Monday, September 20, 2021

Hen of the Woods: Good News (Bad News?)

I am not a mushroom hunter, though I like mushrooms. But I can report that my back yard has been proliferating with puffballs lately. And over the weekend I realized that this fun guy had suddenly appeared at the base of the large northern red oak tree in the middle of the yard:

Yes, that's a hen of the woods (Grifola frondosa). There was one in the same spot a couple of years ago.

This one is about 12 pounds and about 18" across. This post from Pheasants Forever has a lot of great details (and a couple of recipes). At the suggestion of Gretchen Steele in that post, I cut it off from the ground with a knife rather than tearing it from the ground, then tried to field clean it. But it still had its share of pill bug friends inside its various openings, who fled when its parts were immersed in water.

Here's about a sixth of the hen, set out to dry after it had been immersed for a while:

Steele says you can chop the pieces up and store them, without any other prep in freezer bags, to use as you cook throughout the year. "One or two good sized hen of the woods can be preserved through drying, freezing or pickling and will yield enough to last a family of four through until the next season." Next season... as in a year later.

As far as that location where I found the hen in my back yard goes... I worry a bit about its presence at the base of the tree. Does it mean the oak tree is dying? 

The canopy appears healthy, though the tree is about 250 years old, if my estimate — based on its species and circumference — is correct. This type of tree can have a life span of 200 to 400 years, I hear. I don't want to be the one who's responsible for its demise.

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