Mushroom Hunting: Honeys

By Tom Nauman

It is autumn and just about as far away from morel season as possible. But, autumn is what I call our second season. There are an abundance of edible mushrooms to be found, many more than what can be found in the spring.

The most popular are: Hen-of-the-Woods (Grifolia frondosa), Sulphur Shelf (Laetiporus sulphureus), Giant Puffball (Calvatia gigantea), Shaggy Manes (Coprinus comatus), and Honey Mushrooms (Armillaria mellea). The Latin names are given for those who may choose to find the particular mushroom in a field guide that might not list all the common names. An example is the Hen-of-the-Woods. It is also known as Sheep's Head and Quarene. The Sulphur Shelf is also known as the Chicken Mushroom. The name Chicken Mushroom is often confused with the name Hen-of-the-Woods.

The first four are fairly easily recognized, safe to eat, and have been discussed in past columns which are available on our website. The Honey Mushroom (Armillaria mellea) is not quite in the same category. Many mushroom hunters find and consume this mushroom on a regular basis. However, most of the field guides suggest that caution be used when eating this mushroom as there are several look-alikes and the honey mushroom itself may cause an upset stomach. All of the field guides recommend that this mushroom be well cooked and only the cap is recommended for consumption.

Also known as "stumpies" or "honeys" they grow in dense clusters at the base of living or dead trees or stumps. The color ranges from pale yellow to yellowish brown with a darker area near the center of the cap. The stem has a ring where it once connected to the outer edge of the cap. The gills are white when young and turn pinkish brown with darker spots with age. The cap begins convex but soon flattens or becomes wavy.

All of the mushrooms listed may be found until the first freeze occurs. After that they may reappear with several successive days of warmth particularly if there is rainfall included.

Remember, whenever you want to try eating a mushroom you're not familiar with, check it in at least two field guides. If they say it's edible, try just a nibble, wait 24 hours, and if there are no ill effects then consume larger amounts. All past articles are available Please feel free to contact us with questions or comments. Especially if you have ideas or suggestions for future columns: Tom and Vicky Nauman, Morel Mania, RR1 - Box 42, Magnolia, IL 61336, Phone 309-364-3319, Fax 309-364-2960,