This page is used to feature mushrooms that are prevalent for the particular time of the year or, during the winter months, to feature some of the less desirable or hard to find mushrooms. To see some of our previous features follow the link above.
November 2012 Featured Mushroom was
aka: Winter Mushroom or Velvet Foot
Winter mushrooms fruit from fall through spring, fruiting in the winter whenever we have a warm, wet thaw. Winter mushrooms are edible though not a choice edible. Their main selling point is fruiting when almost no other mushrooms are around. Cultivated mushrooms generally look much like their wild, natural relatives. The winter mushroom is quite the exception to this rule. In the wild the caps are reddish yellow to reddish brown with a yellowish to yellowish brown top half of the stalk changing to a brown to brownish black at the base of the stalk with hairs near the base (hence the name velvet foot). The commercial version is a tiny white capped mushroom with a long, thin white stalk. The commercial version, enoki or enotake, is grown in the dark to achieve the white overall color and in jars to keep the mushroom growing upright. Both the wild and the cultivated versions grow in clumps often with fused bases.
Wild winter mushrooms have sticky, yellowish brown to reddish brown cap ranging from 1 to 2 1/2 inches wide. The caps are convex to flat with umbos and with inrolled margins when young. The gills are white, attached, and closely spaced. The stems are 1 to 3 inches long and 1/8 to ¼ inches wide. The stems are colored yellow to yellowish brown near the cap changing to brown to brownish black with short hairs near the base. The spore print is white. The closest look-alikes are the deadly Galerina autumnalis and G. marginalis. The Galerinas have brown spores and rings on the stalk. The color change on the stalk of the winter mushroom can appear to be a ring zone so be careful with these. If there is a ring, do not eat. Cultivated Flammulina velutipes, enoki or enotake, have a white caps 1/16 to ¼ inches wide with white gills. The stems are 1 to 4 1/2 inches long and 1/32 to 1/16 inches wide.
Most of the recipes I have found for the winter mushrooms are recipes for the cultivated versions. Enoki are used raw in salads, cooked in soups and other dishes. I use the caps of the wild version in mixed mushroom dishes. I usually add enoki when I make Chinese hot and sour soup. The on-line cookbook: Wild about Mushrooms by Louise Freedman has a recipe for hot and sour soup incorporating enoki.