Wild Mushrooms – 2018

The fall season in Southern Ontario offers opportunities to get out into the wild and enjoy a number of activities, often many at the same time.  My buddy Dave and I headed out recently to take part of this seasonal overlap.  With a canoe on the roof of the car, rods and a shot-gun in the back, and a mushroom field guide-book in hand we headed out on some crown land north of Kingston.  Our aim was to target walleye early, stop periodically to see if we could take advantage of the early goose season, and walk some public land to see if we could find some edible mushrooms.

Unfortunately, the goose hunt didn’t really pan out and our fishing success was limited to one walleye and a few bass.  Thankfully the mushroom hunting salvaged the trip as we found a large number of lobster mushrooms and a few chanterelles among many other curious fungal species. Pictures have been included below for your viewing pleasure.

Cheers from the wild,

Albert

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Physalis – Ground Cherries

During some recent field work north of Toronto I stumbled across the strangest looking plant in a fairly wild section of public lands.  The bright orange colour of the fruiting bodies drew me in immediately and forced an impromptu googling session.  I was familiar with ground cherries but never any this vibrant.

Here is what I found:

Physalis alkekengi (bladder cherry, Chinese lantern,[2] Japanese-lantern,[3] strawberry groundcherry,[4] or winter cherry It is easily identifiable by the large, bright orange to red papery covering over its fruit, which resembles paper lanterns. It grows naturally in the region covering southern Europe to south Asia and Japan. It is a herbaceous perennial plant growing to 40–60 cm tall, with spirally arranged leaves 6–12 cm long and 4–9 cm broad. The flowers are white, with a five-lobed corolla 10–15 mm across, with an inflated basal calyx which matures into the papery orange fruit covering, 4–5 cm long and broad.

Peterson’s field guide reports these to be edible when ripe but offers a warning that unripe berries and the leaves are poisonous. 

Although the specific species I found is a non native plant, some species are native to the Americas such as the Smooth ground-cherry (Physalis virginiana Mill. var. subglabrata (Mackenz. and Bush) U.T. Waterfall) and clammy ground-cherry (Physalis heterophylla Nees).

Here are a couple shots of my find

Cheers from the wild,

Albert

Maple Syrup Season – Tapping a Crimson King

Winter is on its last legs here in South Eastern Ontario and the foraging season is steadily approaching.  Unfortunately there isn’t  ton to do outdoors if your a hunter or fisherman and many regard this transition time as down time from their busy outdoors schedules.  For me, it just means I have more time to contemplate the numerous projects id like to tackle.

One of those projects happens to be tapping trees to make maple syrup.  I’ve always wanted to make my own syrup, but without land with mature trees it can be a tall order.  About the only opportunity I have for tapping is a giant Norway Maple in my front yard., but I was never sure  you could even tap these trees.  Well the curiosity built and after a quick google I learned you can in fact tap these purple behemoths.  And according to some, the sap is actually quite good.

So I borrowed a couple taps and proceeded to tap old purple.  Fortunately for me, the Crimson King does just fine for syrup production, albeit a bit slower than a sugar maple.  Not to mention the sap tastes great!

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(The sap immediately began to flow as soon as I inserted the tap).

Now all that is left is to collect enough to make it worth boiling into syrup!

Cheers from my front yard,

Albert

Chicken of the Woods – Laetiporus Sulphureus

Perhaps one of the most easily recognized edible mushrooms is the chicken of the woods.  The fruiting bodies of this mushroom are bright yellow to orange and usually stand out from the brown or grey stumps they are usually found on.  They are found mostly on decaying hardwoods but have been known to grown on conifers as well.   Fruiting bodies grow in large broadly attached clusters, and can grow up to 30cm across.

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Chicken of the woods is a great value mushroom for those not familiar with foraging.  These mushrooms are easy to spot, are relatively common, and grow in 3 of the 4 seasons.  As if that wasn’t enough they are often found in large quantities providing a bounty to the forager.

CAUTION, mushroom foraging can be extremely dangerous.  Do not eat any wild mushrooms unless you can identify them 100%.

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(these particular mushrooms were found very close to Kingston on a local trail)

These little beauties have been described as having a lemoney chicken taste and are great in soups, fried with butter or deep fried.  Stick to the softer younger fruiting bodies and avoid the woody base.  With flavours like this, I can’t wait to add them to a nice mushroom risotto!

Cheers from the wild,

Albert

 

 

Duck Opener 2015 – Kingston

Duck season has arrived in Southern Ontario.  So just like many other crazed, sleep deprived hunters, Dave and I got up well before dawn to head out on the water to take part in the tradition.  This time around we had decided to try a new spot on the banks of the Rideau System.  Granted, Heading to a new spot on opening day is gamble, but we felt it was less so seeing as how we had done a fairly extensive online scouting and Dave had made a quick trip days before.  The spot look good.  Really, good.  There seemed to be shallow water around with a good section of weedlines and cattails for blinds.  Lots of open water nearby and good views for spotting incoming ducks.  Overall we liked our chances.

We arrived just as dawn was beginning to chase the night away only to be immediately dismayed with a number of other trucks and trailers parked at our access point.  Gamble made and lost…Apparently we weren’t the only ones who had noticed how good the spot looked.

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But we aren’t ones to give up easy so we loaded the canoe with our decoys and gear and headed out to find a useable spot.  We noticed lots of activity in the areas we planned to hunt so we were forced to settle on a secondary location located in a small shallow bay facing south.   Duck hunting always seems to be filed with such a promise of action and today was no different, so regardless of the large number of hunters out there, our hopes remained high as we set up our decoys   Taking a page out of some recent articles I read, we also threw in a goose decoy just for confidence.  You never know when a lone honker will stop to see what’s going on with your spread.

Then we waited. And waited. And waited some more.  Bangs were going off all around us like the fourth of July but there just didn’t seem to be any birds near us that were in range.  I started to wonder if the folks around us were getting  little too liberal with judging weather or not a shot was makeable.  I can’t really blame them though, I seem to think I can shoot farther on opening day too…..

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After tiring of the lack of useable action and hearing about 300$ worth of shells being shot around us we decided to take a walk around the property and do some scouting for future trips. We knew lots of birds were flying around and with the amount of shooting going on there had to be birds at lower elevations in and around more alluring locations.  As fate would have it, our luck changed and we stumbled upon a weedier section and even got a shot off at a fleeing duck we had stirred up.

We definitely took some lessons away from the hunt with regards to location and have a better idea how to position next time.

As a consolation prize, we came across a wide variety of animals that kept us amused during the lulls.  At one point I was seriously considering taking up squirrel hunting!

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Possibly the best part of the trip was the forgeables we had stumbled upon.  Our blind was practically over grown with wild grapes and chokecherry bushes.  Not only are these fruits useful, they make great cover against wary waterfowl eyes.

The biggest surprise was the apples though.  There seemed to be trees upon trees covered in the delicious treat.  We picked and ate several while we hiked around the property and took a bunch back for apple sauce and jelly.

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Overall the day was enjoyable even if we weren’t bringing birds back with us. Often its just getting out that the most enjoyable part of it all.

Cheers from the blind

Albert

 

Leek and Potato Soup

I’d hazard a guess that almost every leek hunter in the province has a favourite Leek and Potato soup.  Like peas and carrots, spaghetti and meat balls, the ingredients go so well together, it would almost be a crime to not make at least one batch during leek season each year.

So here is my recipe, made from some fresh potatoes and same day harvested leeks.  Its not fancy, its not haute cuisine, its just stick to your ribs good.  Just the thing to chase the chill out of your bones form the brisk spring walk required to pick them.

 

Potatoe and Leek Soup

For those who love good food pics:

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Cheers from my Kitchen

Albert

Leek Season 2015 has begun in Southern Ont.

Normally Leek season is well underway by the end of April here in Southern Ontario.  This year though, we have had unseasonably cold temperatures and lots of late snows.  This can put the start of leak season in question.  In an effort to try and determine at what stage the leeks were at, I decided to take a trip to a friends farm in search of these pungent edibles.  Ever curious, my young daughter decided she wanted to come along with Da Da to see what all the fuss was about.  Armed with her favourite hat and a garden trowel we took the drive out to the farm and set out to explore.

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Our first foray into the woods found a large patch of trout lilies.  Although not what we were looking for, trout lilies are considered edible by some, albeit slightly emetic if consumed in large quantities.

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We picked a few bunches for a small salad.

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Our trip continued to a different section of woods.  One that contained hardwood trees and southern exposure.  Sure enough, these characteristics, coupled with soft, dark, and rich loamy soil makes for an almost sure bet for finding Leeks.

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Of course Lorelei had to take a turn at digging.

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Then she got tired and decided to take a break on a nearby rock to watch Dada pick a few more.

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As a reminder, foragers should only harvest a few stalks from each cluster to preserve the colony for  future harvests.  These plants take a while to replenish so they are very susceptible to overharvesting.  Be conservative now to ensure a life time of picking in the future.

Lots of other interesting spring plant life to see including spring beauties and mushroom life.

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So for all those wondering what is up with the Leeks this year, they are out but its still early. Some have yet to reach their full size.  Give it another week or two and things will really be underway.

Cheers from the Wild,

Albert