son Dylan Kuhn, also known as CyberHobo, who is visiting with his equally adventurous wife, Ann. Click on it to enlarge it.

New Mushroom Book in Progress

I’ve been fighting a long block, not able to choose among the many writing and art projects I’ve begun something I feel passionately enough about to devote the year or two it takes to finish one of them. Even the children’s books, which involve hundreds of watercolor illustrations (several for each one I actually use), take years for me to complete. Usually I have no problem with this, but this year I couldn’t decide.

And then, what should come along but all that rain! Hey, mushroom hunters love rain. So while I’ve been grieving the absence of a real summer, I’ve been tracking those big green blotches creeping from west to east on our Michigan radar. I celebrate rain. I hope for rain. I go hiking in the rain.

And I have been rewarded with mushroom hauls unequaled for years. I have gone hunting in familiar places, new places, by myself, with friends, and, most interesting of all, with the Michigan Mushroom Hunters Club, located mostly in southeastern Michigan. Here I have the input of the experts, if not always professional, at least very knowledgeable amateurs.

I am having so much fun! And that is usually how I know that I am on a successful project: the more fun I have writing this book, the more fun you will have reading it.