What’s Fruiting in the Upper Midwest, This Week!

All I have to say to you is to get to yout favorite woods immediately!

If you’re interested in old news, the Chicago Chanterelle harvest was at an all time low! We had such fantastic early rains, that just dried up for about four weeks, and then nothing after a four inch rain. My favorite spots got flooded and didn’t produce, none of them. During the drought time this year I manged about 12 small Chanterelles, and I managed a literal handful after the massive rain. Some friends in the far Western Suburbs did alright, as somehow more regular rain graced them with something to harvest.

Handful

Over the last two summers the Chicago region had no rain in July and it held off until the first week in August. But even during those years the Chanterelles flushed for a week or two, though in much lower quantities than usual.

My favorite Wild Blackberry spot had barely flowered this year, and when I came back to it two weeks ago there were no ripe berries. A friend stopped over there and told me that most of the ripe berries were already picked. I think a Friday trip to the spot, before the weekenders get them, is definitely in order!

The good news is that foraging for Wild Grapes and Elderberries might set a new record year! Last week I gathered about three pounds of Elderberries and sold them to the second restaurant I visited. Yesterday I went out to my spot and harvested about 10 pounds more, and on the way home noticed a wild grape that is slightly sweet and a little tart, with no tannin and only three seeds. The small grapes will make excellent sauces and an incredible wine. I’m actuallyhoping they don’t sell tomorrow and I can selfishly make some wild wine with them. I managed about 15 pounds before I decided I need to get a ladder to get the last ten pounds.

Wild Grape

There are many wild grapes, and grapes often interbreed into poor varieties, but when you come across a tart and sweet variety remember where it is.

This is a banner year for edible Crab Apples. My friend David Odd harvested about 15 pounds of wildized Dolgo Crab Apples last week. This week I found three trees, long forgotten about, with all sun side branches loaded. The Dolgo Apple which I’ve heard referred to as the Korean Crab Apple is light yellow interior with a tear drop elongated shape and if ripe has a light tartness, and almost ripe has a tart flavor great for sauces and jellies. It’s one of the few Crab Apples you can eat out of the hand.

When fully ripe this Crab Apple is sweet and crunchy, its elongated shape is a sure sign that you've found the right tree.

When fully ripe this Crab Apple is sweet and crunchy, its elongated shape is a sure sign that you’ve found the right tree.

This week, separately we both found a small round Crab Apple that has a bright pink interior that is tart without any sign of bitterness that will make a great apple sauce, jelly, or compliment as a savory sauce for a braised meat dish.

This small red Crab Apple has a pink interior and a tart finish. Be sure you pick only from trees without tannin, some look a likes will pucker your mouth.

This small red Crab Apple has a pink interior and a tart finish. Be sure you pick only from trees without tannin, some look a likes will pucker your mouth.

Last week we spotted about five pound of Letiporus sulphereus, the Chicken of the Woods Mushroom, all at its peak of freshness. She made a Vegan Lentil Pecan Chicken Salad that was simply amazing hot or cold! The difference in flavors, textures and color had me guessing that I was eating a fine meat dish.

Dawn Chicken 2Dawn Chicken 1

With the cool weather and rain in middle August, the Maitake are already fruiting, an 11 pound specimen was found in the woods just North of the City of Chicago this afternoon by David Odd of Odd Produce. The earliest I’ve ever found one is the last week of August.

This 11 Pound Specimen will be on dinner plates in one of Chicago's finest restaurants by Wednesday night. (Photo Dave Odd of Odd Produce, Chicago's Wild Food Supplier)

This 11 Pound Specimen will be on dinner plates in one of Chicago’s finest restaurants by Wednesday night.
(Photo Dave Odd of Odd Produce, Chicago’s Wild Food Supplier)

Last year was so dry until late September that Maitake didn’t really fruit until the first weeks of October, though with phenomenal results. With the average rains, though off the usual schedule I predict this early Maitake fruiting will be the usual 200 pound local harvest, as opposed to the bounteous year like last year. Ringed Honey Mushrooms are out in certain spots, and last week I found a few aborted Entolomas directly at the bark line of a dead tree – but not enough for a meal, surely most of the fall mushrooms are coming along very soon.

I’ll update in a few days as I head out to finish both the Wild Grape Harvest, and the Elderberry Harvest, while searching for Chicken Mushroom and very early Maitake.

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