When I went to my niece's birthday part yesterday, my nephew asked me if I wanted to see their mushrooms.
My brother lives in the house previously occupied by my grandparents. In the yard are two giant, majestic old oak trees. They are the only such trees in the neighborhood. Charles led me to each of the trees and showed me the massive clusters of mushrooms clustered around its base. My mother told me they were edible mushrooms, but couldn't remember what kind they were. Seeing the massive size of the things I said, "Hen of the woods?" she said yes. That was exactly what they were.
My brother is pleased with his mushroom crop as they grow plentifully around the base of both trees. Since he is the only person in the neighborhood with old oak trees, it is a rarity. He has been experimenting a bit with how to cook them. He let me taste one he had in the kitchen. It tasted like a button mushroom, but had an acidic aftertaste.
The problem is the rarity of the mushrooms in the neighborhood has opened him up to some poaching. I asked him if foragers ever come to his yard and try to take some. He said he often has to chase people away. He said a couple of weeks ago he saw a woman slunking around his property in broad daylight with a plastic bag. When he ran out and asked her what she was doing, she quickly walked off and he noticed all of the mushrooms were gone. It's not the first time that he has found his trees cleaned of mushrooms when he himself hasn't picked them.
The nerve of some people! I know foragers are a strange lot and will look long and hard for their mushrooms and are fiercely protective of their turf. I never thought that they would walk into someone's yard in broad daylight and proceed to help themselves to someone else's mushroom. One would think they would at least ask first.