Monthly Archives: October 2015

Chicken of the woods

Gorgeous Laetiporus water color by Roo Vandegrift; source:

Gorgeous Laetiporus water color by my talented friend Roo Vandegrift; source:

Laetiporus gilbertosinii, affectionately referred to as the chicken of the woods, is one of those mushrooms that you don’t really have to be an expert to identify. It is a bright orange shelf fungus and in Berkeley commonly grows sticking out of Eucalyptus trees. The Eucalyptus trees may not be very happy to host it (it’s a disease), however, lucky the mushroom hunter who passes by an infected tree! These mushrooms are nearly impossible to misidentify, as nothing else looks anything like it. However, CAUTION must be used when eating this mushroom because it must be cooked SUPER WELL in order to eat it, otherwise you will likely get sick. If you do find it, and you cook it super well, it is an extremely flavorful, meaty mushroom.


Only eat it when it is in the young and soft bright orange/yellow stage

This semester I am currently teaching a class in mushroom identification to Berkeley undergrads called California Mushrooms. These lucky students get to go outside and hunt for mushrooms for class! If they are super lucky and we find some good edibles, we cook them in class for everyone to try! My next couple posts will likely feature my students and various mushrooms that we try in class.


Do not eat the mushroom when it is in the old dried up stage

For chicken of the woods you only want to eat it when it is in the young, soft, and juicy stage. You will not be able to eat it if you find it in this hard, dried up stage. Luckily, some students brought in some fabulous young and juicy specimens to class so we got to try them in lab! Here is our fancy cooking set up in the fume hood of the teaching lab.


Cooking set up in the teaching lab

You want to be careful with this mushroom and only eat it when it is in the really young, soft, and juicy stage. Isn’t is a gorgeous orange/yellow color?


Chicken of the woods at the perfect soft and juicy ready for eating stage

Before cooking the mushrooms, we brushed off the dirt with a brush and sliced it up into fairly thin slices, so it cooks evenly.


Can’t get over the gorgeous yellow orange colors of this mushroom!

Since we were in the teaching lab we just cook up the mushrooms so everyone can try them, so you won’t be getting any fancy recipes from me in the posts about my class. However, I’ve heard they are really good in tacos!


Cooking the mushrooms in butter and salt

We cook them up in their purest form – with butter and salt! Again, this mushroom can get you sick if you don’t cook it super well so make sure it is nice and browned before eating it and only eat small amounts at first.


Gorgeous browned chicken of the woods in butter

How delicious do these little nuggets of mushroom goodness look? The mushrooms were super flavorful – they actually tasted a lot like cheddar cheese.

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Students were super excited to gobble them up! Here is my advisor doling out the mushrooms.


Are you jealous of my California Mushrooms students?

Please feel free to leave recipe suggestions in the comments below!

White chanterelle and kale quiche

I know you have all been waiting on pins and needles to find out what we made with the Oregonian chanterelles. Well now you finally get to find out! We made a quiche!


Gorgeous white chanterelles (Cantharellus cascadensis) that we found in Oregon!

I know next to nothing about pastry, but turns out Roo spent 6 months training as a pastry chef while in college! He has so many skills hidden up his sleeve. I definitely could not have made this delicious recipe on my own, but thanks Roo for teaching me how to make the perfect pie crust. 


Roo measuring out the flour for the pie crust

Apparently it is essential to own something called a pastry cutter if you are to be a pie crust aficionado. In absence of a pastry cutter, Roo says you can use two butter knives. The object is to mix up the flour with the butter so that the butter and flour incorporate while still saying separate. Sounds tricky, right? It is also imperative to use tools and not your hands so that the butter stays cold. Apparently the secret to a good pie crust is keeping the butter cold until it hits the oven, so there are lots of waiting steps where you let the dough “chill out” the in the freezer.


Roo mixing up the butter and flour with the pastry cutter

After incorporating the butter and flour, slowly add 4 Tbsp of water a tiny bit at a time until the dough hits the consistency of corn meal.


Pastry dough is so simple! Just flour, butter, and flour. Make sure it hits the right consistency before rolling it out!

Once the dough hits the right texture, knead it and roll it into a ball. Then stick it in the freezer to chill some more. Pastry dough can be made in advance and frozen for weeks this way.


While the dough chilled in the freezer, we took the opportunity to hit up the local coop and buy eggs and onions for the filling. Once we got back we started to roll out the dough. Roo couldn’t find his rolling pin, so we got creative with our tools.


Being resourceful and rolling out the pastry dough with a glass!

Make sure to clean off the counter top really well and spread out some flour before rolling out the dough. Once it’s rolled out evenly, gently place it in the pie pan.


Pastry dough lining the pie pan

Cut off the edges with a butter knife and make fun pastry treats with them :)


Roo says it’s important to put parchment paper over the dough and weigh it down with something like dry beans to prevent air bubbles from forming. Then stick the dough in the freezer while you cook the insides of the quiche!


Weighing down the pastry dough with dry beans before placing it in the freezer

We started off our quiche filling by chopping up an onion and letting it caramelize in butter. Then we added 6 garlic cloves. So much flavor!


Caramelizing onions for the quiche filling

While the onions cooked I cleaned and cut up the chanterelles. God they were gorgeous!

This wasn’t going to be some frou frou wild mushroom quiche that you get at a restaurant that has 2 little pieces of mushrooms that you have to search out. No, this quiche will feature loads of meaty mushrooms!


Delicious mushroom, onion, and garlic filling for the quiche!

We added the mushrooms to the onions and garlic and let them get nice and brown. Once they got a bit brown, we added some salt and pepper.


This next part was a real treat for me – we cut 3 kinds of kale straight from the garden! I live in a bit of a concrete jungle so this was quite a novelty for me to have freshly cut greens.


Three kinds of kale fresh from the garden!

How beautiful is this kale?


Once we had cleaned and chopped the kale we braised it in olive oil for a few minutes.


Kale braised in olive oil.

Now we were finally ready to start putting together the quiche!


Roo says it is important to line the bottom of the crust with cheese to keep the crust crusty when the quiche cooks. He dropped so many nuggets of pastry knowledge!


It’s important to line the bottom of the crust with cheese to keep the crust crusty!

After cheese we layered in the garlic, caramelized onions, and chanterelles. This quiche is nice and shroomy so skimping out on mushrooms here!


No skimping out on mushrooms in this quiche!

IMG_2426Next, add the kale on top of the mushrooms.
IMG_2430At this point, we whisked 1 cup whole milk with 3 eggs and poured it on top of the mixture.
IMG_2431Then bake at 375 degrees F for 45 minutes.
IMG_2433Cutting into it you can see the thick mushroom layer! Roo says it was his best crust he’s made it years! There you go, now you can make bakery quality pie crusts from now on :)


Sun in my eyes but excited to eat this quiche in the lovely garden where the kale grows!        Photo credit: Roo Vandegrift


Pie crust:

  • 6 Tbsp cold butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1.5 cups flours
  • ~ 4 Tbsp water
  • extra flour for rolling the dough


  • 1 large onion
  • 3-6 cloves garlic
  • mushrooms
  • kale
  • jack cheese
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup milk

White chanterelle and kale quiche. Photo credit: Roo Vandegrift

Mushroom hunting in Oregon!

Yay chanties!!

Yay chanties!! Photo credit: R. Vandegrift











As you know California has been experiencing an epic drought. I’m teaching a class in mushroom identification at Berkeley right now and it’s been super difficult to find good specimens for class. Luckily last weekend I went to visit my friend Roo in Oregon where there are mushrooms galore and I finally have some mushrooms to blog about!


Old growth Douglas fir forest in the Cascade mountains in Oregon









As we approached the trailhead of the old growth Douglas fir forest in the Cascades, I noticed  puffball mushrooms in the genus Lycoperdon carpeting the forest floor. I’ve never seen so many in one place! They have a common name wolf’s fart because if you tap on a mature one tons of brown spores puff out. It’s always a fun one to show to mushroom newbies!

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Lycoperdon puff balls AKA wolf’s fart Photo credit: R. Vandegrift

















It was so exciting to see mushrooms again I was even excited to see fungal diseases such as the brown cubical butt rott. The mushroom responsible for such a funny named disease is actually quite beautiful, and lots of people like to use it for dye.


Phaeolus schweinitzii AKA brown cubical butt rott Photo credit: R. Vandegrift









In addition to diseases I also saw lots of wood decay mushrooms. Can you believe these cute little mushrooms decay these giant Douglas fir logs?


Cute little Xeromphalina campanella decaying a log Photo credit: R. Vandegrift














Fungi also come in many amazing forms and colors. Did you know that mushrooms can also look like corals?


Beautiful coral shaped Ramaria species Photo credit: R. Vandegrift














I study ectomycorrhizal fungi, which are mutualistically associated with tree roots. These Suillus lakei are partners with all of the giant Douglas firs in the forest, and they were super abundant!

Suillus lakei

Suillus lakei ectomycorrhizal fungal partners with Douglas fir trees Photo credit: R. Vandegrift











To add more layers to the story, there are also fungi that parasitize other mushrooms! Gomphidius subroseus is a mycoparasite of Suillus lakei – how crazy is that?


Gomphidius subroseus

Gomphidius subroseus, a mycoparasite of Suillus lakei Photo credit: R. Vandegrift

















How cool is it that I even found a Gomphidius subroseus mushroom attached to a Suillus lakei?

Gomphidius subroseus and Suillus lakei

Gomphidius subroseus mushroom attached to Suillus lakei Photo credit: R. Vandegrift









And check it out, another species of ectomycorrhizal fungus, poking out of the soil.

What's this poking out of the soil?

What’s this poking out of the soil? Photo credit: R. Vandegrift











Check out how massive this mushroom is!

Giant Russula brevipes

Giant Russula brevipes, another ectomycorrhizal fungus Photo credit: R. Vandegrift











Of course all of these mushrooms were super fun and beautiful, but I know what you are all thinking, where are all of the edible mushrooms?


Bouquet of giant Armillaria mellea mushrooms AKA the honey mushroom Photo credit: R. Vandegrift











Unfortunately Armillaria mellea is not supposed to be super tasty, but it does make gorgeous designs on wood with giant black rhizomorphs.

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Is that art or is it a fungal pathogen?











Then finally we started finding some more tasty edible mushrooms. Here is a cute edible toothed mushroom commonly known as the lion’s mane called Hericium abietus.

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Check out the cute teeth on this lion’s mane Hericium abietus! Photo credit: R. Vandegrift

















Leccinum manzanitae is another edible ectomycorrhizal fungus. I haven’t tried it yet, but I’ve heard it’s delicious. Next time I find a larger collection of it I will have to try it!


Leccinum manzanitae, and edible ectomycorrhizal fungus Photo credit: R. Vandegrift











The most disappointing fungus by far that we found was the false chanterelle Hygrophoropsis auriantiaca. I kept getting excited seeing beautiful orange caps everywhere only to flip them over and see gills :(


Watch out for these false-chanterelles Hygrophoropsis auriantiaca Photo credit: R. Vandegrift











But finally, our patience was rewarded and we found these gorgeous and giant chanterelles!


Gorgeous and giant white chanterelles Cantharellus cascadensis! Photo credit: R. Vandegrift











Stay tuned to find out what we cooked with the gorgeous Oregon chanterelles!!!

So excited to find white chanterelles!

So excited to find white chanterelles! Photo credit: R. Vandegrift











Thanks to the OSU and UO crew for helping me find so many gorgeous mushrooms and showing me around the beautiful Oregon forests :)




The mushroom hunting team made mushroom art on this Ganoderma applanatum AKA artist’s conk! Photo credit: R. Vandegrift