Hello! Come into the woods with me today where we shall dine on the dew and fairies of the hills of West Virgina. I’m told that fairies are quite tasty when dipped in honey-mustard.
Continuing my decade-long quest to uncover new sources of free food, we now turn to the forest, specifically the fungus-covered part of the forest. I’ve been researching wild mushrooms and sometime yesterday I convinced myself that I had enough just enough knowledge to find some of the easier to identify ones without getting us killed.
We used a remote state park in West Virgina to test my mushroom hunting skills. We neither saw nor heard one other person during our entire hike. I pulled up some mushroom identification web pages on my mini-laptop while we were still at the B&B so we could use them as a reference guide on the path.
Of course, the laptop restarted on its own and we were suddenly left without any external guidance. I think these could be chanterelles (tasty!) or they could be false chanterelles (blech!). It’s almost like every edible mushroom has an evil twin! Mushrooms are jerks.
These bracket mushrooms were one of the first big mushroom specimens we ran across. I’m pretty sure that these are oyster mushrooms, and luckily, there are no poisonous look-alikes in North America. However, after researching at home it seems that there are some untasty imitators out in the woods. I have a small sample of this mushroom in my fridge, but I’m a little scared to try it out. They do smell really, really tasty, though.
Okay, I am positive that these are turkey tails, as they have no look-alikes. Aren’t they lovely? They smell heavenly, just like the oyster mushrooms (?). They are a little too tough to be eaten, so they are usually consumed by steeping them to make tea. I’m told that they are good for fighting off cancer.
I found them after wandering off of the path and down a slight slope to investigate some fallen logs. We took just a little so that the patch would have a chance to continue growing.
I found these little puff balls growing on the same log. We left them as they were, but it looks like something has been nibbling on them.
I also found this adorable moss patch on the same log. It was about the size of a quarter. Most people probably don’t think it is possible for moss to be cute. Those people are wrong.
We also found wild blackberries on the trail. They were so ripe and perfect that we couldn’t resist having a few.
Later that day, we took a trip over to the Dolly Sods, mostly because I heard a rumor that there were still blueberries and huckleberries growing over there. We found neither, but the environment was so unique it was still worth the ride up some scary, blind dirt roads.
The Dolly Sods covers a plateau on top of a mountain. Over the last century, the area was extensively logged, ranched nearly to death and then set on fire for nearly a decade. After that, only ferns and lichen could handle the soil, so the cattle moved on. Now the land was only good for one thing, blowing it up with mortar shells by troops in training for World War II. Today it is part of the Monongahela National Forest.
Still, despite the abusive history it’s a pretty place and home to plant and animal life that is not found anywhere else in the area.