In case you haven't met, let me introduce you to the wonderful, the treasured, the delicious, the illusive... Lion's Mane Mushroom (hericium erinaceus). I'll start by telling you this: They are absolutely scrumptious when diced and sauteed with butter and onions, AND TASTE LIKE LOBSTER. No kidding!
In case you have chosen to steer clear of wild mushrooms for fear of eating a poisonous one and ending up in the hospital *or DEAD*, don't worry! There aren't any poisonous varieties that look like the Lion's Mane Mushroom, so you are reasonably safe in that aspect. I have read that it is available fresh or dried at Asian food stores, but I have never seen any there. Kits for growing them at home are available at Fungi Perfecti online. They have an awesome catalog, by the way.
Look for them in the late summer and fall on dead or damaged hardwoods, particularly the American Beech.
We only found one last year, and it was only the size of a baseball. We are doubly motivated to find a huge one this fall!
They have an animal-like look... like they could just turn around and crawl away. Lion's Mane Mushrooms have long been considered a medicinal mushroom in traditional Chinese medicine. A double-blind, parallel-group, placebo-controlled trial showed improved cognitive ability. It has also been used as an alternative treatment for cancer, with some studies showing positive results. Medicinal benefits aside, it is simply delicious!
We found this hot mama while searching for Lion's Mane Mushrooms.
Also some sort of wild Magnolia...
And one of these...
Oh, I hate snakes! When hiking, the Old Hippie always leads the way, and he completely doesn't notice them on the trail. I can't tell you how many times he has stepped right over them, oblivious, then I spot them on the trail between us! He is charmed for sure.
And this was the creepiest thing. He crawled into my tire... and disappeared. Very unsettling!
Lion's Mane Facts
- This species has many names including the bearded tooth mushroom and the pom pom mushroom. It is sometimes called the hedgehog mushroom, although that name usually refers to a different species altogether, Hydnum repandum.
- All species of Hericium are considered saprotrophs, meaning they feed on dead material. Hericium erinaceus is also a parasite, meaning it attacks and kills living trees. So you are doing the tree a favor by harvesting them.
- They're found in late summer to fall on dead or dying hardwood trees, especially oak and beech. They grow in North America, China, Japan, and Europe.
- This doesn't look like your typical mushroom. It has no real cap and no stem. Instead it sports long spines (greater than 1 cm) coming out from a single clump.
- Their color is mainly white, although they become brown or yellow with age. Their spore print is white as well.
- This is not a common species of mushroom, so finding one may be a rare treat. They grow higher up on trees rather than at the base, which means that they're also often missed during a mushroom hunt.
Happy mushroom hunting! Please let me know if you are lucky enough to find one this fall!
Peace, love and happiness,