As the class started we went to the edge of the parking lot where a staghorn sumac tree was. Having already recognized it as we were walking over I started to look at the skirt of the lot and see what else was growing there. I spotted 7 wild edibles, our guide Jeremy talked about 5 of them (the out-of season cattails and rose hips not coming into the discussion.) I was glad when we got into the woods across the street to explore new worlds. To seek out new life, and you get the point.
Did I learn 3 new plants? Yes and no. My friend Sarah had asked if I'd ever seen an American Spicebush. I had not, though I asked Jeremy if he could keep an eye out for one. He did eventually spot one and I was able to crush a leaf to get the scent in my brain. I learned characteristics of a few mushrooms, and a few new uses for items I have already been collecting.
I did see a few new mushrooms but though edible I don't know that they would be a food of sufficient quantity to be worth foraging. There were some small puffballs that I became acquainted with and learned a bit more about the family, but they were so small as to barely create a garnish. We saw some boletes and learned about the ones that probably wouldn't cause you too many GI issues but specific species and personal chemistry may make them less than desirable.
Jeremy did spot a tree from the top of the cliffs with white stuff at the bottom he was guessing were oyster mushrooms, which were in significant enough quantity to be worth collecting. This was a great scout on his part. A lot of times when foraging you just look for what is very near to you and don't look up to spot the bigger finds.
I and another forager on the tour collected our share from the tree, avoiding the yellow slime. Our small parlay revealed that he was originally from NJ and that his mother, who had gone missing a bit earler, had gone to the car.
As a note you should avoid any such mushrooms growing on a dead conifer, these are likely angel wings and have been linked to several deaths in Japan (suspected to be related to radiation, so the legend goes.) We had a good conversation about look-alikes so I feel this is a solid addition to my repoire, and he was good enough to give his phone number out so the attendants can text pictures for verification.
We also saw a mushroom whose layman's name is 'milky cap', whose coloring on the top reminded me of a peach and whose underside bled latex when cut;
These were large-ish and I imagine if you found a locale dominated by them they would be worth collecting. The lucky spotter of these got 3 good-sized mushrooms.
Jeremy was an excellent guide. He is certified in mushrooming (I don't know the technical term, but he's certified) and knows way a lot about wild plants. He knew the scientific name (at least to the family) of just about any scrap of mushroom anyone held up in front of him. I think the locale could have been better, something not dominated by giant rocks. I understand it was probably a good chantrelle location but the lack of rain I think some flat terriain with an assortment of biomes might have helped. The class was a little mushroom-dominant based on the area we were in, which was an older forest with little undergrowth aside from a decadent amount of poison ivy and dominated by rock walls. Had it been rainy this week I'm sure I would have been showing off a sack of chantrelles like I did from my forage last week.
At any rate, I didn't get home until late on Sunday and after several chores finally had the opportunity to address the sack of oyster mushrooms I brought home.
My phone has recently suffered irreperable damage so the right side of my picture is black. Also, my framing is terrible. I should use a real camera, but too bad.
I feel like the gilled sections of this mushroom could soak up a lot of flavor from some sauce, and the stems should probably be cur off and chopped and used elsewhere.
In summary, this was a great novice class. Though I gleaned limited knowledge from it I did learn some new food sources. I would encourage any wallflowers who are in the Cleveland area and interested in foraging to sign up for one of their classes. I could see that there were a few fellow attendees who, for lack of a better analogy, weren't at their first rodeo. I'd be interested to see if they would offer an advanced level class.