Northern Michigan: In Season

A little known, and highly underappreciated gourmet delight has just made its first appearance here in northern Michigan. The Polyporus umbellatus – known by us commoners as the Umbrella Polypore, is beginning its Spring/early Summer flush, and we are ready to fire up the skillet! 

A tender, young Umbrella polypore ready to be taken home and eaten.

The Umbrella Polypore is quite the treasure to find as a forager, as they are extremely rare. Many foragers go their entire life without ever having stumbled across one. It’s hard to say if this is due to their less than prolific growth patterns, or the fact that they are quite easy to overlook, even when you are standing right next to them. The good news is, if you should ever be so fortunate as to come across this beautiful bouquet of gourmet deliciousness, you can rest assured that they will continue to grow there for years to come. It’s the gift that keeps on giving! 

Here in northern Michigan, Umbrellas usually emerge for their early flush mid to late June. They appear again in the fall for their second flush, though they are not always as reliable as they are in early summer. They are a parasitic fungus that like hardwoods – mainly Oak and Beech. Often times they are found near the base of a tree or further out, attaching to the roots beneath the ground. The Umbrella Polypore has a basal stem that grows from the ground, then branches out extensively, with small caps forming in a bouquet-like structure. The underside of the caps have tiny pores, as opposed to gills or teeth, as many other mushrooms have. Their color can range from white to tan or gray, and they produce a white spore print.

A fresh Umbrella polypore ready or harvest.
A cluster of young Umbrella polypore emerging from the leaf litter.

Umbrellas are best harvested young, as they boast a sweet and savory flavor. They develop a deep umami flavor as they age, which is also delicious! However, the bugs tend to take over quickly, so it’s best to grab them before they do! This is truly one of the most delicious gourmet mushrooms you can get your hands on, but that’s not all they’re good for! They are used frequently in Asian medicine, with studies showing that they contain compounds that are antitumor, anticancer, antioxidant, free radical scavenging, immune system enhancement and antimicrobial activities. (According to this study)

So if you find one – mark that spot and check it frequently so you can catch them early! This is one you don’t want to miss. Happy foraging!

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