As a group the Russula mushrooms are extremely difficult for foragers and mycologist to identify other than for a few standouts, so field characteristics and spore stuff equally tough to figure out, the red capped Russula mushrooms may have over 100 species to choose from. Usually unless I’m 100% sure of the ID I won’t try a new mushroom for the table but Russula mushrooms are the exception as without any deadly poisonous mushrooms in my area you can experiment with this group a tiny bit. All the mushroom photos on this post are the same mushroom type at different stages of growth.
I started with this brown capped Russula last year as it is the most common Russula growing in the conifer forest I also gather my Chanterelle mushrooms in. The starting point for doing this is to be able to clearly know if you are picking a Russula mushroom, if you have any doubts do not try what I mention next. After getting some sound advise from a well seasoned forager on the rules for dealing with Russulas I decided to give it a go.
In my area there are probably around 10 different brownish Russula, I was already familiar with 2 of these mushrooms as for decades I would often smell the (not to be eaten) almond scented Russula which appears in good numbers in many Maritimes mixed forest and the very common Russula compacta which smells of fish oil and blackens with age, although edible R compacta has a reputation of not agreeing with everyone so that is a good enough reason to leave it off my list.
So with 2 brown Russula mushrooms off my edible list it was time to try at least one of the other common ones and to do this all I had to do was take a small piece of the raw mushroom and chew it for awhile, if my mouth gets hot or the taste is unpleasant I probably have found a Russula mushroom I would not want to eat, also I should add to spit out the piece you have chewed and it is probably best not to swallow while chewing even if you have found a nice nutty flavoured Russula, so if good fortune had come your way and the taste was mild during your sampling you will have found a safe Russula for cooking and the ones in these photos are one of the many very good edible mushrooms in the Russula family.
Once you do find a good edible Russula you probably don’t want to taste it raw ever time you gather one so next it is prudent to get familiar with its characteristics in all stages of growth. This one I suspect is R mustelina which has some traits which are quite consistent, (1) bugs do not invade even mature mushroom stem which is rare for Russula mushrooms. (2) stem is deep in soil which is rare. (3) stem is long and often is bulgy which is rare. (4) stem firm, when mature still firm but will hollow or is softening in inner core. (5) cap color is dark brown usually with some yellow shades. (6) Cap when young is sticky and usually will hold some dirt on it, it will become dry as it flattens in maturity. (7) cap peels very easily at least halfway to center. (8) little scent. (9) When cap flattens at maturity there will be brown stains midway on the gills. (10) gills firm when young, crumbly brittle when mature. (11) Mature mushroom stains brown on stem and gills, but do not blacken. (12) taste always mild. (13) In groups under conifers starting close to 1000 ft above sea level. (14) One of the first Russula mushrooms to appear in the summer in New Brunswick. If you are familiar with Russula mushrooms you will notice this one is quite unique when you add these points up.
One thing I didn’t find was much N.A information on folks eating this mushroom here. In Europe it seems it is enjoyed by some folks in the mountainous areas of Spain, France and Italy with some considering it an excellent edible. It has a common name in those countries which is the weasel mushroom, but I should mention again I just eat this mushroom and officially do not know its name other than it is definitely a brown capped Russula which matches up well with info I have on R mustelina, with most other wild mushroom families this type of experimenting would be dangerous so even with the Russula mushrooms this is something you should never try unless you are a very experienced wild mushroom forager and are receiving expert advise along the way. ciao
This is the same small bolete I’ve seen in good numbers most summers for the last 40 years usually on edges of mixed forest pathways with plenty of birch and poplar in the mix. The cap is brown, pore surface yellow, stem initially yellow and flesh usually whitish yellow. This mushroom does not turn blue when cut and the pore surface does not turn orange or red. The stem does eventually blush red.
It has gone through some name changes over the years being mostly listed as a Boletus or Leccinum though I kind of like this new name as it just didn’t seem to fit into those other names very well.
The best ones for eating are the very young mushrooms like these here in the photos, usually by the time the yellow stem is blushing red the cap is thin and the pore surface should be removed, best use at that time is to dry for winter soups by letting the flavour of the dried mushroom develop for a few months.
If you are 100% sure of your identification of this common Maritime mushroom and decide to give it a try as an edible I suggest you discard the solid somewhat tough stem which are similar to the Leccinum mushrooms stems and only eat a few caps (well cooked) pan fried till a crisp brown, the taste is a little lemony, quite good. The dried mushrooms are top notch as well. This is a mushroom I’ve never specifically gone out to gather though usually end up gathering a good supply while Chanterelling during the summer months. ciao
Glaux maritima – sea milkwort is not real common in this salt marsh and is quite well hidden in the taller grasses, I think I’ll add this one to my wild flower page as this little plant is a salt marsh favorite of mine.
Actually dropped in here for some more male cattail flower heads in the fresh water marsh, but with a salt marsh this close a small walk in seemed a good idea and here we see some Plantago maritima – seaside plantain which I showed the long leaves of last week, now those plants have these newly emerging flower stems already starting to flower just at the bottom of the stem heads (click on for closer look), these unique little flowers are looking quite showy on this sunny afternoon. ciao
In a large cattail swamp today, primarily to gather a few cattail male flower heads and of course to take in the surprises along the way.
Here we see the dark green top section of the cattail which I will be gathering today. I have put of gathering foods from swamps for decades due to possible toxins in the stagnant waters from a variety of causes, it is wise to know the sources of the water your dealing with and also the area’s history as this type of wetland were popular places for folks to dump all kinds of stuff especially in the previous century. Many of the edible plants from these environments also tend to bioaccumulate heavy metals and other not so goodies usually to the highest degree in their roots but also in the leaves and stems less so. I do occasionally eat the tasty cattail shoots lightly cooked and there were many still today which were in excellent shape for that though I am only slightly comfortable with this collection site and will stick with the edible part of the plant least likely to accumulate toxins.
This cattail area has almost entirely narrow leaf cattail Tyha angustifolia which is less common and usually grows in deeper water, key identifier for narrow leaf cattail is the visible space between the male and female flower heads (click on the side view ha photo) as the common cattail has no space between the 2. The male flowers heads are a very nutrient rich food and taste very good steamed, the green and yellow parts are scrapped off the thin woody core, so this is a top quality food if you can get over our common view of swamps and also take the extra step in doing our homework on the site we choose. I’m somewhat surprised cattail and some of the other swamp plants have not been altered into common crops here in North America.
Here we see the early growth of another swamp plant known as bur-reed, not sure which member of the Sparganium this is but what a beauty. This plant will grow several feet high and its seedheads when mature become solid and resemble a medieval weapon head.
Another look at the early developing plant, these plants have small edible spread out tubers. This may make an interesting edible potted plant for those with creative green thumbs.
The red winged blackbirds who accompanied me all the time during my swamp visit didn’t want to be photographed but my also constant friends the darter dragonfly was more than agreeable to pose for a pic.
update – This is now the following day with a photo of the dried male flower in the bowl and the small central glass has dried powdered flowers. I did need to sift the green and yellow flower material from a fair amount of woolly fluff so it took some time to come up with 40 oz jar of dried flowers. I was hoping for a higher volume of pollen in the flowers so when I gather the larger common cattail in coming weeks I’ll wait for the male flower heads to lighten in color slightly and become puffy in spots which should mean the pollen is a few days from maturity and probably will make up a larger part of the product. Interestingly the scent of these dried flowers is somewhere between corn and dried stinging nettle, quite pleasant. ciao
In the swamp this afternoon seeing how the cattails and a few others edibles are coming along and decided to continue over the dyke into the salt marsh. Here in the photo is a plant with tasty edible leaves known as Orache, this is the most common Atriplex in this marsh and its leaves will start to shrink as it stretches upwards in the warmer weather, so now is a good time to gather a few.
Another look at its spear shaped leaf.
Some other animal has been walking over the dyke and has found and nibbled on these nice tender seaside plantain (Plantago martima), known locally as goose-tongue and passé-pierre.
In the marsh’s taller grass the seaside plantain had long slender succulent leaves over a foot long, harder to see and more difficult to graze as many other plants with similar leaves were well mixed in with them, I needed to check twice on some of them, here they are laying on some dried grass with a couple of orache sprouts in view. I think I’ll sit here for a bit and them home to steam some greens.
A typical foraging adventure where things just didn’t pan out as expected, a bit to early for the plant I had in mind though this new floodplain I’ve started exploring this year is turning up some interesting plants like this Wood Nettle – (Laportea canadensis).
The greenery has grown a couple feet since my last visit, now there are many Wood Nettle peeking through the Sensitive Ferns and there are a few others like Poison Ivy I’m unfamiliar with and I’ve read it can give you a few different looks within a same area so I’ll have to be quite – rashional – in my approach so a few tools are in order like these gloves which I always carry with me anyway.
This one I didn’t bring but it as a rule conveniently grows around plants which can irritate your skin so I’ll keep a few juicy stems of Jewelweed – (Impatiens capensis) around just in case things get uncomfortable. As it turned out I didn’t run into problems though I did place the stem juice on my skin just to stay familiar with the smell and feel of this jewel of a weed, quite refreshing.
A few sunny light green Wood Nettles and lots of sunny light green Sensitive Fern.
Probably 75% of the plants in this view are tall healthy Sensitive Ferns.
A slightly drier area and we have some large Wood Nettle plants, none have any flower parts opening up yet also in view are some Dryad Saddle mushrooms on an Elm tree straight ahead in the distance, you’ll need to click on the photo to see them.
Now I’m a bit surprised that there a few areas on this floodplain with large colonies Wood Nettle covering several acres so I’ll gather a single leaf per plant and will have a year’s supply for tea, juices and soups in just a few hours. Back home the plant appears to have much milder stinging irritants as compared to the Stinging Nettles in the Urtica group I already know well. The raw leaves de-activated of the stingers tasted better than the raw Urticas but raw and de-activated in fruit juice it didn’t have the same invigorating qualities as the Uriticas. There are a few medications which interact unfavorably with both Wood Nettle and Stinging Nettle so do your homework before using this food and medicinal. ciao
Going to add 1 of the first 3 photos of Water Avens (Geum rivale) to my wild flower page soon, hoping maybe a few folks will enter a comment on their favorite pic of the 3.
Another view from below. Water Avens are a member of the rose family.
Above looking down at the leaves, pleasant to bee in this tiny wet meadow for a few moments.
Now here is a look at a piece of a root which can be used as a beverage and medicinal ingredient. I actually tried this one last night mixed with milk and honey, anytime you try a new wild food it is a good idea to proceed very slowly, at least for the first few times you try it, so I drank less than a half cup of a diluted version of this beverage over a span of an hour, very nice flavour and pleasant in the tummy but eventually my lips began to slightly tingle for a time which can be a warning sign of an allergic reaction, my first thoughts went back to a much more intense reaction a had with a strong anti-inflammatory medication I received 15 years ago, this time only the tingling lips with no other issues arising, nevertheless this beauty isn’t going to be my cup of tea anymore. ciao
Trillium undulatum is our most common Maritime Trillium.
It is the only Trillium you’re likely to see here in a forest of conifers in boggy lowlands. I’m actually here to gather another plant of triangular form, a certain sedge that grows along the forest edges which I’ll cook as a vegetable latter today, it is a new one, so I’ll see how this pans out before writing much about it.
I’ve walked 4 to 5 miles in this forest today and probably only seen a little over 10 of these flowers, there were no patches, just a flower here and then lots more walking before the sight of another Painted Trillium well raised above the mossy forest floor with the pleasant and far more familiar conifer trunks in the background.
This Purple Trillium is to rare in my area for me to eat its leaves.
There is one common Trillium locally, the Painted Trillium which you could gather 1 of its 3 leafs from when it is young and shaped like a spear as shown by the Purple Trillium with its red stem behind the Dutchman’s breeches in this photo.
Marsh Marigold is considered edible when properly cooked though I haven’t try it, in fact this is the first time I’ve noticed this plant flowering. Raw it is known to be an irritant and quite toxic.
This plant has interesting looking flowerbuds which I will also be not eating due to its rarity here and conflicting info on the safest parts and ways to eat this plant, but again this is a new plant I have no experience with except this encounter right here. I was driving by when I noticed these earliest of bright yellow flowers which I wasn’t expecting to see in a coastal swamp.
Now for some greens, ground elder and orpine in the basket. The tastiest part of the ground elder for my taste buds are the long leaf stems on the lightest green colored plants with barely unfolding leaves.
Here is a nice one, this patch covers several acres and you can harvest a lot in a short time. I first starting eating this plant just last year after reading an excellent post on Alan Carter’s blog — Of Plums and Pignuts
Usually you will find at least some of these young light greens popping up throughout the summer and right now about 30% of ground elder here is still light green with juicy leaf stems. This area I suspect started as a small patch of ornamental variegated ground elder 50 to 100 hundreds years ago as there are still a few at the front of this abandon farm yard though over time it has vastly spread and reverted to the old original which is known to be quite vigorous and a well known food and medicine for several previous centuries in Europe. Today in many places Aegopodium podagraria is consider quite invasive and very unpopular though if eaten at the right stage it suddenly appears to be a very healthy good food, funny how the goodness of nature doesn’t change, just our thoughts on it do. ciao
Looking down this steep hillside I could see a good sized birch with a nice chaga horn and even larger chaga mushrooms at the bottom of the trunk, so down I gradually slide to the tree. The chaga horn ended up being well out of reach, probably 12 feet up, so the ones level with my belly were the best options.
I decided to harvest the top section of this lower trunk Chaga mushroom which kind of resembles an elephant and weighed 8 lbs, so this will last a while at a tbsp of chaga per 2 or 3 cups of water. This tree has only a few branches producing leaves so this chaga is near the end of its most potent years if not harvested.
Earlier in the day no positional thoughts came to mind when I walked through this floodplain which was under several feet of water just 2 weeks ago. Long strips of bark lay beneath this tree, an unusual sight.
Yes this is the same neighbourhood where beaver’s been chomping down poplars. ciao