Despite the many disadvantages and hardships this summer’s gully washers have had on people, places and property, the rainfall has a sweet lining.
Every growing thing needs water and for most that water comes as rain, melting snow and ice. When fruits form on plants, the size and sometimes even the mere presence of a fruit is lost by a dry period.
Mushrooms, too, are mostly liquid and need liters of water to form fruiting bodies for normal reproduction.
That brings us to the autumn outlook for the coming crop of blackberries, the aggregate fruits than follow mid summer’s blackcaps. The more moisture, to a point, the larger the blackberries, the longer they last and the juicier they are for wine, jelly, jam and pies.
The initial steps before fruit growth is present must be near-perfect, too, and they were as the berries began forming and grew during summer’s hot, sometimes dry spells.
Now they are about ready for the final development and ripening stages. Ample soil moisture will provide those final frostings. Once begun, the ripening on individual plants and in different habitats and slopes will keep this fruit ripening into September.
Other fruits are meager compared to blackberries, but mayapples, elderberries and wild plums can add to the bounty.
It’s as though blackberry gatherers are about to be picking during a game bird cycle peak, the abundance is so plentiful.
Mushrooms, even more than berries, require ample moisture, but water-soaked logs, wet forest debris, moisture-laden tree bark and other humus are about all a mushroom needs at this stage. Some mushroom hyphae are connected to tree and shrub root systems, and those plants will also be prospering from soil moisture and can pass on the good times to the mushrooms.
Four prime fall fungi include oyster mushrooms, hen-of-the-woods, chicken-of-the-woods (sulphur fungi) and puffballs. Each has a fan base, so putting one atop the others is a personal thing.
Here, however, abnormal amounts of rain during the prime season can damage the fruiting body after it comes above the ground, so search early and often.
Those who gather autumn fungi have a distinct advantage above those who, for example, pick morels. The fall fungi can be huge. One sulphur fungus clump could outweigh the largest motherlode of morels imaginable. The same is true for the others. Find one and head home.
Because they are often large, sometimes brightly colored, they are easier to find even though they are less frequent than morels.
Stick with the foolproof few, get to know them by as many characters as possible, including smell, and illness should be the furthest thing from one’s experiences.
Nuts of all kinds have had a great year. They seem to be as abundant as they were scarce in 2016. Walnut limbs are leaning from fruits. Shagbark hickey nuts are plump, and for the wildlife, acorns, both red and white, are abundant.
Forget the hazelnuts. The squirrels were after them even before they are fully ripe. The shells below each shrub tell a tale.
There’s always a chance that inside the fruit walls and inside the hard coats, there is a malformed, diseased, infected nut meat. But that is common, albeit in individual trees or nuts on a tree. Find a better tree but test a few before picking up three bushels of wormy hickory nuts.
Unlike asking to hunt deer, turkeys, even squirrels, gaining permission to pick nuts, fall mushrooms and blackberries can be a piece of cake when done correctly.
It’s also an automatic finding what to “pay” for the privilege. Give some of the picked bounty or a product made from the nuts, berries or mushrooms, and you’ll likely be back next August and September.
Remember, too, picking is permitted on most public lands, but selling fruits obtained there is generally not legal.
Jerry Davis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.