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Mushrooms Right from Your Farm
Also known as Sheep Polypore.
I first encountered this mushroom in the woods in the late fall, in a very degraded form. It was soggy, from the recent downpours, and smelled foul. Clearly past its prime. It appeared to have some kind of tube or porous spore surface under the cap, and a stem that was off one side - which turned out to be the identifying feature.
A traditional culinary mushroom in Scandinavia, this mushroom is not popular on this side of the Atlantic. But it is a good edible when properly prepared - it should be well cooked. The problem with it is in identifying it.
There are a number of Albatrellus mushrooms, and several others with a similar genus name, all of which look pretty much alike. Some are considered edible (though possibly laxative), and others are considered to cause digestive upset. Of course, with mushrooms we know that this may be an issue of preparation as much as species, since cooking time radically affects digestibility of many mushrooms.
Albatrellus Ovinus is the most common of these mushrooms, and the one most often classed as the Sheep Polypore, or Forest Lamb Mushroom. But honestly, it is so difficult to tell Ovinus from Confluens or Citrinus, that they pretty much all get identified as Ovinus. This is ok since all three are edible. Some of the others with which it is less likely to be confused are not as edible.
It grows either singly, or in clusters on the ground, and has a large, frequently offset stem. The cap tends to wave and curl a lot, and can be cracked and bent in such a way that a large grouping of them can resemble a sheep from a distance (at least, this is one theory). Grazing sheep also like them, which may be one reason why farmers say that sheep that eat mushrooms tend toward scours.
It has very firm flesh, and can be tough when older. If they get waterlogged and decayed, they will smell foul, otherwise the smell is typically mushroomy.
This mushroom grows under pine and spruce, and some varieties may grow under hemlock or fir, and it is not well studied. It is presumed to be a saprophytic mushroom, though some have proposed some mycorrhizal dependencies. We are currently conducting testing on growth habits.