Posts Tagged ‘Fungus’

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Native Foods: Chugging Chaga at Tea-Time

Chaga Mushroom Ingredients for healthy beverages are free for the taking outdoors if you can get past the introduction stage.

Hemlock tea, one of my favorites, is a good example. This is not the recipe poor Socrates used, which was made with the toxic perennial herb, poison-hemlock. The kind I serve is a vitamin-C-rich infusion of needles and young shoots from the stately eastern hemlock tree, Tsuga canadensis. This hemlock tea is great with a touch of honey, and the good part is that you can drink it more than once. Plus it’s fun to see the reaction when I offer it to guests. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, October 15, 2017

Cultivating Mushrooms in the Adirondacks

I absolutely love mushrooms. They add real zest and excitement to all sorts of recipes. I’ve been cooking with them all of my adult life. They’re the perfect choice for hearty, intensely satisfying, really-good-for-you, low-calorie meals. Great if you’re watching your waistline!

It’s easy and fun to cultivate edible mushrooms using logs, stumps, or other mediums (i.e. straw, corn cobs), and the moist shade of your wooded property. Each mushroom variety offers its own unique, often nutty flavor. And they’re packed full of nutrients; things like B-vitamins, including riboflavin (an essential dietary nutrient which plays a major role in red blood cell formation and energy production, and strengthens the immune system), niacin (a digestive aid that can help maintain good blood circulation, healthy skin condition, and brain function), and pantothenic acid (one of the most versatile and flexible vitamins). » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Poisonous Mushrooms: An Aura of Amanita

Amanita by Adelaide TyrolOne of our big collective cultural fears about nature involves poisonous plants. Our mothers implored us to NEVER put anything from the woods in our mouths, but in reality, you can sample most of what’s out there with relative impunity. Your taste buds will give you a good indication of edibility, and if you ignore them you might pay the price of some diarrhea and stomach cramping.

Put another way, the poison in most so-called poisonous plants is about as harmful as the thorns they might carry – not something you want to go out of your way to mess with, but nothing to make you put a child-proof fence around the rhubarb because you heard a rumor the leaves were poisonous. (They are in mass amounts, but at a high enough dose so is salt.) » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Adirondack Fungus: Turkey Tails

turkey tailDuring my walks through the woods these days, I am often accompanied by curious children. These children, who are my own, notice many things that I often do not, and they are filled with questions. Who made that track? Why does this grow here? What kind of mushroom is that? With fledgling naturalists – including one who wants to grow up to be a mycologist, an entomologist, or a zoologist, depending on the day – it’s nice to have a few things in the woods I can identify easily at any time of year. Enter Trametes versicolor, the turkey tail fungus.

This common polypore has a name that’s indicative of its appearance. The fruiting body (the part of the fungus that we can see and which contains the reproductive spores) looks much like the tail of a Tom turkey strutting his stuff for prospective hen companions. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Lichens: Not Technically A Plant

Lichens: Not Technically a PlantOn cold winter days, feeding sticks of firewood into my woodstove, I sometimes pause, my eye caught by lichens. Splotchy circles, lacy tendrils. Soft gray, muted gray-green, black. They mottle the bark. When I look out the window next to my desk, I see splashes of lichen on the roof of my workshop, and on the stone walls across the road.

Lichens are virtually everywhere. They live in some of the harshest environments on our planet, from Antarctica to the high Arctic, deserts and high peaks, in forests tropical and temperate. They can grow not only on rock, but in it, between grains and crystals. According to Steve Selva, a lichenologist and professor emeritus at the University of Maine at Fort Kent, there’s even a type that grows on barnacles. Selva has spent four decades studying lichens. He created and still contributes to and maintains the school’s extensive lichen collection. » Continue Reading.


Monday, January 26, 2015

Blobs on Ice: Jelly Fungi Add Color to Winter

RSCN5706They look like blobs of shiny tar, a melted lollipop, or a crayon left in the sun too long. They come in vivid colors from orange to yellow to white to black to pinkish. They have a disconcerting ability to mimic human body parts, such as ears and tongues, with Daliesque artfulness.

Jelly fungi.

They got their name because their tissues have the texture and consistency of, well, jelly. In some cases it’s more like rubber. The various species often carry imaginative common names: witch’s butter, snow fungus, jelly ear. » Continue Reading.


Monday, July 28, 2014

Horntails: The Wasp and the Fungus

TOS_horntailNo one could fault you for running away, screaming in terror, if you saw a large, flying, cigar-shaped insect armed with a “stinger” bigger than a sewing needle. Thankfully, the female pigeon horntail wood wasp is harmless. That spear on its rear isn’t meant to pierce skin. It’s for drilling into wood; and it lays the foundation – literally – for a remarkable inter-species relationship.

Tremex columba is the scientific name for this member of the Siricidae family. Adult females measure one and a half to two inches, males slightly smaller. The female’s “stinger” is actually a specialized egg-laying organ called an ovipositor. This slender, hollow rod is divided top to bottom, both halves articulated. Serrations on the tip allow the wasp to saw into tree trunks, much like an electric knife cuts meat. Two additional segments on either side sandwich the ovipositor in a protective sheath. The whole apparatus originates midway down the underside of the wasp’s abdomen. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, March 7, 2013

Outside Story: Sapstreak Disease in the Sugarbush

diseaseOn a walk through a still, snowy sugarbush, the peacefulness can be overwhelming; everything looks to be in good order. But all may not be as perfect as it seems.

In any sugarbush, there is a good chance that a fungal intruder has gained entry and is wintering unseen beneath the rich, dark bark of an unlucky sugar maple. If this invader is sapstreak disease, then death is likely to soon claim a valuable sap producer. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, November 4, 2012

The Outside Story: The Clinker Polypore Fungus

If you’ve seen a well-developed clinker polypore (inonotus obliquus) protruding from a tree, there’s a good chance that you remember it. This fungus causes large, black, cinder-like growths, sometimes neatly conical, but often rough and ragged. Also called the birch polypore, you can find these conks on all species of birch, as well as on hophornbeam and occasionally on other hardwoods. By the time the fungal tissue is visible on the outside, the inside of the tree is likely to be rotten to the core.

Much is yet to be learned about this organism, but it seems that infection often occurs after another fungus, called Nectria, has invaded a tree. Injuries, too, allow the clinker polypore to get a foothold, and once it has settled in, death – though sometimes a slow death – seems to be inevitable. » Continue Reading.


Monday, August 27, 2012

Adirondack Ecology: Wildlife, Wilderness and Dead Wood

Discussions regarding the ecological value of wilderness compared to an actively managed forest often centers around the health and well being of specific members of the wildlife community. While the flora and fauna that a tract of wilderness supports may be strikingly similar to that which occurs in periodically logged woodlands, the relative abundance of the various plants and animals contained in each is often quite different.In wilderness regions, there eventually develops a much higher concentration of those organisms whose lives are connected either directly or indirectly to the presence of dead wood.

Forests that are protected from timber harvesting operations contain substantially more dead wood on the ground and on the stump. While some trees that succumb to a disease or insect infestation may remain upright for only a few years after they die, many remain standing for decades before they eventually fall. Standing dead trees, especially ones that are larger than a foot in diameter, harbor numerous living entities and provide many animals with shelter. » Continue Reading.


Monday, July 30, 2012

Adirondack Wildlife: The Flying Squirrels

In the days prior to and immediately following a full moon, there is often enough light in the hours after sunset for a person to meander along a well established woodland trail without the aid of a flashlight. By walking slowly and quietly, one can occasionally detect a small gray squirrel rustling about the dead leaves on the forest floor, climbing up a large trunk, or moving along the limb of a tree. While most squirrels strongly prefer to be active during the light of day, the flying squirrel favors the darkness of night and is the most common nocturnal tree dwelling mammal within the Park.

The flying squirrel is characterized by a loose fold of skin, called a patagium that extends from it front and hind legs and connects to its sides. This thin, furry membrane acts as a wing or airfoil when the animal stretches its appendages outward and enables it to glide forward as it slowly descends after leaping from a tree. The wide and flat tail of this rodent provides additional lift and greatly helps an airborne individual alter its flight path so it can accurately land at a selected spot. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, June 30, 2012

Lost Brook Dispatches: The Back Country Pantry

I hope you got the idea from the Dispatch two weeks ago that I put a premium on cooking real food over saving weight when I’m in the wilderness.

It’s no contest; I love to eat well when I camp, no matter the circumstances.

Admittedly Lost Brook Tract affords me a real advantage because we have a lean-to and a fire ring with which to maintain a permanent base camp.  In fact during our first summer trip there, in addition to lots of tools, supplies and the makings for Shay’s Privy, we hauled in a primo cooking setup.  It consisted of a large, heavy-duty two-burner stove, tubing, a propane gas distribution pipe and a screw-on lantern at the top.

Some hiker noticed my load at the trail head when I hauled in the propane tank, one of those deals you usually see mounted on the front of an RV.  Their look of scorn and derision was forgotten as soon as I fired this deal up for the first time. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Shannon Houlihan: Farm Fresh Eggs and Frittata

Adirondack Farm Fresh EggsTake a drive through any little town or along the back roads in the Adirondack Park and you are sure to encounter handmade signs bearing the words “FRESH EGGS HERE”. As people have become more interested in eating healthy locally-grown food, raising chickens for fresh eggs has exploded, and it is truly a welcome change to our food landscape.

I won’t launch into a diatribe here about the evils of factory-farm eggs, as I am sure most people are already aware of the horrific conditions in which large-scale producers keep their chickens, the nasty chemicals and antibiotics which these “farmers” use and the incredibly detrimental effects large-scale farming has on our environment. » Continue Reading.


Monday, August 22, 2011

Slugs: Slimy, Slow, and Esurient

The arrival of cooler nights with widespread valley fog and heavy dew creates favorable conditions for many creatures that require excessive dampness. Among those forms of life that function best in moisture laden surroundings are the slugs, a collection of invertebrates known for their slimy, unappealing appearance, incredibly slow rate of travel, and ability to wreak havoc in gardens just as produce is getting ready to harvest.

Slugs, along with the snails, are gastropod mollusks. As a general rule, slugs lack the rounded or spiral-shaped exterior shell that typifies snails. There are many different categories of slugs, and attempting to determine the exact identity of an individual can be as challenging as trying to figure out what species of mosquito has just landed on your arm. » Continue Reading.


Monday, March 14, 2011

The Gray Squirrel in the Adirondacks

Anyone living in a town or hamlet in the Adirondacks knows that the gray squirrel is a common member of the wildlife community within the Park. This bushy-tailed rodent ranks among the most frequently seen creatures, especially if a few individuals in the neighborhood are maintaining bird feeders. Yet, as common as this skilled aerialist may appear, the gray squirrel is not as widely distributed throughout the Park as it would seem.

The gray squirrel is a creature that is heavily dependent on acorns for its staple source of food. It is in mature stands of oaks that the population of this species reaches its natural peak. In areas where oaks occur only sporadically, the gray squirrel has a far more challenging time surviving. » Continue Reading.