With rains coming early in the fall and paired with periods of warm dry weather, this season is producing a bumper crop of edible wild mushrooms. Early harvests of sulphur shelf, or “Chicken of the Woods,” along with lobster mushrooms, and the ever popular white and yellow chantrelles are appearing in unusually large numbers. Some pigs ear, bolete, and coral mushrooms are also rising through the substrate of the forest floor.
Chantrelles are perhaps the most widely sought after variety, and there is an abundance of them along the coast range at higher elevations. When you happen upon one, stop and pay attention to your surroundings. It’s not uncommon to trample several mushrooms in one area while overcome with the excitement to pluck the first one you lay eyes on. Look for mossy areas under old growth, evergreen debris, where salal and Oregon grape grow.
While moisture from the rain is key to activating the mcyelium, you will find that some of the mushrooms that are more exposed to the elements tend to deteriorate, become soggy and inedible. The best days for harvesting are during periods of warmer weather after rains have saturated the soil enough that it still remains damp. When the ground is really wet, look underneath the gaps of fallen logs that have made contact with the forest floor. The areas in which the log shields the ground from rain creates a dryer environment that will produce firmer mushrooms that tend to keep longer.
Be sure to use these tips when hunting mushrooms…
-Being aware of your surroundings is vital to enjoying your outdoor experience; keep in mind that’s it’s fairly easy to wander into private property on accident. Check your local regulations on harvesting and entry permits for public lands.
-Do not consume any mushrooms you can not identify with confidence; lots of lookalikes out there have made people pretty sick over the years. A good place to pick up some resources for identification is at our very own Saturday Market.
-If the quality of your find is in question, the general rule of “When in doubt, toss it out” applies.
-While on your hike, keep track of time and your path so you don’t get lost in the woods after dark. If you are unsure about how long your hike will be, bring a headlamp or flashlight.
by Randall Bonner