Local Fungi Hunter’s Guide

It’s Fall in Corvallis, which we all know means one thing above all others: it’s mushroom hunting time. Thankfully, the Willamette Valley region holds a multitude of mushrooms ready to be picked and cooked upon your stove. I talked to Corvallis Mushroomery veteran Jennifer Macone, who offered a list of the prime local mushrooms, how to identify them, areas they thrive in, and even some medicinal properties they hold.

Candy Cap Mushrooms
You may have guessed that candy cap mushrooms are sweet, tasting like maple syrup according to Macone. They’re perfect for making sauces like marinara sweeter, and for making cookies, waffles, and apple butter, which is one of the Mushroomery’s big products. Candy caps are a reddish brown color and grow in a flower-like shape, with a cap that’s usually a darker brown in the middle and lighter brown or orange towards the rim. 

Chanterelles thrive in Doug-fir Forests — the McDonald Forest area being a great local example. They start growing in early Fall and throughout Winter, though they can come out as early as late summer; much of it is weather dependent. Macone described them as orange, vase-looking mushrooms that have gill-like indents down the sides. They are “really helpful for the eyes,” Macone said, and are prescribed frequently for this purpose in Chinese medicine.

Abby James, a local self-proclaimed amateur mushroom hunter, hunts chanterelles exclusively.

“The first thing I would say is that mushroom hunting is a semi-magical experience. For chanterelles in particular,” she said, “they tend to grow in the deep woods.” Her personal favorite hunting spot is the wide stretch of land between the coast and Philomath.

Lobster Mushrooms
Lobster mushrooms also grow in Doug-Fir Forested regions but also in a wider variety of areas. These are red in color, Macone explained, and are white on the inside. If you cut a lobster mushroom in half, you will see the stark white interior. Macone said these mushrooms have a crunchy texture and nutty flavor. Fun fact: Lobster mushrooms aren’t technically mushrooms, but another kind of fungus that parasitizes a few common species. Don’t let this spoil the meal! The McDonald forest region would be an area to look (a trend, if you’re catching on).

Chicken of the Woods
Macone said that chicken-of-the-woods (or “Laetiporus sulphureus,” for a less attractive name) grow on logs and stumps, in hemlock and Doug-fir forests.

“They’re really beautiful,” Macone said.

She described their flavor as that of lemon chicken, adding that they offer many medicinal benefits, including anti-tumor activity, repelling urinary tract infections, and antibacterial activity. When it comes to dying fabric, chicken-of-the-woods are used for certain yellows. Macone also said that the old ones can be burnt to drive off mosquitoes and flies. 

Tips, Tasty Recipe Ideas, and More
Of course, mushrooming has its ins and outs. For starters, don’t head out to the woods with your salad dressing in preparation for a mushroom lunch. Macone said that amateur mushroom hunters should take their mushrooms to professionals to have them identified before consuming.

In terms of finding your first hoard, James said that “it can be discouraging at first, especially if it’s your first time. But… it gets much easier.” She said that if you stumble upon one, there’s likely one more around the corner, and then another… and then another. She recommended that people bring a good-working pocket-knife, sturdy gloves, and a “nice basket to carry all your goodies in.” 

When it comes to preparation, James and Macone both explained that you should avoid washing them with water; many resources state that waterlogged mushrooms taste worse. James recommended an air gun if you have one and Macone said that a clean paintbrush or soft toothbrush works well, also noting that they should be stored in a paper bag in your fridge.

Now that you’ve got your first fresh haul of fungus, what’s next? The hunt for tasty recipes is on…

The Mushroomery is a local, organic, family-owned mushroom farm in Lebanon and is at the Corvallis Grower’s market weekly. If you’d like to know more, just search them up on Facebook or Google for a fistful of resources!

By Josephine Wallace