wild food

A New Passion… Mushroom Hunter.

    This has been an idea in my head for years…. Hunting Mushrooms. I find that my passion for foraging just grows year after year. I spend more and more of my free time in the woods looking for wild edible foods. This year my son bought me two mushroom hunter guide books for Christmas. He bought them after a conversation we had about how we should take up the hobby so that we can spend more time in the woods in the summer. Summer is our OFF season, trout fishing is over and deer hunting is not in season, so we really had no reason to go into the woods in July. That all changed a couple of weeks ago when we began Chanterelle mushroom hunting for ourselves.

   With help and encouragement from my husband’s friend Mark Metzger, Tom and I took off on a Saturday morning to a woods that my husband has hunted for years. We had photos and seen real examples of the mushroom we were looking for. We read where these tasty morsels grew but you never really know what you will find until you try. Our hopes were high that the mushroom hunt would fill our bags, we were not disappointed. We ended up with about two pounds if bright yellow flesh ready to eat.

Here is a photo of our friend Mark with a mushroom of a life time,a portion of a 100 pound “Chicken of the Woods” mushroom found in a drainage ditch while at work. Working for the DOT sometimes has its advantages… Mark Metzger with huge chicken of the woods

    It was this photo and story that pushed me into this new adventure. I wanted to see, find and eat something like this. I knew that edible mushrooms were just waiting for me to find and enjoy them. We started off looking for some of the easiest to identify wild mushrooms so that we were sure to stay safe and get an easy start on this new project.

  Our first steps were to pack up for the trip. I read and reread the ways to ID  the Chanterelle, the mushroom type we wanted to find. We packed several “green” grocery bags, a roll of paper towels, a couple of pocket knives and water bottles. We all dresses very comfortable yet in jeans. This time of year you tramp through wild roses and brier batches along every hill-side. We did not travel along pathways or trails, we brush busted through groves and thickets. I also took along our “for beginners” identification book just in case of confusion and of course my camera.

  It took Tom, Christopher and I  several minutes to get to the proper location for chanterelles. They only grown in the darkest part of the woods under mostly oak trees. To find an area with the correct environment took about an hour of hiking. GE DIGITAL CAMERA

We past thousands of mushrooms that morning of every color, style and size. One of the most interesting ones was this beauty, possibly a Morgan mushroom.

what we think was commonly known as a morgan ploypores mushroom

what we think was commonly known as a Morgan polypore mushroom

  Since we were not totally sure what this thing was we left it to grow and just took a photo of it. I at some time hope to use the photos in paintings and drawings. 

   The grove we found our mushrooms in is old and thick. The canopy was full,  making the ground dark and damp, very little vegetation lived on the ground. Only the wondering grape vines and the yellow of the chanterelle were visable.The chanterelle’s bright yellow trumps are hard to miss in the dark of the woods. We literally passed from one level to another on the hillside picking as we move down. Of course I was so excited to see the little guys I forgot to stop and take a picture of the hill-side covered with little yellow flower like mushrooms (live and learn). We ended up with about two pounds of mushrooms from this location. We also left some of the smaller ones for later and to make sure that the spores dropped on the ground for the next generation of chanterelle.

Tom passing fallen tree to area where we found the Wild Mushrooms

Tom passing fallen tree to area where we found the Wild Mushrooms

   Also while wondering in the woods, we found another type of edible mushroom in a random passing of dead trees called  boletes. I collected them also but made sure not to mix the mushrooms in the same bag and rapped each in a paper towel to remove some of the moister that was on all of the mushrooms. Some were still water-logged from the weeks of rain we had just gotten through.  This type of mushroom also has no gills but has the shape of any common mushroom, but it does have a more flattened cap and velvety appearance.

frist botele mushroom found that day

first Bolete mushroom found that day

  We brought home about 6 Bolete mushrooms and was able to identify them as Bragger’s Boletes and will look for them again when we head out next time.

     The most popular mushrooms that also grow in West Virginia are Morels. They are an easy to spot spring mushroom that also grows in the dark oak groves of the Appalachian mountains. Tom and I did not have time this year to pursue hunting them but our friend Mark was able to find some. We have added this to the list of things we hope to do next spring.

Mark Metzgar with Morels and a Lewis County, West Virginia widow sign

Mark Metzger with Morels and a Lewis County, West Virginia widow sign

    Edible mushrooms are fun to collect, spending a day off in the woods is refreshing, but it is even more enjoyable to eat what you have found. I have always been a fan of trying new things in the kitchen so cooking up a batch of wild mushrooms is not hard.  Tom, Bill(a family  friend) and I cleaned and fried up our treasure in flour and butter.I added a little salt and pepper for flavor cooked them over low heat. The taste was a rich and strong mushroom flavor… and they melted in you mouth. I really wonderful way to start a meal.

flouring the mushrooms

flouring the mushrooms

  I can’t really put into words what it is that I love so much about foraging for food. It is like treasure hunting for me. I get an idea about what I want to find and some how God and the earth provides me a place and time of year to find it. I enjoy my time in the wilderness it recharges and invigorates me. Foraging also allows us to see lots of wild life. On this trip to the woods we found a spotted fawn, several song birds, what Tom and I believe was a Bob Cat sleeping in a tree and lots of squirrels. What a wonderful way to spend time with those you love,sharing time in the woods, finding wonderful treasures, then taking them home to eat a fun meal together. Dose life really get any better than this?

Categories: Appalachian Mountains, Foraging, Hardwood forest, Mushrooms, organic foods, wild food | Tags: , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Wild Turkey, and our the dinner table

  Turkey season in West Virginia starts on the first week of May and runs through to the end of the month. My Husband started hunting the timid birds as  teen with some success, but  had taken many years off from hunting them recently. With more time to pursue hunting, Tom thought it would nice to see if turkeys were still in the area. Within  two trips to the woods he brough home this. A nice gobbler that was not to old to eat and enjoy.

Tom and Christopher with years first wild turkey

Tom and Christopher with years first wild turkey

Then  my husband teased our older son Cody  “you need to see if you could keep up with the old man” and get one for himself. Well in “show up  my dad style” my son also got his turkey the very next day. Two large gobblers in two days what a great weekend.GE DIGITAL CAMERA

 So early friday morning I got my first lesson on wild turkey cleaning, processing and cooking. With the help of family friends, we were able to get a quick lesson on cleaning a turkey.Ken suggested that we “NOT CLEAN” the whole bird. “You will only need to clean the whole bird if you are not going to roast it” he stated.Ken also suggested that we only “remove the breast and thighs of the bird to eat and leave the rest.” So by mid morning,working on the tail gate of our pick up, my husband and I removed the parts of the bird that we planed to eat. We also removed the tail fathers and wings for crafts with natural fathers. By skinning the bird instead of plucking it, the entire process took less than 20 minutes we had no feathers to remove and no entrails to clean up. The meat was fresh and clean and ready to eat or freeze quicker then I could drive to the local store to buy meat.

  With the meat removed, washed and frozen. I started the process of looking and asking friends about their favorite Wild Turkey recipes. Wild Turkey is extremely low in fat and moisture and can easily be over cooked. So, with this in mind I went to the National Wild Turkey Federations web site for help…at www.nwtf.org/tips_adventures/recipes.php. They have a nice collection of recipes and Tom and I chose one for Turkey cutlets.

 The process is very simple and the list of ingredients is short, almost everyone will have these items in their home. All of these items can switched out with store-bought organics… making a 100% organic main course

2 whole wild turkey breasts

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon pepper

1/3 bottle of zesty Italian salad dressing ( I use Wishbone)

1/4 of a pound real butter

First take the wild turkey breast and cut slices across the grain of the meat about 1/4 of an inch thick. The slices will vary in size, some  large and some small. I also cut the tender strip of meat that is on the back of the breast and removed the tough tissues  from its middle section before cooking.  

Place all the these pieces into a  gallon zip lock bag adding enough zesty italian salad dressing to cover the turkey and mix dressing  into the  meat to cover every piece.

Let sit in refrigerator for about 3 hours.

Turkey cutlets after  marinading for 3 hours

Turkey cutlets after 3 hours in marinade

heat 3 teaspoons butter in large skillet and roll cutlets in remaining ingredients of flour, salt and pepper mixture.

Fry cutlets over low heat until turkey is firm and is easily picked up with a fork. This may take more time for larger cutlets and short time for smaller ones.

Wild turkey rolled in coating mixture

Wild turkey rolled in coating mixture

Turkey cutlets cooking

Turkey cutlets cooking

 Brown them slowly on both sides( low to low-med heat) adding butter as needed. I remove the first batch to a paper towel covered plate, putting them in a 200 deg oven to keep warm, as I fry the next batch of turkey. Two breasts easily feeds 4 to 5 adults and we have found that the kids love these home-made turkey tenders also.When serving the cutlets if they are not cooked to long, we omit any sauces. But, if you like to dip chicken/ turkey in a  sauce we used honey mustard, and it was very good.

The flavor of the turkey is mild, yet more buttery then domestic turkey,  cooked this way it has become a family favorite. As of this weekend, we have eaten every bite of the 4 turkey breasts the boys brought home this spring. My family will have to wait until next year to have this dinner again, and that is a long time coming. Now I may just have to get my gun out and get my own next year.

Happy hunting and cooking, hope to have another Wild Turkey recipe posted soon.Wild Turkey Pot Pie… this one is our own family creation. I just have to redo the spices and type up some thing our family already loves.

Categories: Appalachian Mountains, back woods, country cooking, Hunting, organic foods, West Virginia, wild food, Wild turkey, wildlife | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Back Woods Wonders in West Virginia

      Treasures found in the back woods of West Virginia.. photos and notes on the things we have seen and found on our trips into the Appalachian forest.

Snail on river moss, cleveland, WV

Snail on river moss, Cleveland, WV

     My subject is one that is near and dear to my heart. This post allows me to  shows off some of the photos I have taken over the years that we have lived in the Mountain State. West Virginia is abundant with wildlife and the scenery is both  mysterious and enchanting. Many times it has  reminded me of all of those fairytale and fables written about the woods. My personal favorite to use as an example is the story of Hansel and Geritol who get lost in the dark woods. Here in our forgotten state where technology still takes a back seat to wildness I have found my love and my gingerbread house hidden in the woods.

    Growing up in Boulder,Colorado, we saw deer, rabbits, coons, and occasionally a fox. Impressed and fascinated with every thing nature had to offer I read and studied our local wild life.I wanted to know more and see more. This passion to understand wild life, its conservation, and how to live a more natural life became building blocks of who I wanted to be as an adult. Maybe watching to many episodes of “Grizzly Adams” had something  to do with my life choices. I wanted to marry “Adams”, I wanted to be in the forest with him, living off the land, eating wild game, making dinner over a fire. I wanted to have friends who were trappers and miners.  I wanted to save people from the cities from getting lost in the wilderness. I wanted a Buck Skinner life, a Pioneer woman.

Funny how a young persons dreams of life can foreshadow  reality. After years of working towards my dream, I have almost reach this goal. I married a wonderful man who loves the woods as much as I do. Tom is a person who sees the value of all of the things the hard wood forest has to offers. We are a family who supports conversation with an eye towards the sports men who donate millions every year to protect what it is that they love. We live conventionally and not in a rustic cabin with no running water, but we do spend almost every free time we have working with or around animals, wild life, and trying to live off the land. I still dream of a small cabin with a wood stove and a hand pump for water  but that will be a vacation cabin out in the woods someday. 

Mary Conrad cabin Jacksons Mill. Jane Lew West Virigina

Mary Conrad cabin Jackson’s’ Mill. Jane Lew West Virginia

Codys' proud catch of the day

Cody’s proud catch of the day

Tom and I have been lucky over the years.  We  have been able to share our love of the outdoors  with our kids. Cody now 22 and is  an avid outdoors man himself. He often surprises us with his skills with a compound bow and fishing pole. This was a rather good day of fishing at Holly River State Park. The fishing was excellent with many caught and released that morning. I was lucky to get a few put in the freezer for later use.

Cody with his native and brook trout

Cody with his native and brook trout

Early morning Sun on Stone Coal Lake

Early morning Sun on Stone Coal Lake

     Most of our adventures, we are up long before daylight and we return only after a long day. Fishing, Hunting, Hiking ,Ramp Digging all take lots of daylight hours to accomplish.  While on a long drive to a secret fishing hole I stopped the car and took these photos. The sun had just risen over the trees and began its climb into the sky to burn off the fog that is ever-present in the winding hills of West Virginia.

Morning mist on Stone Coal Lake

Morning mist on Stone Coal Lake

Locus tree nut pod

Locus tree nut pod

Spring Wild flower

Spring Wild flower

    With Christopher being so young we try  to keep things simple and interesting at the same time. We spend many hours looking for hidden treasures and wonders of wild life that he at four years old he can understand. We spend many afternoons looking closely at the ground or at his eye level. He loves hunting nuts, seed pods, berries, and flowers. His education about respect, understanding and love for the mountains begins here… with a snail, flower, and nut. It is in the peace and beauty of a stream that he learns about pollution and how it hurts the environment, how it kills fish and makes the family unhappy. He is able to understand that much at about nature at four, and it is important that he does.

toms favorite trout stream. Webster County West Virigina

toms favorite trout stream. Webster County West Virginia

     While in the woods my family forages and hunts. We eat many of the wild plants and animals that nature provides for our use and we expand the collection every year. This year we have adding the foraging of Mushrooms and Fiddle Head Ferns to our list and will at some point in the future add Wild Hog to our diet.  It is always a delight to find and eat wild plants and animals. Here is one of my favorite edibles and things to photograph…. wild colorful mushrooms. Some of the mushrooms photographed here are very poisonous.

collection of Wild Mushrooms

collection of Wild Mushrooms

  I am not sure what it is about fungus that fascinates me, but I always have time to photograph a new style or color.

GE DIGITAL CAMERA

 I also wanted to include pictures of the deer and turkeys and other animals that we see and hunt in West Virgina. But many of the photo I have taken are actually after the hunt is over and are trophy shots. Some readers find these offensive and I will refrain from sharing those photos. I now realise that I do not have many good photos of the live animals themselves. I hope to remedy the situation over the next few months, so that a post like this is full of good photos of live animals in their natural surrounds.

   Funny what we take photos of isn’t it ? I never realised that I loved seeing deer in our back yard but never took a photos of  them?  These are  my most current deer photos, they are not overly well shot, but you can get the feel of how friendly they can become over time.

what a group of friends a Boy( Chris) a mule and a calico cat

what a group of friends a Boy( Chris) a mule a calico cat and white tail doe

This deer is comfortable to seeing Mini the Mule in her pasture but when we came to visit, she was curious about Christopher and they looked each other over for a long time.

White tail Doe looking at Christopher

White tail Doe looking at Christopher

Fall Follage in Fayettevill,Wet Virginia

fall foliage in Fayetteville,Wet Virginia

  These are the woods that I  love and depended on for my “dream come true”. It still surprises me that I am able to live a life where I am part of nature on a daily basis. The woods have taught me so much about being true to myself and a strong individual. Yes, I love my computer and internet but they are only tools that I use to share my love of the outdoors with you. It is in the woods that I find my peace and my connection with the universe. These woods nourish my body and my soul. It took  almost 45 years to get here to this place where I was living true to my heart.I now realise that my dream of child hood is coming true, that I am a woodsman’s wife, a Pioneer Woman, a Mother and a Steward of the Woods. I am strong and free and able to rejoice in the mountains and streams of  Wild Wonderful West Virginia.

Sharing with a wordless Wednesday blog hop.

http://www.craftyspices.com/hops/wwhop

Categories: Appalachian Mountains, back woods, deer, Hardwood forest, photo review, Photos, State Park activities, West Virginia, wild food, wildlife | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

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