Every summer right around the peak of the heat in late July or early August these strange, scary looking things pop up in my front yard. They're in the same spot every year and seem to get bigger some years more than others.

One of them has quadrupled in size in less than a week. At first, we thought this was some alien toxic growth and would kick it out of the ground as soon as it was noticed.

After some research (Googling them), it turns out they are possible edible mushrooms called a chicken of the woods mushroom. They supposedly are a great substitute for chicken or tofu in pasta dishes. No, I have not tried them yet and don't think I will be anytime soon unless a mushroom expert comes over, eats it in front of me and doesn't die. Then I'll give it a shot.

Many of us have had a long-held fear of eating wild mushrooms because some of them can be poisonous and deadly. About five years ago this month, 15 people got seriously ill from ingesting poisonous mushrooms over a period of a week and a half. Some of the dangerous mushrooms look very similar to harmless, tasty ones.

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There is an organization that dedicates their time and effort in mushroom "hunting" or foraging in New Jersey. The New Jersey Mycological Society is a group of people who put the "fun" in fungi for people who share their passion.

There are organized "forays" which is the slang for foraging for these tasty fungi all over the Garden state. Don't expect to get too many suggestions on exactly where to find the best mushrooms.

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For many hobbyists these locations are a highly guarded secret. Good luck and make sure you get the right information. If you're interested, there are lists on safe mushrooms that you can find in our state.  In the meantime, I'll pass on the "chicken of the woods" mushroom in my front yard and stick to good old chicken. Now I'll wait for the emails from all of the mycological enthusiasts in New Jersey to help or mock me.

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Opinions expressed in the post above are those of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Dennis Malloy only.

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