Episode 2 — Honey Mushrooms

The Radacast
33 min readDec 19, 2019
Photo credit: JJ Harrison (https://www.jjharrison.com.au/)

In this second episode of of The Radacast, host Joe Stormer harvests honey mushrooms at sunset, muses about what makes a good vegan pizza, and then manages to light his dishtowel on fire while making a pasta dish with them.

These mushrooms were collected on the unceded land of the Duwamish people without asking permission nor being offered permission.

Transcript below

Twitter:
This podcast’s — @RadacastPodcast
Personal — @PopulusEyedJoe
My other science communication accounts — @365BotanyWomen@365EarlyCareer

This episode’s recommended podcast:
The Taproot (https://plantae.org/podcasts/the-taproot/)

Selected sources:

Chen, Yu-Jen, Szu-Yuan Wu, Szu-Yuan Chen, Yu-Lin Tsao, Nai-Chi Hsu, Yu- Chi Chou, and Huey-Lan Huang, “Armillaria mellea component armillarikin induces apoptosis in human leukemia cells”. Journal of Functional Foods, January 2014, Vol.6, pp.196–204.

DJ Morrison, “Vertical distribution of Armillaria mellea rhizomorphs in soil”. Transactions of the British Mycological Society, Volume 66, Issue 3, June 1976, Pages 393–399.

Falandysz, Jerzy, Aneta Mazur, Anna K Kojta, Grażyna Jarzyńska, Małgorzata Drewnowska, Anna Dryżałowska, and Innocent Nnorom, “Mercury in fruiting bodies of dark honey fungus ( Armillaria solidipes ) and beneath substratum soils collected from spatially distant areas”. Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, 15 March 2013, Vol.93(4), pp.853–858.

Guo, Wen Juan, and Shun Xing Guo “Triterpene from Armillaria mellea” Chemistry of Natural Compounds, Volume 46, Issue 6, pp 995–996.

Pareek, Mamta, William G .Allaway and Anne E. Ashford, “Armillaria luteobubalina mycelium develops air pores that conduct oxygen to rhizomorph clusters”. Mycological Research, Volume 110, Issue 1, January 2006, Pages 38–50.

Travadon, Renaud, Matthew E. Smith, Phillip Fujiyoshi, Greg W. Douhan, David M. Rizzo and Kendra Baumgartner “Inferring dispersal patterns of the generalist root fungus Armillaria mellea”. The New Phytologist , Vol. 193, №4, March 2012, pp. 959–969.

Wang, Si-Hong, Jing-Dong Zhang, Hui Xu, and Dong-Hao Li, “Metal content of Armillaria mellea in the Tumen River Basin”. International Journal of Food Properties, 02 September 2017, Vol.20(9), pp.2052–2059.

Transcript:

00:00 Hello, you’re listening to The Radacast and this episode is about the genus Armillaria, also known as honey mushrooms.

[Banjo music]

Hi, my name is Joe Stormer and this is the second episode of the Radek cast. We’ve come so far together, haven’t we? This is a scientific podcast about foraging named after Radagast the Brown, also known as “Bird Friend”, who cared for the flora and fauna of Middle Earth. Now, if you’ve ever dabbled in foraging, you’ve probably found a lot of conflicting information out there. The rumor of a rumor of a rumor is presented as scientific fact and when you try to follow a thread to its source, you find just an echo chamber of self-appointed experts. The Radacast does it differently. With each episode I share about the scientific significance of a different species of forageable plant, fungi or algae as I do my best to collect, process and eat it.

I recorded the collection, cleaning and cooking of these mushrooms back in early November, but I’m speaking to you now in mid-December from an Airbnb in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. I traveled here from Seattle with my employer to attend a conference on invasive plant management. I’m looking forward to another day of programming, but these honey mushrooms are such amazing, brutal, merciless, delicious monsters. So c’mon, let’s go out to the woods and see what we can find.

[Single banjo chord]

01:19 You hear that sound? That’s the sound of a banjo in what’s called “sawmill tuning”. And whenever you hear that, you can be sure I’m about to chop up the family tree of the species at hand so we can sort out the species’ whole heritage. There is nothing that the listening public is hankering for more than discussions at the taxonomy.

So Armillaria belongs to the kingdom of Fungi. This includes mushrooms, yeasts and molds. The word fungus is deriving Greek words sphongos, meaning sponge. Also derived from the sphongos, the Spanish word for mushrooms is hongos. Fungi is very closely related to the animals kingdom, Animalia, and we both breathe in oxygen and exhale CO2. Fungi are commonly composed of cell walls made of chitin, which is the same material as the exoskeletons of arthropods like insects, crabs and scorpions. But a major difference between fungi and animals is that they generally exude digestive chemicals into their surroundings, whereas animals do so internally in our stomachs.

02:10 Below the kingdom is division. Now the division that our malaria belongs to is Basidiomycota. Basidiomycota is one of two divisions that make up the sub kingdom Dikarya, also known as “higher fungi”. This division possesses mycelium, which are branching networks of thread like hyphae, with the exception of some yeasts. They reproduce sexually via specialized spores called a basidiospores, with exceptions.

Below that is the class Agaricomycetes. Now this class excludes smuts and rusts and jellies, with some exceptions. Now Ssuts are a type of fungus that infect the grains of sedges and grasses like corn and is a delicacy known as huitlacoche or hongo demaíz in parts of Mexico. Fungi in this class range in size from several millimeters to the giant polypore, which is a fungus that can grow to almost eleven meters long and is estimated to weigh up to 400 or 500 kilograms, or half a ton. This class is mostly terrestrial, with the exception of a few aquatic members, and most are decomposing saprophytes — though some are mycorrhizal symbionts of tree roots, and some are parasites or pathogens.

Below that is the order of Agaricales, also known as the gilled mushrooms. This order is composed of 33 families, 413 genera and 13,000 described species. This is your stereotypical mushroom, with a stipe (or stem), a cap and gills. And this of course is with the exception of some puffballs and the tongue-like beefsteak mushroom. Fungi are weird and full of contradictions and exceptions. Anytime I tell you a generalization about any order or class or family or whatever, there will always be an exception because fungi are weird.

The family that Armillaria belongs to is Physalacriaceae. One well-known member of this family is a enokitake, which when cultivated is known as the “golden needle mushroom”.

03:57 And finally we are to honey mushrooms. Honey mushrooms are the genus Armillaria. These used to be considered to be one single species called Armillaria melea. The word Armillaria is derived from the Latin armilla or armband and melea is derived from honey. Now this species is now divided into ten species, which is considered to be one single genus. Honey mushrooms are also known as stump mushrooms, stumpies, pinkies, pipinkies, or openky in the Canadian prairies (which comes from the Ukrainian) or even chechev in the Chiapas highlands. Armillaria includes some of the largest organisms in the world. For example, Armillaria solidipes (also known as Armillaria ostoyae) covers nearly nine square kilometers or 3. 5 square miles and the Malheur National Forest. This individual is estimated to be two thousand years old. This genus causes white rot root disease (also known as Armillaria root rot) because it is a forest pathogen that attacks live trees but can also feed on dead, decomposing wood.

04:53 Whereas many mushrooms are saprophytes only feeding on rotting material, others are parasites. Parasites generally don’t want to kill our host, cuz when the host dies they lose their food. But Armillaria doesn’t care. They will kill the host and then eat the host, hence them sometimes being known as a “meadow-maker”.

Now let’s get to identification. Armillaria grows on wood, especially on the base of living trees that they attacked, on stumps and falling logs, sometimes on wood that is just below the soil surface like roots. They appear in the fall (often in late October in the Puget Sound lowland forests where I live). I have observed them generally occurring before olive oysterlings, which is a mushroom that is also known as “late oysters”. They have highly-variable yellow-brown caps which are smooth, sometimes with dark hairy scales. The caps are somewhat sticky when wet.

05:43 From the brown caps and the dark hairy scales, I suspect that I’m collecting Armillaria solidipes (also known as Armillaria ostoyae), but I may be collecting altimontana, though Armillaria altimontana seems to generally occur high elevations and I’m mostly collecting at low elevations. These mushrooms as a little round button but becomes conical, turns convex like an open umbrella, and then they sometimes go as far as being platter-shaped or even depressed in the center — although they generally retain an umbo at the very center, with a little brown peak in the middle. The gills are adnate (attaching to the stipe at ninety degrees) or sometimes subdecurrent (running down the stipe just a little). The whitest flesh of the mushroom becomes somewhat pinkish-brown with age and the fuzzy fibrillose stipe or stem may or may not have retained the ring, which is the remnant of the veil which covers the gills below when the mushroom is young. It is often yellowish on the underside of this ring,

06:29 The Stipe starts up firmly spongy but hollows out with size and age. I’ve observed that the base is often a bit yellowish and tends to be somewhat bulbous in young specimens, kind of like the end of a chicken bone. Armillaria does not possess a vulva. A vulva is the remnant of the egg-like casing that some mushrooms emerge from. If you’ve never seen a vulva before (a mushroom vulva), once you see one for the first time, you’ll know exactly what I mean. The absence of the vulva contrast Armillaria from other mushrooms like Amanitas.

Honey mushrooms look similar and share the same time of habitat is two different notable mushrooms. The first being the Pholiota mushroom, which is inedible but have a scaly stipe. And I’ve noticed they have this really delicious oniony smell, but you shouldn’t need it.

07:10 Armillaria also share their season and space with the deadly galerina. Deadly galerina, I’ve noticed, seems to always have a pretty smooth cap but one diagnostic difference between these two mushrooms is that galerina spores are light-brown to rusty-brown, whereas Armillaria spores are just plain white. And one last notable trait about our malaria is their mycelium is bioluminescent. How cool is that?

Armillaria spreads and reproduces mostly colonially. Armillaria possesses shallow black rhizomorphs, which are like roots that spread about one meter per year. They can also spread through the roots of infected trees. The researchers Pareek et al in the journal Mycological Research show that the mycelia of Armillaria luteobubalina have air pores that are thought to conduct oxygen down to the rhizomorphs from the surface, and this is presumably to allow the rhizomorphs to penetrate into lower oxygen environments.

07:57 And on a similar note, DJ Morrison published in the journal Transactions at the British Mycological Society that rhizomorphs grow shallower in wetter environments and that buried rhizomorphs tend to grow toward more oxygen-rich environments, away from areas with higher CO2 concentrations. Once making contact with the victim, Armillaria attacks and the roots and base of these trees. The trees may then be girdled as the fungus grows around the entire base of the tree and it isolates the roots from the aerial above-ground portions of that tree, effectively choking it out. Death to the tree comes in a few months or the infection could last a few years. These trees will show signs of stress as they start to die back, although sometimes they may have extensive flowering and fruiting as they try one last time to get the genetic material out there.

08:42 Reproduction by spore is considered to be relatively rare. Researchers Travadon et al find that the vast majority of spores land within several meters, but that occasionally long-distance dispersal is an important factor in population spread.

The hosts of our malaria are most commonly hardwoods, but also conifers, some shrubs and some herbaceous non-woody plants like strawberries and asparagus

But we’re here for edibility. I’ve heard literature reporting that Armillaria is eaten wherever trees are found around the globe. It was probably president at one time in Antarctica too, back when Antarctica was still a part of the supercontinent Gondwana. These mushrooms have a delicious, nutty flavor and they have a nice, real firm texture; they’re not mushy.

Pretty much every mushroom has at least mildly poisonous raw, but these are perfectly fine once they’re cooked. I’ve heard reports that some people are intolerant to it (having some gastric distress) and I’ve read that these people will parboil the mushrooms for this purpose.

09:30 There are conflicting, poorly documented poisoning reports that are maybe attributed to these mushrooms growing on hemlocks or buckeyes, or maybe not. However, studies have shown that some species in the UK can cause sickness if consumed with alcohol. There are recommendations that say there that no alcohol should be consumed from twelve hours before eating it and twenty-four hours after for some of these species. I personally never had a problem with this in the Pacific Northwest, but everybody’s body is different and the species or variations that you have wherever you are living could be quite different from the species that I have where I live.

Now, I want to tell you my own honey mushroom poisoning story. I personally had a run in with honey mushrooms that I could have erroneously chalked up as a poisoning by the species, but that could not be further from the fact.

10:16 About a year ago I harvested some honey mushrooms and I dehydrated all of my extras; I had probably about two gallons dry. And this fall I was eating the very last bits of these dried mushrooms in a stir fry and that night I had pretty epic diarrhea. It was awful — no details. Now I could’ve pointed at the mushrooms and told everyone that they poisoned me but the truth is that, when dehydrating mushrooms, you can either take them out of the dehydrator before the perfectly dry and they’re still a little bit soft or you can store them for a long time. You cannot do both. It was a simple food poisoning because of poor food storage on my part, but it’s simple to see how easy it is to mistakenly get conflicting reports on edibility out there. That’s why he’s best to go to the source of the claims and whenever possible to the academic literature when you’re in doubt.

10:58 Now onto the medical aspects. Researchers Zhu et al found that in the laboratory, Armillaria tabescens is found to contain a compound that can to a certain extent inhibit the growth of one type of cancer but failed with another. This was published in Biomacromolecules. Similarly, researchers Chen et al published in the Journal of Functional Foods their findings that the compound armillarikin from Armillaria mellea caused cell death in three different strains of human leukemia.

Several studies that I found stated that Armillaria mellea contains antioxidant compounds and antibacterial properties, but I’m not familiar enough with this field to assess the quality of this literature.

Other compounds found in our malaria are triterpenes such as 3β-hydroxyglutin-5-ene, friedelane-2α,3β-diol. Let me know if you understood that; I didn’t. However, friedelane is an anti-inflammatory drug and non-narcotic analgesic and an anti pyretic useful in reducing fever. In the paper “Triterpene from Armillaria mellea”, Wen Juan Guo and Shun Xing state that the mushroom is traditionally used for the treatment of dizziness, headache, neurasthenia, insomnia, numbness in limbs and infantile convulsion. And while previous studies used artificially cultured mycelia, Guo and Guo used natural rhizomorphs.

12:14 The mushrooms also contained indole compounds like tryptamine, a compound involved in neurotransmission activity and L-tryptofan, an α-amino acid that humans cannot synthesize, but it’s a precursor to melatonin, serotonin and the vitamin B3

Now on to the potential negative health effects. I found two papers that analyze the ability of Armillaria to uptake pollution. One paper by Falandysz in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, found Armillaria Poland to contain from 8 to 300 nanograms of mercury per gram of dried mushroom weight when growing in a substrate that contains averages from 20 to 100 nanograms of mercury per gram of soil, with the cap containing 1. 1 to 1. 7 times more mercury than the stipe. So they found Armillaria to be a moderate mercury accumulator and stated that those levels are within standards for safe consumption with even relative frequency, though my back of the envelope calculations show that mercury levels in those contaminated sites would be far too much for even occasional consumption.

13:14 Wang et al found that in polluted sites in the Tumen River basin, metal concentrates would be as high as 6. 2 micrograms of cadmium and 8. 5 of lead, well above Chinese regulations for the safe export of medicinal plants and fungi. In the United States, the mushrooms from these most contaminated sites would certainly exceed recommended lead and cadmium intake by the time you ate ten grams of fresh mushrooms, which is very little. The authors suggested that the pollution originated from automobile exhaust and they publish this in the International Journal of Food Properties.

Now, this all demonstrates how important it is to be as mindful as possible of the contamination of the land you’re foraging on. Be mindful of the industrial, logging, and mining history of the land you’re on. But that shouldn’t deter you from foraging. To put it all in perspective, there’s agricultural land that is extremely polluted as well, contaminating our mainstream food system and we need to think about where our food is coming from, in any circumstance. Foraging is organic food, but organic food that grows on polluted land is polluted food.

14:09 On the really bright note though, in a number of studies by different researchers, the Armillaria species F022 isolated in Indonesia has shown promise for breaking down the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons such as fluoranthene, naphthalene, and pyrene and it can be used in the bioremediation of polluted land.

But enough about all it’s annoying science talk. Come with me as I go and gather some of these beauties

[Banjo music]

14:52 Here I am today in a city park in the Seattle area. I was going for a walk in this park earlier today and I found a nice real nice log just covered in honey mushrooms, and I’ve gone back to try to find it again.

Oo, there’s some really cool lichens on that log!

So this park that I’m in is a fairly steep, water ravine. It is one of the areas that has escaped the scourge of development because I guess people just didn’t bother building houses on the steep slopes until people realized, “Oh, hey, parks are cool. They make us happy. ” So it’s a mix of native and nonnative species. I would say a majority — a good majority — here are native. There are a number of coast redwoods that hadn’t planted, which will be native soon enough as climate change changes their natural habitat. But here in the bottom we have a lot of a western redcedar, Thuja plicata. Some of these are even growing directly in the waterway here that I’m about to walk over.

15:50 It looks like we got some mock orange; I don’t know the scientific name for that. And there are a good number of alders which are indicative of relatively recent disturbance, which is great for me because these honey mushrooms love them. Here we’ve got some Sitka spruce. There’s a lot of bigleaf maple which have mostly dropped their leaves, although some of are still holding onto their seeds. Looks like that may be a planted Alaska yellowcedar. I would not typically expect it at this elevation at this latitude. Got a lot of horsetail, Equisetum. There are a number of cottonwoods in the poplar family around here enjoying the very moist habitat that is here. I see some vine maple. I’ll have eaten salmon berries and some thimbleberries out of this park in the past. The underbrush was pretty heavily dominated bt sword fern, not much salal (which is a little bit surprising), which I expect that’s probably a product of human disturbance over the years.

16:45 So one unfortunate thing is that this water way is pretty heavily clogged with watercress. I don’t know if watercress is a native plant, but it definitely has the potential to become invasive — a pretty good lesson about what it means to be invasive. Invasive doesn’t necessarily mean non-native. There are exotic invasives and there are native invasives, and what defines invasive is generally really a question of whether or not it’s out of control and excludes other life.

Now, one of the exciting things here in this park that I had not known before is that the larches are currently changing color. They are turning gold and dropping their leaves and I don’t know, again, if these are native larches. There’s a European larch that is pretty common here and commonly planted here in the city. You really don’t find the larches growing at such a low altitude here in the Seattle area; we are just barely above sea level.

17:29 So in passing below some coast redwoods with their soft bark and one of these just has, oh, an absolutely gorgeous array of likens growing all over ’em. It makes a wonderful contrast between the kind of like spearmint green and the white, with the red color of the bark.

I think we’re almost the place where I find this log a little bit ago. So on the right of me is a kind of gurgling brook and, on the left side of the trail, a little ditch. I think the water will run other times a year but right now it’s so clogged with bigleaf maple that it can’t possibly run. But in the ditch I see there’s some duckweed, which I’ve heard is edible and high and protein content. We’ve got some lady ferns that put up the edible fiddleheads in the spring. We’ve got some foam flower, got some bittercress (which is always a nice peppery flavor).

18:18 Probably just about any neck of the woods you’re in, you’re going to find some bittercress growing in your garden and you have probably we did it away and thrown it away so many times, not knowing that it really belongs on your plate.

Okay, here we are. So I’m back at this log. Now, judging by its bar, it’s a pretty old log and it’s covered pretty heavily with moss. It’s possible that this is a maple, although I’m leaning toward alder. Oh, no, by the vertical ridges on the bark I can tell that this is a bigleaf maple that fell quite a while ago. So I haven’t been able to find many honey mushrooms recently because of it being so dry in our region, but this log is actually sitting directly in the ditch; it’s sitting in water at all times.

19:06 So growing on the slog I see a bunch of licorice fern. Licorice fern has a compound in it that is, (I think I read) six hundred, maybe nine hundred times sweeter than sugar — than sucrose. Lots of moss, we’ve got some lichens growing around some sort of laurel, I think. We’ve got some a sword Fern, some lady fern (or is this lady Fern? Yeah, that’s just lady fern). So as I see here, these honey mushrooms are a deeper reddish color than usual. Some of these are very very new, very young, and they are still a very dark brown. I’m going to pluck some of these off; they’re hardly worth picking at this point. But they have a little bit of the yellowish coloring to the bases, and these ones have just a very, very faint yellowish that is just below the base of the veil under the cap.

19:53 And they have these cute little hairs. They’re a little bit darker at the center than the edges. The stems are whitish with a bit of a yellowish blush. Except for the yellow at the very base of the veil, the veil is a stark white and the little hairs are just a little bit lighter than the color of the cap.

So I have heard that the best practices with collecting mushrooms is to have a perforated bucket or a basket so that as you collect and you walk through the forest you’re spreading the spores. I don’t have that, but I do have some thoughts on that. One is that in the process of collecting these mushrooms, I’m completely covering myself with them and I’m walking through the forest. I kind of doubt that many of them are going to be able to shake loose in a bucket.

20:36 Also, I’m in a city park that is a pretty heavily trafficked, so this is not quite the same rationale I would normally use. But when I’m in — say — the National Forest, you’re walking down a path and you’re seeing just the tiniest fraction of a percent of the forest, and not even that. And so even if you collect what is right along the path, that pales in comparison to what is in the rest of the entire park. So probably best practice is to have some sort of permeable bag or container to carry them. But I myself right now have a completely impermeable Ortlieb bag for biking. And in the bottom of it I have a reusable plastic container. I don’t want to buzz-market Tupperware, but it’s a Tupperware type container and it is exactly the size of the bottom of my bag. And the reason I have this is that I found that when I’m walking with mushrooms in my bag, they tend to kind of like squish up in the bottom; They tend to get squeezed by the bag constricting on itself. And this way I have a hard bottom that really creates a much safer and less damaging space.

21:28 So let’s get to harvesting. First, let me look over here. It looks like we’ve got some real little, real little oyster mushrooms right at the end of the log. Oo, these are like the size of thumbnail. They’re so tiny; it’s not even even worth collecting them. So what I’m doing here is I’m clearing away the leaves to see what I’m working with. These are not as big as what I’m used to seeing. I do suspect that the reason I keep seeing honey mushrooms that are much smaller than usual, I suspect it’s because we’ve had drought. Well, maybe droughts drops out the right word. We haven’t had rain. We’ve had much less rain than usual this time of year, I believe, and we also had a really nasty cold snap.

2 22:18 Those things tend to go together in the Seattle area. It’s either warm and wet or cold and dry, for the most part, during the winter months. I suspect that the mycelium is sensing tjat we don’t have the moisture right now that is ideal. Maybe the mycelium is freaking out because of the cold and they’re putting out smaller caps than usual just to beat the winter. Maybe they’re afraid that winter’s coming early this year. I don’t know that this is the case; It’s just my suspicion that that might be the reason that we are getting much smaller caps than usual right now.

One of the wonderful things about them is that honey mushrooms, when they’re growing on a hard flat-ish surface such as the side of a log or if a log has been sawed off, you can — you know — grab them by the stipe and pull or you can actually kind of dig your fingernails into the surface and just rake your fingers along the surface and they will just pop off, just like a bunch, and then you can hold them in your hand like a bouquet, which usually works pretty well.

23:09 But I suspect that . . . this big leaf maple has a deeply riveted bark and I suspect that that is preventing me from pulling these off like a normally would. So instead I am grabbing him by the stipe (grabbing a bunch of stipes) and pulling, which is a little bit slower but in this case it is proving easier. So far I have tried to go out and collect honey mushrooms on how many occasions now? So today is November 3rd I first went out on October 25th. Now I have pictures from last year of collecting a whole mess of honey mushrooms on October 19th last year. But this year they’ve been late and so I went to my favorite honey mushroom log, which I collected from on the 19th last year and they’re just little, barely buttons of ’em. The stipes hadn’t even started to extend. So I was like, “Okay, well, I’ll wait. ”

23:57 And then a couple of days later, I was at work; I was clearing some English Ivy for our client to build a trail on their land. While I was doing that, a bunch of honey mushrooms just popped up out of the brush; I had separated them from the substrate below. And I tracked it around and I found this really beautiful, big ol’ alder that had a few of them around the base of them. There were like a few more in the general area, so I suspect that those were already attacking the roots of this alder. And so I collected them and I left them on the table for our client to eat, and then also gave him the bad news that that alder is not long for this world. So I hope that those mushrooms, those delicious mushrooms, are a bit of a bit of a consolation because it is a really nice alder. He did say that he had plans in the next few years to take down that tree, but I suspect that this is going to mean that he’s going to be taking that tree down much sooner than he originally expected.

24:55 The sun has gone down. The sun is currently setting in Seattle at 4:49 today. While I collect these mushrooms I can see enough, but it’s even already the younger specimens that are darker brown; those ones are already getting hard to see. The mature caps, which are more of a kind of honeyish reddish with a darker brown center. These ones are easy to see and I can still harvest them in this dim light.

Oof! I’ve probably only harvested maybe a third of these already in my bag how much do I have? I’ve probably got two or three quarts already.

25:48 So one thing I’m thinking about doing is I’m going to stop by my favorite pub and see if a certain cook is working because he is the only one there who is able to make a decent vegan pizza, and if so I’m definitely going to get him some of these. Last time I was in there, I gave him some California bay laurel, which is our native and far superior bay leaf that grows in California and Oregon. We also have a smaller population and the Puget Sound area, which I’ve read is often referred to as the “Tacoma population”. Oh, it’s delicious. It’s about four times stronger, I’ve read, than your regular bay leaf and the flavor is just incomparable.

I’m kind of excited right now to be collecting these off of a bigleaf maple tree or a bigleaf maple log because I generally . . . when I’m collecting mushrooms (I don’t want to be mean) but I tend to have a pretty low opinion of maples because I really don’t see many mushrooms associating with them or growing on them when they’re downed. But it is nice to see just a little bit of oyster mushrooms and good bit of honey mushrooms growing on this log. So big leaf maple is not good for nothing.

26:39 I recently tried harvesting bigleaf maple seeds — processing them — but they are covered in thesereally nasty little hair-like spikes but look real fuzzy, but they hurt like hell when they go into your hand. I think I tried boiling them for a little bit and then soaking them in my fridge, tryin’ to soften up those spikes and make them more manageable. They did get softer and they didn’t hurt, but then once I had tried pressing sing them a little a bit, I looked down and my hands are covered with fuzz that all of these soft, painless spikes had gone straight into my hand and had just perforated my hand all around. Now luckily enough, just by rubbing them I was able to remove them. So I might try collecting some bigleaf maple seeds pretty soon before they all drop to see if once they are mature, full of all of the energy that they’re putting into those seeds, they might be worth it because if it doesn’t hurt and I can just rub those little spikes out of my hand, it might be a viable food source.

27:38 Oh yeah, this bag is filling up. I think I might stop by that pub and if that cook is working, I’m definitely gonna offer him some of these mushrooms. I think he might be a little more adventurous. A lot of people get super scared of mushrooms that you don’t get in the grocery store because there have been a lot of scare tactics around mushrooms, which is understandable because if you screw up very rarely are you going to do your self damage, but you very well could have gastric distress. On occasion, if you really screw up you could kill yourself. So I understand caution; Iunderstand authorities and experts dissuading people from collecting mushrooms when they don’t know what they’re doing. But honestly, I really don’t think it’s that hard. You know, it takes some study. It takes reviewing guides. It takes bringing mushrooms home and bending the rest of your night the rest of your evening when you’re new to it, reviewing literature.

28:26 But generally if you bring home one mushroom that you’re pretty sure is the right one, you can just pull it up online, look at different online guides, see if it looks about right, do a spore print if it seems that that is necessary for identification, check out the inedible lookalikes . If you’re not certain, just throw it in the compost and make your compost pile or your city municipal compost more interesting.

These are coming real fast right now. I think I probably have two and a half gallons in here. So I started at the broader part of the tree, the lower part of the tree that has fallen. And as I get up further up, it seems that these ridges in the bark are shallower. I think that’s why it’s easier to pull them off. But also it’s worth noting that you kinda just get the feel for it and you know they grow differently at different times. Sometimes the stipe is more tightly attached to the substrate. Every patch has a slightly different trick to pull them off without crushing them too badly.

29:14 Now it looks like I’ve almost got everything. Hello! So I think there’s more here but it is too dark; I cannot see. Yeah, I probably got about three gallons in my bag right here, which is a fantastic haul. I do have a ton of moss that came up with it because of the quick hit kind of grab-and-rake method that I was using and also because the mushrooms are growing up through the moss and kind of inextricable. But that is easy enough when I get home to the kitchen to process these. But first I think I’m going to stop by the pub. I might get a pizza if my favorite cook is working and I’ll probably shove him a couple quarts of these or his troubles as appreciation for being a good cook of a vegan pizza because it’s not that hard to cook a great vegan pizza, if you try

30:04 Just remember that as you are taking the cheese away, you need to add extra oil — some sort of fat. You need olive oil, coconut oil if you’re making that type of pizza; and extra salt. You need something to replace the cheese, as far as keeping the moisture in. So sliced tomatoes can do a great job of that; spinach can do a great job of that. Arugula, ehh, not so much. It’s pretty thin; doesn’t have a lot of moisture content to it. I’ve even had a vegan pizza that had a whole bunch of chop artichokes and that kind of created a nice layer to trap in some of the moisture and then also as they cooked, seemed a lot of the moisture came out into the pizza; it was delicious. Gonna get out of the park before it’s too dark. I’ll see you all in my kitchen and uh, probably a couple of hours.

[Banjo music]

31:03 All right, well, welcome to my home. I’ve got a nice collection of honey mushrooms that I’ve collected here tonight. Now what I have found to be the most effective way of processing mushrooms because I do not do a good job of bringing them home clean . . . probably there are people who like clean ’em and trim ’em in the field but that’s not me; I wish that was me. So what I generally do is I will put them in a pot of water and very gently agitate. I will kind of push them under the water with both hands. This is a pot that is probably about three gallons. And while I’m doing this, I’m pulling out these bunches of moss; I’m pulling out leaves. I just pulled out a hemlock home. [Laughs] Yeah, there is — wow — this is a lot of moss. Okay, I probably could’ve done a better job of bringing this stuff home a little cleaner. I mean, to be fair, it was dark and I was kind of in a rush.

[Kitchen noises]

32:07 I feel like works best for me is I will kind of shake them around; I’ll kind of agitate a bit; pull the worst with the dirty stuff out of there — the leaves, all the big clumps of moss. And then I will kind of like gently lift them out of this dirty, dirty water, toss them in a colander sitting on a plate beside my sink. Meanwhile, all of these random bits I’m throwing in my sink even though my compost container is right beside my sink. But still I’m throwing them in the sink and what later throw them in the compost container right beside my sink. I will lift him out and while I’m doing this I can continue pulling out to the worst of the moss and stuff. After using this method of kind of like scraping and scooping across the surface of the log, there’s a lot of dirt in here. This water is a very dark ground. I can see my hand maybe two, two and a half inches deep. So I have hold all of these goodies out of there. I’m going to dump, [water noise] dump all this water into the sink and fill the pot again.

[Banjo music as the pot fills, kitchen noises]

God damn, this is annoying

33:44 Now I’ve got some boiling water. I cooked this bowtie pasta the other day. It’s a little bit dried out and here I’m tossing into this hot water to warm it up. Luckily also warming up will rehydrate some of these more dry parts. I’m putting some heat into this pan with olive oil. I’m about toss in a bunch of roasted zucchini, some diced leeks, chopped up some dried tomato, some garlic, some California bay laurel (which is far superior to the bay leaf that you’ll find in the store and it’s also native) and I’m little bit torn. I don’t know if I’m going to toss all these mushrooms in at the same time as all these. Ummm, I’m just going to go for it. [Sizzling noise]So I’ve got two burners going, one of which is sizzling, the other of which is about to be boiling.

34:55 Oh wow. This smells wonderful and it looks beautiful. Oh, yes, everything about this is wonderful. So when I’m cooking in tonight is a . . . I guess it’s kind of wok-ish. It’s a flat bottom pan; t has a fairly steep side, which is fantastic for many purposes. But in a situation like this with mushrooms (especially mushrooms that I would like to cookmore moisture out of), I really would prefer to have a lower edge pan. I don’t know if I’ve anything like that. I have a cast iron which I feel like is not as good of a nonstick pan. You know what? While I’m at this [stove lighter clicking], I’m just going to give that some heat and I’m going to try dumping this all in this cast iron pan. And if nothing else, even if there’s more moisture in this hand than I’m currently cooking in than I would prefer, I figured that tossing this into a very, very hot cast iron will cook off a good deal of this excess moisture that I don’t want to deal with.

35:57 It’s not quite saucy. Okay, there’s some loose juices in here, which is great for rehydrating the sun-dried tomatoes, getting the flavor out of those. Certainly more than I want and it’s not going to give me the best texture to the mushrooms. I’m fine with that or my leaks that I have in here is [sic] rehydrating the zucchini, which I think is great. I’m sure this is great for taking the flavor out of the garlic. This just might give me some kind of disappointing texture as far as the mushrooms are concerned. So I’m agitating the pasta a little bit to make sure that everything’s good in there. I think they’re about ready. So I feel a little bit anxious about tossing this into my less than perfect cast iron, but here goes.

[Sizzling, stirring]

37:02 Well, this certainly sounds nice now; it smells wonderful. This is sooo good smelling. I’m going to let this cook for a bit and then I’m going to turn it one time while I strain this pasta out in the colander. So I’m gonna turn it then turn it one time. Oh, listen to that! That’s exactly what I want to hear. So I think that’s good enough, give it a little shake. So I’m going to do, I’m going to scrape this all into the original pan that I had because this pan is larger. This cast iron really doesn’t have the space for the pasta as well. There’s a lot of good stuff stuck to that cast iron, so I’m tossing the pasta in there. I’m going to shake this around, kind of scoot it around move it around, get that burnt on stuff.

37:57 Oh! Oof! Okay, my towels is on fire! Okay, okay.

38:02 That doesn’t usually happen. [Laughter] Yeah, so I’m standing here and I’m like, “Wow, I don’t quite understand why would my cast iron smell this way?” And I can’t think of any reason that any of these foods would smell like this. And I looked down on the towel that I had used as my hot pad for picking up the cast iron, it was totally on fire. Hi mom, hi dad!

Um, okay. [Laughing] I swear I’m going to survive. So I also have here little more heat here before I toss this this in. I melted up some stock that I made of various mushroom and vegetable and fruit scraps and I tossed some black pepper into it, as well as some salt. I’m going to toss those into the pot with all of this as well as my chives, my green onions I harvested out of my bathroom-based herb factory, turning it as literally until I feel like it has cooked enough. Yeah, I think this is great. It’s a little bit broth-y but this looks wonderful.

39:14 Taking one little bite, getting a little pasta on my fork; tryin’ to stab one of these mushrooms, they’re a little slippery. I’ve got mushrooms; I’ve got one of the sun dried tomatoes, some zucchini and some leeks, some chives. Let’s see how this is doing. Yes, well done Joe. Just could use a little bit of salt and . . . do I have lemon juice? I do not have lemon juice. Somewhere around here . . . here it is. I do have citric acid, which I keep around for camping purposes and I’m just going to toss some citric acid in there, to give it a little bit of a citrus boost and I think with thisit’ll be just anyway. Anyway, it’s been a long day. I just got the meal and processed a whole bunch of mushrooms. I’m hungry and I’m gonna have a dinner.

[Banjo music]

40:13 I cannot state strongly enough that it is each forger’s own personal responsibility to educate themselves about the impact that they have on nature, the impacts that they have on other humans and the impacts that they have on themselves, consequences that are not only physical but also legal. The worst atrocities that humans have committed were legal at the time and so many of the most beautiful aspects of the human experience have been illegal at one time or another. Familiarize yourself with the laws around wild collecting in your area and the rationale behind those laws, and decide for yourself if those laws make sense. Then decide for yourself whether you are willing to accept the consequences that they come not only with breaking those laws but also with following them. It is not only through law breaking that harm is done.

40:57 Thanks for listening! The banjo playing your hearing is the tune of my song, “Toy Plastic Guns”. If you’d like to hear the full version with lyrics, search for it by name on YouTube. If you’d like to follow my own personal rants, I’m on Twitter @PopulusEyedJoe, and I have two more accounts that celebrate gender diversity in botany and related fields, @365BotanyWomen and @365EarlyCareer. And of course you can follow this podcast on Twitter @RadacastPodcast. Every episode that I released, we’ll have a transcript available episode notes on the show’s Medium page because it is unethical to release spoken audio content without including a transcript.

41:49 For this purpose. I’ll be giving a shout-out to another transcribed podcast with each episode and this time it’s The Taproot, yet another podcast that I transcribe. The Taproot is a production of the American Society of Plant Biologists and The Taproot is the story behind how plant science gets made. You can find The Taproot wherever you find podcasts and on Twitter @TaprootPodcast in a transcript that I produce are up on the show’s Plantae website.

Please rate and review The Radacast because otherwise I don’t really feel so special. It annoys me to no end that this podcast is not the first result on Apple Podcasts when I search for it by name. Now, I joked last episode about sending in your questions for my 300th episode but, in all seriousness, if you leave me a five-star review, I’ll answer on the show any question that you ask in the text of the review. I’ll answer any question that you ask in the text of that review, so long as it’s not mean and sarcastic and won’t get my show an explicit content label.

42:39 It can be about anything — not just about science, nature and food. I don’t have a political rant for this episode, but questions could include politics, me personally, or something completely random. But if youasked me out in the review, I have to warn you that you won’t get an answer until the next episode comes out.

If you’d like to help me get this operation off the ground, please go to my Patreon page to contribute on a one-time or monthly basis. When I said this on the last episode, I had forgotten to make my Patreon page public, but it’s out there now. I’m sure you’re all just chomping at the bit to give me your money. I plan to use the money I received to upgrade my recording and sound editing setup (in this episode, you can tell that was really needed) as well as to purchase a small home flour mill for processing starches like cattail rhizome, and hopefully someday to bring in enough money that I can afford to make this a twice-monthly operation or better.

43:17 I would love to do this more often, but without funding I just have too much on my plate — what with work, grad school applications, other science communication, and trying to get out into the mountains more often.

I look forward to talking to you all on next month’s third episode of The Radacast. In the meantime, whether it’s nature, cooking or anything else that gives you life, share your passions with one another — preferably in podcast form,

And next time it’s cattails!

[Banjo music]

43:52 [Struggling to pronounce] Armillaria luteobolino . . . Armerlari . . . UGH! . . . Armillaria luteobo . . . Armillaria buteobubolina? bubolina? luteobo . . . boop . . . Armillaria luteabubolina . . . Uh, that the mycelia of Armillaria luteobubalina . . . That then mycelia of our Armillaria luteobubalina have air pores in them that are able to conduct oxygen . . . [fades out]

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