Watch Your Back!

I love summer. I love the colors, the sounds, the plants!
But there is one thing I hate about summer: Ticks! I am usually the type of person that has no issues with bugs, or anything that creeps. But ticks, no thank you!
I’m pretty careful to always do a ‘tick check’ when I get home from being in the woods, and I highly recommend that if you are in the woods you do the same from time to time and at the end of your hike.
I have noticed this year, because of the unusually warm winter, that ticks are out in abundance. One common misconception is that ticks will ‘jump’ onto you as you pass by a tree. While its true they can sense body heat, and may fall onto you when you brush past a tree branch, the most common place ticks can be found is in high grasses. Fields or a thick-with-underbrush forest floor are the worst places for ticks!

It’s not so much the ‘bug’ factor that bothers me about ticks, its the diseases they carry. Because ticks feed on blood, whatever they carry is easily transmitted to humans.
Most people are aware that ticks carry Lyme Disease, and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever seems to be showing up a lot this year. But did you know ticks can carry other diseases such as Anaplasmosis, Babesiosis, Ehrlichiosis, and Southern Tick-Associated Rash Illness.
If you are going to be out in the woods, be sure to use some sort of protection. High socks, long pants, long sleeves and hats are great, but lets be honest, who wants to wear all that on a 90 degree summer day?
A deep woods bug spray that states it works on ticks may help in repelling, but I tend to lean more towards natural and homemade remedies such as the one below.

10 to 25 drops of Rose Geranium essential oil
2 tablespoons vegetable oil (olive oil is fine)
1 tablespoon aloe vera gel (optional)

Combine the ingredients in a glass jar. Shake to blend. Dab a few drops on your skin or clothing.

Make sure to you know how to Properly Remove a tick!

I’ve also heard that if you place a few dryer sheets in your socks and pockets this works as well!

So, just be safe, and take proper precautions when you are out and about in the woods, and Happy Hunting!

Who You Calling Chicken?

With the cooler days of Spring and Morels behind us, summer foraging season is already in full swing! There are so many great things out there from now until fall, it may be hard to keep up!
But there is one mushroom that is actually out early this year that will, when harvested properly, continue to grow and produce until late fall. Not only is it one of my favorites to eat, but its also one of the most vivid and spectacular looking mushrooms out there!
With its bright orange hue, and beautiful fanned shelves, the Chicken of the Woods is easily spotted from far distances. The first one I ever found, I spotted from about 300 yards away!

Chicken of the Woods are part of the polypore family of mushrooms, which are a fairly distinctive group of fungus! They are typically a tough, almost leather like mushroom, with no gills, and no stalk. They typically grow on the side of trees, or sometimes right out of the ground in giant masses. There are a few really distinct features about Chicken of the Woods, which separates them from other shelf mushrooms. First of all, the color, as I mentioned before is almost fluorescent orange which is a dead give-away. If you cut away a piece, and look at the under-side of the mushroom very close up, you can see small pores all over the surface (thats where they get the name polypore from!). The final feature, which I personally find really neat, is this mushroom holds a LOT of water. When you are harvesting it, if your hands are not dripping with water by the time you are done, then the mushroom is probably past its prime.

Lets look at a few important tips about harvesting this magnificent beast!

Chicken of the Woods grows ON trees. As I have mentioned before, ALWAYS know what type of tree it is growing on. Polypores are parasitic in nature, meaning they take nutrients and toxins in from the tree they are growing on. NEVER harvest a mushroom growing on hemlock!

Always just trim the outer edges for eating!
Always cut just the outer edging of the mushroom. This keeps the root system intact, so that it can continue to produce throughout the year! Not to mention, the inside is really tough and not very pleasant to eat.
Never take more than you need! It only lasts about a week if kept cold, and freezes poorly. Considering this mushroom can get up to and above 35lbs., you could definitely take more than you need without even knowing it.

Couldn't believe we found this beauty this weekend!
I was very lucky this past weekend in finding this gorgeous harvest! While hiking the White Rocks trail in Cumberland Gap, VA, my friend spotted this beauty! We didn’t take much (enough for us and a little to give away to some fellow mushroom lovers). I would say there was at least 25 lbs of mushrooms in this bunch!

The neatest thing about this one, is it lives up to its name! It feels like, cuts like, taste like, and even has the same texture as chicken. It can be used in any dish as a chicken substitute. We used it in a delicious veggie stir fry!

Definatly keep your eyes open for this treasure of the woods and until next time, Happy Hunting!