After a 4-year hiatus, it looks like Seven Trees Farm will be entertaining royalty again. Agaricus augustus, otherwise known as ‘The Prince’, is making an appearance under the grove of fir trees in our back yard. Here is his majesty’s 2012 incarnation so far.
The prince first popped up in September 2007, at the base of the same tree, but on the other side. We had no idea what this ‘thing’ was, just that it went from blob to saucer in a few days. It had a smaller twin…
It just kept growing, large enough to feed a hungry traveller it seemed. This prince and its understudy probably should have been harvested sooner, but we wanted to see how big it would eventually get. We sliced and dehydrated it, kept it in ziplocs in the freezer, and used it in a variety of egg dishes which seemed to complement it’s flavor quite well. The smaller ‘shroom was left to develop and hopefully leave spores enough to take up permanent residence under our trees.The prince made a comeback in 2008, this time without its sidekick. This one didn’t get quite as big, but it was no less tasty. Why is it called the prince, you may wonder. Tom Volk, professor of biology at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, shares his explanation on his excellent fungus of the month page for August 2002.In getting to know this fungus, we learned that it likes warm moist conditions, like the California coastal mountains where it is often found. While not rare in the Pacific Northwest, having it show up at Seven Trees is an indicator of changing climate averages. This year has also been warmer than normal, and very dry. But we tend to toss cooled water from steaming veggies etc. at the base of the trees, and the added moisture must have been just enough to wake the spores. It’s a bit late in the year compared to 2007 and 2008, but we’ll keep an eye on the prince. We’ve also taken the extra precaution of putting a bit of fence around it to keep the clumsy peasants (i.e. Stewart and Fergus) from trampling it.
One huge lesson learned from the prince, and other interesting flora on and around Seven Trees, is the importance of good reference material. We’ve been shopping for a good mushroom identification book, but haven’t bought one yet. To tide us over we invested $1.99 in an iPad app that has lots of great pictures and a visual identification key – Wild Mushrooms of North America and Europe by Roger Phillips. It works even without an internet connection, so you can download it and go hiking. The app is compatible with iPhones and iPod touch as well.
For non-fungi flora in our area, we can’t recommend Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast: Washington, Oregon, British Columbia, and Alaska enough. It has great pictures, lots of identification keys and botanical info, and a real treat – descriptions of how first inhabitants used these plants medicinally. We also have some less regionally-specific medicinal plant guides that help us figure out what ‘weeds’ we discover growing here might turn out to be worth keeping around. If you’re interested in self-sufficiency, modern homesteading, natural medicine, etc. having a reference shelf of plant and fungus identification guides, specific to your area, is extremely important. Not every ‘folk’ remedy works as reputed, but many do, and it’s a rewarding challenge to know what helpful plants are within reach, either growing wild or introduced to your own yard or garden.