An impressive fruiting of the fairy ink cap, Coprinellus disseminatus. If only these were as pleasing to the tongue as they are to the eye!

The Mushroom Forager wishes you a happy New Year of foraging adventures! While I was out cross-country skiing today I noticed a large lion’s mane mushroom, preserved by the cold but now rotting grotesquely due to the thaw. Perhaps the mold was a good thing, because it made me resist the temptation to take a bite. In fact, I’ve been so desperate that I recently bought mushrooms at the grocery store! The massive fall maitakes (hen of the woods), which I usually freeze and enjoy throughout the winter, never showed their faces this year. I saw only three hens; one was promptly run over by a lawnmower, and the other two got so dried out that they never matured. Hopefully they are just waiting to surprise me next fall with an extraordinary harvest!

Ithaca, infamous for its overcast skies, was uncharacteristically dry this summer, and the mushroom foraging suffered accordingly. However, we still managed to bring porcinis, chanterelles, cinnabar red chanterelles, lobster mushrooms, lion’s manes, king stropharias, giant puffballs, and other fungal delights to the table. While the dry summer made it a bit of a tough year to start a mushroom foraging blog, we still have enjoyed the journey immensely. Thank you for your readership and support!

You may have noticed that our posts have become more infrequent now that the mushroom foraging season is over, and this trend will likely continue until morel-mania this upcoming spring. In the mean time, here is a brief BBC Planet Earth clip containing the most striking time-lapse footage of mushrooms I have ever seen. This clip focuses on the endoparasitic genus Cordyceps, which attacks and kills insects before fruiting from their carcasses.

Watching this video, I was simultaneously filled with feelings of disgust and awe. While it is certainly unsettling to watch a fungus overtake a previously healthy ant, ultimately fruiting from its head, there is also something beautiful about the display. In nature, where there is death life is never too far away, as becomes clear when a pristine, glistening mushroom emerges from the ant carcass. Fungi stand at this critical juncture, turning death into new life. Incidentally, some Cordyceps species are highly esteemed for their medicinal benefits to humans, thereby also supporting life. It seems rebirth is a constant in nature, and the New Year is a perfect time to give thanks for nature’s self-perpetuating cycles of fertility!