Hello all! Just a quick post to anyone who stops by here. I finally got the new website up and running!

Please check out all the new posts and info HERE!

Thanks for following!!!


Honeysuckle Jelly!

Spring is in full force here and the air smells sweet with honeysuckle. From backyards to roadsides it is everywhere in full bloom. But besides just looking pretty and smelling fragrant, it makes a fantastic jelly! I decided to take the day and pick some flowers, and cook up a batch! It took a little longer than I expected to pick the full four cups of flowers that I needed but it was a beautiful day to be outside! For those of you interested in making this tasty jelly, I thought I'd share the recipe and a few pics of my process.

 4 cups honeysuckle flowers
4 cups boiling water
1/4 c. lemon juice
4 cups sugar
1 package liquid pectin 
First you need to make an infusion to draw the flavor out of the flowers. It’s very simple. Prepare the flowers by removing the tiny green tip at the base of the petals.

Next, bring 4 cups of water to a boil in a large saucepan, turn the heat off, then add the honeysuckle flowers you’ve gathered and allow them to steep for about 45 min., stirring occasionally.

While you are waiting for your flowers to steep, take the time to thoroughly wash and sterilize your jars and lids.

Strain the flowers from the liquid using a cheesecloth. You need two cups of the infusion for this recipe.

In the same saucepan, stir together 2 cups flower infusion, the lemon juice, and the sugar; bring to a hard boil that won’t stir down. Add the pectin and boil for 2 min; reduce heat if necessary to avoid boiling over. 

Carefully ladle your jelly into your jars, making sure to gently wipe the jar lids clean before you place the lids on.

Place your jars into your canning pot, and once you have a rolling boil going, let then boil for about 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, turn off the heat and let it sit for about 5-10 minutes. Take your jars out and place them on a cooling rack. Let sit and cool overnight, and they are ready to store!

This jelly is really great! Its sweet and light with a touch of citrus!
There are a lot of different flowers you can use to make a tasty Jelly, but this is usually the first one of the season. So, go pick some flowers and get to cooking!
Until next time, happy hunting!!

(Im) Patiently Waiting for Spring

As I sit here this 25th of March, staring out my window at all of the snow falling down, I can’t help but wonder, “WHEN is it going to warm up!”. Last year about this time, it was already in the mid-80s. However, it was also one of the worst Morel seasons I have seen in a while. So, as I try to keep my patience for the delicious treats spring will bring, I thought I would write a bit about what exactly I’m waiting for before I head out.

Most of the time when you think about mushrooms, moisture is usually what comes to mind. “Well, we had a really wet winter, so the mushrooms and spring edibles will be in abundance!” Well, yes and no. Rain and moisture (or in my case right now, snow) do play a very key role in most if not all mushrooms, however, they are not the biggest determining factor.

No matter the time of year, the main thing you must keep an eye on is temperature! Right now my area is no where near where it needs to be for me to even think about starting to look. You can be sure I am keeping a close eye on the forecasts each week. I actually was planning on taking out some beginners in a couple of weeks, but from the look things, we will most likely have to postpone. For morels, the best time to start is when the nightly low temperatures stay around 40-50 consistently for at least a week, while the daytime temperatures stay at around 65-75. If it has been unusually dry, the growth may not be as abundant, but it will still be a good time to look. If you start to get antsy, like I do, and go out a little early in the season, you should at least start to see some Devil’s Urn mushrooms, newly growing Trillium and a few other early bloomers a week or two before you will start seeing the Morels. I went out the other day because I was getting cabin fever and just itching to get out in the woods, and I didn’t see a single indicator, and knew I was entirely too early.

Devil's Urn (left) & Young Trillium (right)
 Temperature is a key ingredient for foraging mushrooms all year long. As mentioned before, last year was a terrible year for Morels! Why? It got hot entirely too quickly. Once that heat and humidity strike, Morels are done for. It shot up from the nice, pleasant mid-70’s range into the high 80’s within weeks last year, and the humidity rose fairly quickly. From what I have been reading with fellow mushroomers all over the country, the story was the same everywhere.

 However, although Morels may not love that hot weather, the Chanterelle, Black Trumpets and Bolete certainly do! It definitely helped that last year we had an above average rainfall throughout the summer. I remember going out quite a few times in the rain, because there just were no clear days in sight. These mushrooms prefer the hot, humid climate of mid to late summer, and thrive in damp soil. Once it gets below 80, Chanterelle and Black Trumpets are pretty much done for the season.

Temperature plays such a key role in all mushrooms. From the Morels in the Spring, the Chanterelle in the hot summer, the Inky Caps of the fall, and the Oysters of the winter...they all have their temperature preferences, and are quite sensitive to changes in them.

So...keep a close eye on the temps in your area (I know Southern Georgia is already seeing a lot of Morels!) and until next time Happy Hunting!

Hungry for Spring!

After a beautiful 75 degree weekend three weeks ago, mother nature blessed us with snow and ice the past two weeks. However, all this rain and snow (if it keeps up) will mean a great early spring mushroom season! Hopefully, unlike last year, we'll have a few weeks of consistent temperatures, and plenty of rain to temp the treats out of the ground.
In the meantime, I've been looking over some new and old recipes for Morels and thought since my mouth is now watering I would pass them along to you! Only about 2 more months to go!!

Stuffed Morels

8 to 10 large morels
2 cups bread crumbs (from firm white bread, )
cup chopped cooked chicken
cup melted butter
2 tablespoons finely chopped onion
1 juice of 1/2 lemon
1 teaspoon salt
teaspoon pepper
cup light cream

1. Cut the morels in half lengthwise; rinse them in cold water, amd soak for a few minutes in a minutes in a mixture of 1 quart water and 1 teaspoon salt. Drain the morels well and dry on paper towels.
2. In a bowl combine the bread crumbs, chicken, butter, onion, lemon juice, salt and pepper. If there are additional morels, chop them finely and mix them with the stuffing. Loosely fill the morel halves with the stuffing, join the halves together, and tie them with string. Put the stuffed morels in a buttered casserole and pour the cream over them. Bake in a hot oven (400F.) for about 25 minutes.

NOTE: The morel halves can also be stuffed and baked open-faced, substituting a mixture of 1/2 cup chicken broth and 2 tablespoons white wine for the cream. Bake them in a hot oven (400F.) for 18-20 minutes.

Pasta With Morel Mushroom Cream Sauce

 1 lb. homemade pasta or ½ lb. Capellini or thin Linguine
2-3 tablespoons butter
As many morels as you can find or substitute 6 ounces dry morels or porchini mushrooms* or one pound of fresh white button mushrooms, Cremini mushrooms or Portabello mushrooms.
½ cup of cream or half and half (you can substitute any soup stock or the water from reconstituting dry mushrooms instead of cream if you want to go low cal.)
1 Tbsp chopped wild leeks or garlic
2 Tbsp fresh coarsely chopped parsley
Grated Parmesan or Romano cheese (to taste)
Pinch of salt and pepper (to taste)

1. Slice mushrooms into bite size slices. *If using dried mushrooms reconstitute them in a bowl by covering them in warm water for half an hour. Then, lift them from the water and squeeze out most of the liquid. Reserve the liquid.

2. Melt butter in a large sauté pan. Add sliced mushrooms and sauté on medium heat. As the mushrooms begin to release their juices, stir in the wild leeks or garlic, the chopped parsley and a pinch of salt.

3. While the mushrooms are cooking, cook and drain the pasta so it will be ready as soon as the mushroom sauce is done. If the mushrooms begin to dry out, add a little water (use the mushroom water if using dry mushrooms). Cook the mushrooms until they begin to brown in spots. Stir in the cream.

4. Heat through until the mixture thickens a little (you can add more cream if you are serving 4 or more people.) Stir in a tablespoon or two of grated cheese and add some black pepper. In a large serving bowl mix pasta with the cream sauce a little at a time. if you add too much pasta it will be dry. Serve with fresh ground black pepper and grated cheese. Garnish with fresh parsley sprigs.
This should serve from 4 to 6 people, depending on appetites.

Crispy Mushroom Fry

Morels, sliced in half lengthwise
4 eggs, beaten
2 cups panko breadcrumbs (or flour, or other bread crumbs)
4 tablespoons of butter
Salt and pepper to taste

1. In a large bowl, roll the morels in the beaten eggs. Make sure they’re fully covered.

2. In a separate bowl mix together the breadcrumbs, salt, and pepper.

3. Dip the egg-covered morels in the breadcrumbs, making sure all surfaces of the mushrooms are covered with the crumbs.

4. Melt the butter in a large skillet on medium-high heat. Fry the morels until they are brown and crispy on all sides.

Homemade Cream of Mushroom Soup 

1 lb fresh morels, chopped
2 tablespoons butter
1 cups stock (chicken, mushroom, beef, whatever)
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup white wine
2 cups water
1 leek, chopped and using only the white part
3 potatoes
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Add the water to a soup pot and bring to a low boil. Once boiling, toss in the potatoes and let them cook until quite soft. This usually takes around 20 to 30 minutes.

2. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the morels and leeks and cook until the morels are just beginning to brown.

3. Pour in the wine and cook until it has almost entirely evaporated. Then add your stock, stirring frequently. Remove from heat if the potatoes aren’t done yet.

4. When the potatoes are tender, allow the water to cool a little before putting the mixture into a blender. Blend until smooth and then return to the pot, water included.

5. Add the morel and leek mixture to the potatoes and bring to a simmer. Cook for a few minutes until it’s heated through.

6. Add the cream, salt, and pepper and stir until the soup is warmed and thickened to your liking.

Crab Stuffed Morels

12 medium to large morels, sliced in half lengthwise
1 cup crabmeat
2 tablespoons butter
1 egg, beaten
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons light mayonnaise
2 tablespoons dry breadcrumbs
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

2. In a large bowl combine the crabmeat, mayonnaise, beaten egg, garlic, breadcrumbs, salt and pepper. Mix the ingredients well.

3. Spray the bottom of a baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Melt the butter in a skillet and spread it on the bottom on the baking dish. Place the morels on the bottom of the dish with the hollow inside facing up.

4. Stuff each morel with the filling. Place in the oven and cook until the mushrooms are golden brown, around 8 to 15 minutes.

Dreaming of Warmer Days

With winter in full swing, and temperatures here staying nice and cold, I have gone into full hibernation mode. I don’t get out very much in the winter months - I’m not a fan of cold weather. BUT now is the time I can sit inside my nice warm house, browse over and through all of my foraging and mushroom guides and plan for the upcoming Spring. I’m plotting new locations to hike through, going over new places I found out last year. One spot in particular I am looking forward to was a giant patch of Ostrich ferns I found in full bloom over the summer. Those are going to make some gorgeous fiddleheads this Spring!

Great idea for a small herb garden!
Something else I really love doing this time of year is planning out my garden. Although I love foraging and finding food, I especially love growing it as well. The best part about a garden? Anyone can grow one. It doesn’t have to be huge, it doesn’t even have to be much more than some pots or a small raised bed. You can have one in the city or in the county, and you don’t have to have a magic green thumb.

If you don’t have a lot of outdoor space, but can spare a little in your kitchen, have an herb garden! Fresh herbs in a store are expensive and don’t usually last very long. This way, you can just *snip* a little each time you need it.
Beautiful, small, raised bed garden.

If you have a little larger space, such as a deck, patio or a little bit of land, you can do a raised bed garden. This site was excellent for everything you need to know about them. Building, plotting, soil and more. Raised gardens are also really great if your soil isn’t right for what you would like to grow. For example, my garden consisted of a lot of shale and red clay. Mixed with good soil, most plants would do fine, however my carrots got extremely stunted and didn’t grow properly. I found a raised bed of about 6” with good soil was more than perfect to grow carrots and a few other root vegetables.

A little fencing or fishing line could fix this problem!
When finding a spot for your garden, remember, most veggies require about 6 hours of full sunlight, so watch where the sun falls in your yard. If you live in the country, you will definitely have to plan for deer and other animals ahead of time. I used a small chicken wire fence to keep the smaller animals out, but there are a few other tricks you can try along the way. Pesticides aren’t the best answer for anything. You can make home remedies for most pests. This is a great site for ideas if you have deer problems!

Another thing to think about when planning the coming years crop is the  difficulty of what you want to grow. Radishes are extremely easy, grow very fast and are a great beginner crop (and also a really great one to teach children, as it grows really fast, so they don’t have to wait as long to harvest!) Potatoes are great, and can start producing from spring until late fall. I managed to get three separate harvests from my potatoes last year. And although everyone always seems to grow tomatoes, they can be a little ticky. If the soil isn’t right, if they are crowded or get eaten by bugs, they can become rotten very quickly.

The best thing to do, is decide what you will eat, what you would like, and do a little research. Don't forget to find out the best time to plant in your area. This site is really great if you are not sure!

So, in the meantime, I will be snuggled up in a blanket, drinking some hot cider and planning for Spring. Until then, stay warm and bundle up!!

Mad about Maitake!

First Hen of the Season!
With the nights getting cooler, the air a little crisper, and leaves starting to turn and fall, autumn is definitely here! But with the season comes some fantastic treats! Chicken of the Woods is still hanging around, and one of my favorites, the Hen of the Woods.  Also known as Maitake, this mushroom starts sprouting up from around the beginning of September until as late as November depending on the weather in your area. After the first good week of cool nights is usually a good indicator of when to get out and start looking.
From what I gather from my own experience, and reading those of others, the Hen almost exclusively grows under oak trees, usually the large, older ones. Although, many have found them under Maple as well. They like banks, usually where water can runoff, and usually on the SW facing bank.  These guidelines aren’t set in stone, but they can lead you in the right direction.

The Hen of the Woods actually has no poisonous look-a-likes at all! In fact, they really don’t have any thing that looks like them. They come in all sizes and color variations. However, if you see a small cluster and have the time (and the patience!) leave it for about 4-6 days and it will be a LOT bigger when you return. Foragers have reported getting clusters of 50-100 pounds of this mushroom in one go! The colors can range anywhere from white to a dark grey, with the cap usually getting darker closer to the edging. They actually get darker as they are exposed to more sun! It’s a polypore (just like the Chicken of the Woods) which means it has no gills, but a smooth porous underside. It grows in big clusters, with each cap overlapping the one below. They get their name because they actually look like a ruffled hen! Be sure to cut carefully at the bottom, and next year, you may have a feast growing in the same spot!

Check out all the different color variations!

Sauteed up with some Chicken of the Woods!
The taste of these mushrooms is what makes them so sought after. I sauteed them in some butter and broth with some onions and a little chicken of the woods I found. They have a very meaty texture and flavor, and can almost be compared to a steak or a nice cut of beef. They hold up well, and add a woodsy, hearty flavor to any meal. They are also a great meat substitute, and can be prepared as such.
So, get out there now and start looking! And as always, happy hunting!

Staying Safe

So, recently I was out and about teaching a friend about some of the edibles in the area. When we came across a giant patch of Jack-o-Lantern mushrooms, I pointed out how similar they were to Chicken of the Woods or Chanterelle to an untrained forager. I also pointed out that while not deadly, they are extremely toxic and can cause severe sickness if ingested.

This got me thinking that I really need to write about the importance of proper identification of wild edibles. In almost every blog I have written I have pointed out several look-alikes and how to tell the differences between whats delicious and what should be left behind. My motto is always “When in doubt, throw it out” and I stick to that!
Destroying Angel

Most of the things I have been posting on the blog are very easily identified, and don’t have any deadly counterparts. However one mushroom that I will be posting about soon (its almost in season) is the Shaggy Mane, or Inky Cap. Now, while in full adult form, its unmistakable, the young mushrooms (or buttons) look exactly like the deadly Destroying Angel. Small puffballs also look just like this mushroom. I recently ran across this article, which I found extremely interesting. It just reminds us the importance of taking your time to identify, and always using caution when eating something from the wild.

Its not just mushrooms that can cause problems! Hemlock flowers look dangerously close to Queen Anne’s lace, and are extremely poisonous. You can see the differences in the two here. Fiddleheads can all look exactly the same to the untrained eye, and only one species is properly edible. Although none will immediately make you sick, some have very high amounts of carcinogens in them, and are best avoided.

A few tips to help identify wild edibles:

Spore Prints. By making a spore print of a mushroom, you can tell almost immediately
Spore Print
what type you are dealing with. This article is a great example of how to make spore prints.
Not only that, but they are fun to make, and perhaps a great learning project for children!!
One of my favorite books!

Books. There are tons of resources out there. From your local bookstore, to the internet (heck, maybe even this blog?), use every resource available to you! The more you know, the better you will get!


Observation. What type of trees are they growing around? How are they growing? On the tree? Under it? Watch the plants for a year. Are they Ostrich ferns (edible) or a Braken fern (no s’good)? Watch them grow through the summer, and identify them in full form. You can come back next year and collect! Being patient can be difficult sometimes, but will always pay off in the long run.

Ask a Pro. Quite a few people have asked me to take them out. I am by no means an actual ‘pro’, but I do know what I’m doing enough to teach others. There are forums, events, and usually a local source you can find that would love to take you out and about! All you have to do is ask around!

Just always remember to be careful, stay educated, be observant and have fun!
So be safe and happy hunting!