Strange and beautiful mushrooms from my backyard

Earlier this week, I found three clumps of these mushrooms growing in my backyard near where the grass ends and the brushy part starts.

They are absolutely stunning. Bright, sunny yellow and in clumps about six inches across. They look like something straight out of Alice in Wonderland.

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I was excited to try my hand at mushroom identification with the book I got last Christmas, Wild Edible Mushrooms by Hope Miller. I flipped through the book, and there were only  two described that it could have been. One only slightly resembled these, and the description didn’t sound like it it at all. The description for Velvet Foot, (Winter Mushrooms) seemed to fit the bill exactly, except that it stated that these favored cool weather. It hasn’t been what I’d call cool recently, so that was my only hang-up with that i.d.

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Velvet Foot mushrooms are edible and choice, if that is in fact what these were. Luckily, I had the good sense to post the pics on Facebook to see if anyone had any thoughts before I took a bite. A coworker is part of the in the West Virginia Mushroom Club‘s Facebook group, and shared my pics with the group.

Wow! What a wealth of information these folks are! Since some mushrooms are poisonous, and even deadly, it’s always best to be absolutely certain when trying to i.d. wild mushrooms. It’s nice to have access to a group of folks who are experienced in West Virginia mushrooms, and which you can eat, and which to avoid.

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I have been fascinated with mushrooms for years, especially wild ones. When I was young, my dad took us mushroom hunting for morels in early spring. There is nothing quite like that first skillet of fried morels of the year. They are truly a delicacy, selling for at least $8 for just a few ounces at the grocery store. Every spring the Hubs and I try to find them. Even if you are unsuccessful, it’s fun to be in the woods at that time of year when things are barely beginning to turn green.

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I’d love to find some other kinds than morels that are edible in the woods sometime. I love mushrooms. They have such a unique taste that really adds an element to dishes like stir-fry or stews that seem to be missing something without them. You can’t really put your finger on what’s missing, but something is. At least with the West Virginia Mushroom Club, I know I can ask questions about my finds until I get comfortable i.d.-ing them on my own.

The consensus on these were that they were poisonous jack o’lantern mushrooms, which are not in my book. They are not deadly, but do cause a good bit of sickness. For now, I’m going to stick to cultivating mushrooms in my backyard, rather than foraging there. I hope to start growing oyster mushrooms in coffee grounds, like I learned at the West Virginia Urban Agriculture Conference this spring. I’ll have a steady supply for all my soups and stir-fries then.

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