Jenna holds a freshly plucked bouquet of maitake in downtown Northampton.

Were it not for the neon pink, grotesquely phallic elegant stinkhorns, I never would have noticed the hen hiding in plain sight in downtown Northampton, MA.  Just when I thought the 2012 season had come to a close, the foraging gods have rewarded me with a final, long awaited treat. 

Over the last six weeks I have fastidiously checked the base of every oak tree I could find, only to finally stumble upon a hen of the woods when I wasn’t even looking. Oddly enough, it was nestled at the base of an old silver maple. It is rare, but not unheard of, for hens to pop up on hardwoods other than oak, including locust and maple. However, though I have found many-a-hen in past seasons, I have never seen one growing on any host other than oak. 

The pedestrians stared at me oddly, but that wasn’t going to stop me as I bent down to harvest the hen on Main Street. Usually I am very cautious about harvesting mushrooms in an urban setting, both because I don’t want to draw attention and because of the risk of soil contamination. However, this hen was set back from the road, and after six weeks of tireless hunting I wasn’t going to pass up this tender young specimen.  

We have already seen snow in the Green Mountains, but here in Western Massachusetts it is a balmy day and Old Man Winter seems to be far from the mushrooms’ minds. I guess I can’t turn off my forager’s eyes yet!

Northeastern ForageCast for the next two weeks!