So it’s January and it’s a new decade! Ive been spending this winter so far out harvesting in new places. It reminds me how vast this region really is! I’ve also been making medicine and stocking up. Last year was an exciting one for me in the mushroom world and this year is looking like it will be even better. I wanted to take a minute out to say THANK YOU to everyone who supported me and my venture. Thank you to everyone that purchased tinctures, teas, dried and fresh mushrooms, thank you to everyone who came out on a mushroom and plant walk, thank you to everyone who attended one of my presentations and thank you to everyone who simply stopped by the farmers markets or dropped a line to just say hi. Last year saw the business grow and I got to meet and connect with many new people. As I dive into 2020 head first I’m looking forward to doing more markets, adding new packaging, doing more presentations and walks and spending more time out doing what I love. I can’t do any of this without the support of all those who connect with me, you all truly keep my dream and passion going and are the most important part of Blue Ridge Chaga Connection. Please stay connected and spread the word, I’m excited to have you all on this journey with me and there’s so much more to come!!
Although Chaga season is all year long, the winter wild crafting is in full swing. There’s fair debate on when the best time to harvest Chaga is. I have found in research that Chaga may contain the most nutrients in the winter months. This also point to Chaga taking those nutrients from the Birch tree in a time when the tree needs them most. Using sustainable methods I ensure the Chaga will regrow with the tree living longer at the same time. In the spirit of this I find myself in the forest doing what I do. The atmosphere in the colder months defines Chaga to me, it is designed to survive the harsh winter. Coated with a thick, black layer that seals in the magic Chaga contains, while protecting it from the harsh climate. Chaga only grows in the high elevations in our region where the temperature and conditions change dramatically. I resonate with the cold times of year having grown up in upstate New York and find it be refreshing, you can say I feel at home in the woods in the winter. Bringing the best, nutrient rich Chaga to my products is very important to me. This time of year is one of the most productive for me as far as foraging and making medicine is concerned, I produce the bulk of all my products during these times. Besides it being Chaga time, another favorite is thriving in the colder temperatures, Lions Mane.
Lions Mane is a cold weather mushroom, growing on the trunks of dying trees. Lions Mane has gained a lot of attention recently for it’s powerful medicinal properties and rightfully so. This mushroom has been showing amazing results in regards to cognitive function and helping to fight against Alzheimer and Dementia. It works to generate new brain cells, improving memory and focus. It also is a powerful tool when it comes to nerve damage, showing it may speed up healing. Lions Mane has other wonderful benefits such as that it is Anti-Oxidant, Anti-Inflammatory and has immune boosting qualities. Lions Mane lowers risk of Heart disease, cancer, ulcers and diabetes. You want more, it is showing that it can relieve symptoms of depression and anxiety. I have learned the best way to get results is to eat it fresh with tinctures and powders next in line. I make tinctures from wild crafted Lions Mane in vegetable glycerin and also a double extracted alcohol base. Lions Mane can a tricky one to find, it’s not as abundant as many others. When you find a good one however it can go a long way! Might I add it tastes like crab meat is quite delicious to eat.
Here’s a few informational links: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/lions-mane-mushroom#section10
I do have one last market of the year and would love to see all of you there, it is at the East Asheville Tail Gate holiday market, Friday, December 13th from 3-6pm. That is at 954 Tunnel road at Groce United Methodist Church. This will be inside the church. Please come out and support all of us local vendors. I am grateful for all the new and old customers that I always call friends, for all the support from those near and far. You all help to keep my dream alive and feed the passion I have to bring people healthy, healing medicine from the forest. Happy holidays to you all. I am super excited to see what the new year will bring.
It’s fall for a little while here in Western North Carolina and the colors are on fire. I love to be out among the trees as they shed their leaves. For me this is a time of transition, of making medicine and simply enjoying the season changes. The markets are winding down but still got a few to highlight. Black Mountain will go until November 23rd (their holiday market) and I will be there for the November 16th one. East Asheville market will have a holiday market on Friday, December 13th, from 3-6pm, inside the church. The last Burnsville, Yancey county market is Saturday, November 9th and I’ll be out there. Asheville Community Yoga will host a holiday art market on November 10th from 10 am to 6 pm, at the studio and I’ll have my table set up. And that’ll be another great tail gate market season complete, it was a pleasure as always meeting new people and sharing my knowledge and products. Thanks to everyone who came to support me and my venture!!
This months feature is the often overlooked but medicinally, wonderful Turkey Tail mushroom. This little friend is quite common all over our region. Turkey Tail love downed branches and dying tree trunks, as they are decomposes. The best way to tell if you have true Turkey Tail is the underside. It has to be white. There is false Turkey Tail, Violet Toothed Polypores and others similar to it but all those do not have the white bottoms, some really close to that. Some people use these for soup stocks or trail gum and some have showed promise of medicinal benefits. Turkey Tail come in all sorts of colors in ringed patterns on the top sides. Purples, blues, browns, grays and greens are some of those colors. They are Polypores, so no gills, instead little, tiny teeth or pores. Sometimes they can feel like sand paper. Turkey Tail is one of the most researched mushrooms in Western medicine. It is often used in conjunction with chemotherapy due to it’s immune boosting qualities, helping to rebuild the immune system after treatments. Needless to say it is Anti-Cancer. It helps the digestive system do it’s job. They are full of Anti-Oxidants, Polysaccharopeptides which are immune boosters, combat HPV, reduce inflammation, and are safe for canine cancers. The best way to consume Turkey Tail is by making a tea or tincture. Look around while hiking and I’m sure you will see them, especially this time of year. Here’s a few shots of look alikes.
Besides Turkey Tail you may still find Puffballs, of coarse the most wonderful and king, Chaga that grows all year long, Lions Mane, Blewits, Late Fall Oysters, Conks, Beefsteaks and a few others, so keep hunting!!
Hope to see ya’ll at the remaining markets. It’s the best time of year to stock up on immune boosting mushroom teas and tinctures and keep healthy all winter long. Happy fall, enjoy the beauty that is our home!
For the rest of the year I will be offering private tours. $30 for an hour, hour and half. I will work with your availability and location. Individual or small groups. Last chance to learn some mushrooms and plants before they all go hibernate!
Fall is here! This is a favorite time of year for me. The weather has begun to cool off, the leaves soon will burst into brilliant, vibrant colors, and it’s the perfect time for camping and bonfires. It has been an unusually dry end to summer and that has left the forest kind of bare of mushrooms. Sadly the mushroom season is coming to close, although a few things are still out there such as Hen of the wood, Chickens, fall Oysters, Turkey Tail, Chaga, Reishi, Birch Polypore and possibly a few other stragglers. For me this means just a few walks left this year. My walk schedule will be pretty limited in the month of October. I have been out a bit recently and found very little, that doesn’t mean there’s not good stuff out there but I have been waiting for some rains to come through before I schedule anything. Basically if it rains in the Asheville or Black Mountain area, than a few days later I will most likely try and do a walk. Just keep an eye on the calendar. Coming this month and through winter I’m excited to add destination hikes! If your new to the area, visiting or simply haven’t explored as much as you’d like. I have been exploring this area for many years and have come to know some really sweet spots, waterfalls, balds, overlooks, historical places and other destinations. Every week I will feature a different one and guide a group along the trail. Most hikes will be between a half hour and hour drive and hikes could be several hours long. I would like to thank everyone who came out for mushroom walks this year, I had some truly lovely groups.
So some news and happenings for October. East Asheville tail gate market ends this friday the 27th. It’s been a good season, thanks to all who came out to support me and there will be a holiday market so stay tuned for that. The Black Mountain Market goes until the end of November and I plan on being there every Saturday except two. On October 12th I will be at the Yancy County market in Burnsville and then again on November 9th. There’s plenty of good tailgating left!
***this event has been cancelled****
Also on Saturday, October 12th, from 1:30-4pm, which is after the market, in Burnsville, I will be doing a presentation at Kate’s Garden Refuge. You can follow this link to register: https://katesgardenrefuge.com/event/the-healing-power-of-medicinal-mushrooms/
I will be presenting on Chaga, Reishi, Turkey Tail and Lions Mane mushrooms and talking about some edible and poisonous ones as well. Kate will be doing a singing bowl mediation afterwards by donation. If you’ve never done this you really should, it’s a truly amazing, relaxing experience!!
Another big announcement is that I will be doing a workshop at the LEAF festival!! You can follow this link to see myself and the other healing arts presenters: https://www.theleaf.org/healing-arts/
I will be talking about the good and bad mushrooms in our region, I’ll have tea samples and also be doing a short mushroom hunt. I’ve been volunteering and going to the LEAF festival since I moved here 9 years ago and I super excited to be a part of it as a presenter.
This months mushroom is the fore mentioned Birch polypore. This mushroom is a bracket fungus. It is a polypore, which means no gills. These grow almost always only on Birch trees. They can fruit on the tree for up to a whole year. They start off white and over time turn a tanish brown color. This mushroom was one of the things Ozti, the iceman mummy found frozen in the Alps in the 90s, was carrying on him. You can eat the young version of these mushrooms and they aren’t bad at all. However it’s main uses come in the medicinal properties it holds. It is used as an immune tonic, it is anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, anti-tumor, anti-parasitic, anti-viral and anti-bacterial. It is being studied for both cancer and HIV treatments. It also is good to help start fires! I admired this mushroom for years, always wondering what it was used for and upon learning all about, I use it now in my medicine cabinet.
Hope you all get out in the beautiful fall weather and enjoy some hiking, camping, foraging or just sitting on your porch.
“Nature alone is antique, and the oldest art a mushroom” —Thomas Carlyle
Dare I say fall is at the door step. What a summer in the mushroom world, so many amazingly huge flushes made for good foraging fun in the forest. Having observed and foraged for many years now, it’s interesting to witness how unpredictable the seasons can be from year to year. Some mushrooms growing at times they didn’t the year before, some are more abundant than previous years and some are less abundant. Just mother nature keeping us guessing. Fall brings us some wonderful stuff and marks the last few months of gathering before the long winter.
As September begins I’m off on a westward adventure for a few weeks. I will be traveling to the Grand Canyon, Sedona, antelope canyon and all places in-between with my partner. This means a break from walks and markets. I will try and squeeze in a few more walks when I return on the 23rd and resume markets that week as well. I will however be at the East Asheville tail gate market this Friday the 6th from 3-6 and this Saturday, the 7th at the Black Mountain market from 9-12. So if you have any tincture or tea needs before I go this would be the chance to grab them, so come see me.
The highlights of this month are two great mushrooms, Honeys and Hens. The Honey mushrooms can bring some confusion and uncertainty. Interesting fact about Honey mushrooms, they are the largest living organism, covering 2,385 acres, that’s just one long network of mycelium that was recorded in Oregon. It also may be the oldest living organism estimated to be between 2,400-8,650 years old!! Honeys have a few distinct characteristics. They grow in clusters, sometimes at the base of trees, sometimes just by themselves on the ground. Honeys usually have rings, vales on the top of the stems, they have little black speckles on the cap, light, tan colored gills and stringy stems. The spore print of Honeys is white and you can often observe this within the clusters, one growing on top of another often leaves that white, powdery print on the caps of the ones below it. There are two types, ringed and ringless. Ringless have smoother caps without speckles and no vale or ring, hence the name. The look alike to Honeys is called the Deadly Galerina, which have more helmet like caps, are darker brown and dark brown gills, however the stems look very similar.
Sautéing Honey mushrooms in butter and oil with some fresh herbs is always great. The stringy stems are super good! A slight caution is that Honeys have been known to cause some gastrointestinal issues and best eaten in small portions.
Below is the Deadly Galerina:
Hen of the Wood, also known as Maitake, is the other feature of the month. These mushrooms are some of my favorites! I love the taste of Hens and finding them can be challenging and I love that, they blend in really well with the forest floor. To start the season of the Hens, they grow in high elevations before making their way down to the lower elevations. They typically grow at the base of Oak trees. Hens are medicinal, having immune boosting qualities, contain high levels of vitamin D, may help fight cancers, contain anti-oxidants, and protect against diabetes. That’s good, healthy eating. They are a real gem in the mushroom world!
Sometimes they get mistaken for the Black Staining polypore. Which is also edible but not nearly as good.
Here’s a tasty recipe for Hens and Honeys by the Forager Chef:
The plant of the month is the Kousa Dogwood and it’s tasty fruit. The flower of the Dogwood tree is our official state flower. The fruits are red and plump and can be a highly enjoyable treat. The secret here is to pick the fruit when it’s bright red and ripe, otherwise it could have a real bitter taste.
Here’s one idea of what do with the fruits: http://www.lessnoise-moregreen.com/2013/09/foraging-for-kousa-dogwood-berries-and.html
I’m looking forward to getting out of town for alittle and coming back refreshed and ready to pick up where I’m leaving off. I’ll be sharing my adventures when I return for sure. Enjoy the change in the seasons, the cooler nights and the upcoming colors of fall! Hope everyone gets out there and enjoys the tastes of September. As always happy hunting…..
Newsletter August :
The word coming out of the end of July is ‘RAIN’. We have been blessed with some wonderful rains in the month of July and it made for an exciting mushroom foraging experience. In July I gathered the most Chanterelles I ever have, seeing familiar patches grow in size and finding new patches as well. Besides that Milky, Leatherback, mushrooms have been wildly abundant also. Unusually Honey mushrooms popped up very early, Hen of the wood showed up and Lobster mushrooms came early. This once again proves nothing in nature is certain and the times they are always changing! The forest ecosystem is a living, breathing entity and much like the human realm, it too changes appearances.
My guided mushroom and plant walks have been in full swing and we have been filling baskets with treasures of all kinds. The tail gate markets have been wonderful and I have been able to offer fresh, wild mushrooms to many local and visiting folks. Sharing knowledge and abundance are core beliefs for me and what I do. I’m excited to see what other surprises will emerge in the woods this month!
This months feature of the mushroom front is the fore mentioned Leatherback milky mushrooms. The taste of these Lactarius mushrooms, to me, is some of the best. They are very meaty and hearty and can go in any creative combination on the dinner plate. There are a few players in the milky family but easy ways to tell the good from the bad. It’s all in the milk! If the milk stings or burns your mouth, it’s bad, also poison milkys have a distinctive ring on the cap. If the milk has a fishy smell and taste than it’s a good one. You may find your fingers stained brown and sticky after picking some Leatherbacks. Also note the gills, the gills of the unfriendly variety tend to be dark and the gills of the Leathers are a light tan. The caps of the Leatherbacks live up to the name, run your fingers across the cap and it feels like leather. The caps can be dark, reddish brown or a light tanish color, both are considered as Leatherbacks. Another beauty in this tasty family is the Blue Indigo milk cap, a personal favorite to find for me. It’s blue and so is it’s milk, some say it tastes like blueberry. There is no shortage of Milkys out right now, so finding them is not a hard hunt. They also grow in pretty big patches, were there is one, there’s more! These mushrooms keep well in the fridge and can be dried for future enjoyment.
The Blue Indigo:
Be on the look out for these poisonous look alikes Pecks and Pepper Milk Caps:
The Milk caps go great in pasta dishes, can be sautéed like most other mushrooms and also you can grill the caps like a Portabella.
Here’s an Indigo recipe: https://www.tyrantfarms.com/a-delicious-indigo-milk-cap-recipe-lactarius-indigo/
The plant feature of the month is the sour tasting Autumn Olive Berry. These little treats make a nice trail snack. They have a sour like flavor, sometimes called sour patch kids. They are high in anti-oxidants also. Here’s a jam recipe- https://ouroneacrefarm.com/2014/09/13/autumn-olive-jam/
Other than these you can also find these mushrooms and plants right now on the trail:
The lobster mushroom, Black Trumpets and Cauliflower :
Wild Indian Cucumber root- Another wonderful snack while out foraging!!
Bolete mushrooms are everywhere as well, these have no gills, instead a spongy bottom and often change colors when bruised. This is a mostly safe family of mushrooms. There many varieties that include lots of different colors, shapes and sizes. The Old Man is one of a few good edibles, along with Painted, Chestnut, King, Slippery Jack (chicken fat), Butter foot and the Shaggy Stalk, most of the rest have a bitter taste. Although a generally safe family of mushrooms, caution can be required. Two general rules of Boletes are, if they have a red bottom or if they bruise blue then stay away!
There’s so much to talk about, I can’t fit it all in one newsletter, but if your interested in learning more sign up for a walk while the getting is good! I will be leading walks through out the fall with many more varieties of mushrooms yet to come!
******Remember that looking at pictures is fine but not the best way to try to identify on your own, going with a trained, knowledgeable guide is the best way to ensure you don’t make a critical mistake. All mushrooms are edible, some are edible only once!******
As always looking forward to seeing new faces and happy hunting!!
NewsLetter: July 2019
It’s July and summer is in with hot days and all kinds of new things popping out. For mushroom season this means a variety of goodies. It’s been a wonderful start for Chicken of the Wood, which have been wildly abundant. The Boletes have just started to make an appearance and the milky mushrooms are dripping. Both of these can be tricky to learn with confidence but have distinguishing features that set the good apart from the bad. Taking a mushroom tour is a great way to learn the differences and I just so happen to have a bunch this month, keep an eye on my calendar for when they happen.
This months highlight are the beautiful Chanterelles. One of the most exciting patches to stumble upon, is one that dots the forest floor with gold! Chanterelle patches can spread out and cover large areas. Rarely will you find just a few. A popular mistake people make is picking them when they are still young and small, given time Chanterelles will grow large and resemble pretty little flowers. The smell of Chants is a pleasant one, some say they smell like apricots. I often can smell them before I even see them. The Chanterelle family is a big one and each of the different varieties are considered choice edibles. Here’s a look at the different ones you might see:
Black trumpets, Golden, Peach, Yellow foot, Cinnabar and Appalachian Chanterelles are all ones you will find in our region. A simple Sautee works best for cooking Chanterelles: https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/4174-sauteed-chanterelles
Some of the common mistakes people make are these look alikes:
False Chanterelles and Jack O’ Lanterns. Jacks can be very poisonous and fun fact if you take a fresh one in a dark place the gills might glow green!
There are some great plants out there as well. This months feature is Jewel Weed or Spotted Touch Me Not. This plant is a special one. Poison and Sister Ivy can be a truly unpleasant experience and one of the remedies can be Jewel Weed. The two can be found, conveniently, growing near each other quite often. Jewel Weed is disguised by it’s small orange or yellow flower and red color at the base of the plant.
You can make Jewel Weed ice cubes by crushing up the plant, putting the pieces in an ice cube tray, add water and freezing. Also simply crushing up the plant and rubbing it on the infected area. Here’s a recipe to make Jewel Weed soap: https://simplelifemom.com/2015/07/26/how-to-make-poison-ivy-soap-with-jewelweed/
Until next month Y’all, happy hunting!
NEWSLETTER June 2019:
Greetings all! I’m starting this newsletter to feature some of what is growing out in the forest this month and what you can expect to see on my walks. As a side note I do scout out several trails for each walk and try to pick the best one with the most mushrooms and plants that are out. However it’s no guarantee we will see all of what I feature but it’s always possible! So lets get to it; Spring is an exciting time but is one that requires patience for the mushrooms. Morel season is done for the year but this month is the beginning of some of the best mushrooms such as Chicken of the Wood, Wood Ear, Pheasant Back, Reishi, Oyster, Umbrella Polypores, Berkley Polypore, Birch Polypore and Turkey Tail. Some less popular ones are Fawns or Broad Gilled mushrooms. Also in the mushroom family is the beautiful Ghost Pipe.
As far as plants go it’s wide open. Fiddleheads are still around, ramps have about passed but still may be out there. Edibles such as Trout Lily, Violets, Dock, Dead Nettle, Chick Weed, Wild Ginger, Bear Corn, Day Lilies, Clover, Garlic Mustard, Plantain, Cressy greens and Nettles are some of the goodies. Medicinals such as Solomons Seal, Yarrow, Heal All, Squaw Vine, Trillium, Pipsissewa, Rattlesnake Plantain, and Blue and Black Cohosh are in full swing.
And that’s just some of what we might find! The forest always gives surprises.
This month I’m highlighting Wood Ears and Nettles:
Wood Ear mushrooms are tasty medicinal mushrooms. Recently a fellow vendor at the market told me these mushrooms are super popular in the Philippines. In that region they grow much larger than here. They are rich in protein, iron, fiber, and vitamins B1 and B2. They are best sautéed or stir fried. They are members of the Jelly Mushroom family. Here’s a recipe for Wood Ear: https://www.hwcmagazine.com/recipe/how-to-prepare-wood-ear-mushrooms/
Stinging Nettle is also a tasty treat. This plant is big in our area, especially at Warren Wilson College where they have been known to make a delicious soup out of it. Nettles are best in younger leaf form. You need to get the stingers off first, here’s a recipe on how to prepare and cook them: https://www.thespruceeats.com/sauteed-stinging-nettles-2217561 The stingers are actually great for joint pain, simply by taping the plant on the painful area, it can be itchy and sting but it works! I advise wearing gloves and using scissors when collecting them.
Enjoy! I will feature more Mushrooms and Plants next month.
I work out of my home in Asheville, North Carolina where I do all my Chaga and other medicinal mushroom processing and packaging. All my products are handmade and foraged locally. You can find my products at the French Broad Food Co-Op, Half Moon Market in Black Mountain and The Appalachia Guild of Healing Arts downtown Asheville. Besides those places you can find me at the East Asheville Tailgate Market from 3-6pm on Fridays and the Black Mountain Tailgate Market on Saturdays from 9-12. This year I have added the Yancey County Market in Burnsville, vending there once a month, that market runs from 8:30-12:30. I can be reached for an order anytime on my contact page or by phone, I ship or meet people locally. I also offer mushroom and plant tours throughout western North Carolina, areas including: Asheville, Black Mountain, Old Fort, Burnsville and Brevard. I also do private house visits!