A Voice In The Wilderness

Tasted at the tip, it yields for the first moment of mastication an acid flavor recalling that of the Fistu-lina hepatica. This is followed by a sweet, slightly mucilaginous savor, which, in the realization that the species is wholesome, will at once prove an invitation to further experiment with the fungus as food.

The texture of the young mushroom will be found to vary in its different parts, extremely tender at the thickened tuberculated tips, becoming fibrous as the stem is approached, and increasing in toughness, in fracture suggesting wood in appearance (see A, Plate 26), and unless the specimen is very young this portion will have to be excluded from the diet. Excepting this precaution it needs no preparation for the table, assuming, of course, that the substance is free from grubs, which will presumably be the case, as I have never seen this fungus thus infested except in its more advanced woody growth.

I have not as yet satisfied myself as to the best methods of cooking this polyporus. Fried in butter it has a tendency to become slightly tough in consistency, in its white stringy fibre as well as in taste closely suggesting the "white meat" of chicken. It lends itself well to a stew or ragout, and might, perhaps, to a curry, the substance being cut or broken in small pieces and treated after the manner of meat under similar recipes. Following the hints contained in our last chapter, many methods of its culinary treatment will suggest themselves.

The freely expanded specimen of this species is full of beauty, in its wavy fan-like form and flowing lines and flutings presenting a suggestive decorative theme, whether in the branches of painting, sculpture, or the plastic arts. The pores upon its sulphurous surface are so minute as to be scarcely visible, but they shed a copious quantity of whitish spores. The pileus of the dried specimen is often more or less frosted with minute white crystals - binoxalate of potash - and the spore surface dulls to the color of buckskin.

Texture and quality

Methods of cooking

In the mature specimen the growth is horizontal, spreading fan-like from stem, undulating with radiating flutings. Upper surface salmon orange or orange red, the edge being smooth and unevenly thickened with nodule-like prominences. In young specimen ascending, under yellow surface outwardly exposed.

Pore Surface: Bright sulphur yellow; pores very minute.

Spores: Dingy white.

Stem: Very short; a mere close attachment for the spreading growth.

Taste: Slightly acid and mucilaginous when raw; after cooking somewhat suggesting white meat of chicken.

Odor: Suggesting Agaricus campestris.

Habitat: On tree trunks, particularly oaks, often growing in very large clusters.

a. Section of fungus showing fibre. c. and D. Matured specimen.

Plate XXVI Polyporus Sulphureus.

Plate XXVI Polyporus Sulphureus.

Another remarkable feature about this fungus, if report be true, is its visibility by night, not merely from its pale yellow hue, but by an actual flood of bluish luminous phosphorescent light, the environment of its haunt in the woods sometimes being lighted up by the effulgence from its ample mass of growth, a resource not uncommon among the fungi, and popularly known under the name of "foxfire." This phenomenon is frequently observable in woods at night, following rainy weather. An old stump or prostrate log will appear streaked with lines of brilliant light. If we approach and detach the loosened bark, its back and the decayed surface of the log thus exposed will prove ablaze in phosphorescence, whose presence had scarcely been suspected but for the chance fissures which revealed the telltale streaks. I recall from my boyhood experience one such midnight episode as this in which, from the peculiar outline of the fallen trunk and the coincident circumstance of two approximate dots of brilliant light suggesting the eyes of a huge puma or tiger, I stood spell-bound with momentary fear, until I realized that the apparition was only a bugaboo after all. Approaching in the darkness, I soon laid hold of the rough head of the monster, and with a strong pull at the mass of bark of which it was composed, laid bare several square feet of blazing phosphorescence whose only hint had gleamed through those two imaginary eyes, which proved to be holes which had disclosed the hidden luminous fungus. One authority describes a single mass of this phosphorescence as extending the entire length of a prostrate trunk thirty feet long.

Its Ornamental Attributes. Luminous By Night

Hawthorne records having made good use of foxfire upon one occasion when, left in the lurch at night by a canal-boat, he procured a phosphorescent flambeau which effectually lighted his path for several miles through the otherwise impassable woods.