This week we have two new additions to the ForageCast – the scaber stalk boletes and artist’s conk. As a perennial polypore, the artist’s conk can be found year-round in Northeastern hardwood forests. However, it arrives on the ForageCast this week since most of the local conks have now developed their new annual layer of milky white, fragrant pores. During the winter months the conk is dormant, its underside hard and brown and lacking its distinctive woodsy odor. There is not much sense harvesting it at this stage, since it is weaker medicinally and artists cannot etch on its creamy pores.
When you do harvest an artist’s conk, be aware that it is a long-lived perennial fungus, so I recommend taking younger specimens and leaving the elders. If you are curious about the age of the specimen whose life you (or your hatchet) just ended, slice off the base to reveal the interior, where you can count the ¼ inch thick layers of pores as you would tree rings.
If any of you are still searching for morels, I hate to break it to you – you’re going to have to wait until next spring! Perhaps a few stragglers are still rotting in the ground in the northernmost reaches of the region, but in Ithaca there are no more morels, only memories of their splendor. While there are king stropharias, oysters, chicken of the woods, and reishis to keep me busy, I must admit that June is not the most exciting month for mushroom foraging. But alas, chanterelles and black trumpets are just around the corner. May the rains continue!