By: Robert Patrick
Lakeside RV Retreat @ Indian Creek Farm
Mushrooms of the fall
We had a taste of fall a few weeks back, the rains came, the temps dropped into the 50’s and that feeling of downright oppressive heat has finally taken aback seat to some pleasant weather. Being a naturalist, loving the Great Outdoors and enjoying a fall garden are just the start to the fall season here at Indian Creek Farm. Its about the middle of the Month (Oct) and we have had another round of rain soak the country side in the past couple of days and if the weather forecast is correct we are looking at a bit more rain over the next week or so, the rains are a blessing to us all, but especially the gardeners and ranchers among us. As a naturalist the rains bring a special smile to my face, I love seeing the natural world come to life, plants love the nitrogen rich water that mother nature provides and it seems all the microscopic creatures are equally as thrilled.
For me fall, like spring, is a busy time of year, the gardens have been fallow for a few months (the flat land gardens), working in compost that has been cooking over the summer and the rains allowing for working some of my heavy clay soils down in the row gardens. I spent a hard 10 hours getting as much done as possible this past weekend, spreading some large piles of compost, planting garlic, pulling bunches of multiplying onions and replanting them in some of the new composted areas, dragging some large oak logs into place and back filling the area with a soil compost mixture. I planted kale, chard, turnips a couple of weeks back, all are doing good, I planted spinach but not one seed sprouted, it was old seed and I have more, so I’ll be replanting soon. Lots of other veggies will be planted over the course of the next month or so, but let’s get started on what this article is really all about.
For me the fall brings a new $ flow into the capitalistic side of life, everybody has to make a living, I just happen to like doing so many things and hate the idea of a monotonous JOB doing the same task over and over again each and every day.
Fall brings on the flush of mushrooms here in east Texas, Boletes, Oysters, Chanterelles, Herciniums and a host of others. Mushrooms are a great source of protein and have many medicinal benefits if eaten as a regular part of your diet. Many folks are familiar with the store bought varieties, the white button mushroom and some of the portabella types, but not many folks get to sample the goodness of fresh mushrooms from the wild. As part of my master naturalist training, mycology, or the study of mushrooms really floated my boat, something about it, can’t put my finger on it, but I am hooked on shrooms.
The first big flush of oyster mushrooms (Pleurotus ostreatus) began/happened a couple of weeks ago when the first of the good rains hit and the temps went doing into the 60’s. Mushrooms are the fruit of a plant like structure called mycelia. The substrate or type of place the mushroom grows is dependant on the species of mushroom; some grow on logs, other in the soil. Many of our native mammals eat much of the mushroom population before us humans have the change to ever see them, if your not out and about in the woods and the fields, you would never know they are there. Not only that, many only last a few hours and even the hearty species are only around for a few days to a week.
This past week while out on a mushroom adventure, looking for new source logs for oyster mushrooms I came upon my first big stash of chanterelles (chantharellus cibarius). OK, the hogs had found them first, the ground was torn asunder from can to can’t in all directions, but I did manage to find enough for a nice meal and while looking around I found a patch and a nice size one at that, of small golden yellow dots covering the ground. I’ll be heading back to this spot in a few days to check on the growth progress, having not found many of this type, I am unsure of the growth habits, what I have heard is from the very small stage to the picking size, it could take a few weeks. I’ll clue you all in when I find the answer.
I am just learning my boletes and therefore will not go into details as there are so many types growing here in Texas, I do not think we have any poisonous types, but some are less than palatable if you know what I mean. I have determined a few types that I’ll be sampling over the course of the next month or so and I’ll keep you all informed.
Now to the king of the group, the rarest, the most delicious and one that has almost magical healing properties. One of the common names is the Lions Mane mushroom and its official name is (Hericium erinaceus). We have three species of Hericiums that grow here, but the later is the king of the three. I only find a few of these solitary beauties each year and feel very fortunate to do so, it’s not that there are not a lot of them in the forests, it’s just that you have to be in the type of forest, at the right time and be looking in the right direction, they grow on the sides of trees, usually in a scar or rotted out limb hole, sometime you will find them in downed logs, but most of the time, it’s just ONE.
Making a measure of my living from the fat of the land and fall being an extra good time for enjoying myself in the outdoors, I get the best of both worlds, loving what I do and doing what I love, how can it get any better than that. Although I am trying to set up here at the farm some large mushroom patches, one oyster bed and several King Stropharia patches, the oysters grow on logs in the wild, but can be grown on other substrates and the King Stropharia (also called the garden giant) is a garden mushroom and grows well in wood chips and garden soil. I started building these natural like beds here at the farm in the spring and summer but have yet to get them to flush, the process is a natural one, I introduce the mycelia into the substrate (logs, woodchips, hay, straw, cardboard) and wait for it to colonize. The oyster’s need to take over the whole of it’s host, be it a log or a bag of straw, when it runs out of things to consume that signals the plant to bear it’s fruit. This is when the mushrooms start to emerge from the host substrate. If I am lucky, I’ll see a few oysters so up before the cool weather abates in the spring of next year and the garden giant should if all goes as planed be a part of my spring and summer gardens starting next year.
It’s my hope that I have not bored you guys to tears; I can get a bit long winded when it comes to my passions. I hope each and everyone has the opportunity to get outside and enjoy these great outdoors. It’s time to step off the porch and put your feet on one of the many natural surface trails here in San Jacinto county, the Loan Star Hiking trail is an excellent resource, use it when you can, just leave them mushrooms alone, there mine…lol
Master Gardener – Master Naturalist – Wild crafter (Medicinals & Edibles)
Amateur Mycologist – Custom Furnishings