Uncover the Pacific Northwest’s hidden treasures: a wealthy number of edible mushrooms. Be taught the place, when, and the best way to discover these culinary delights amidst the area’s iconic misty landscapes.
Fall is the time of yr that provides the Pacific Northwest its moody, moist, and misty repute. It’s additionally when among the most coveted edible mushrooms arrive on the scene. Out right here, mushrooms are as a lot part of the panorama because the moss-covered logs, ferns, and towering old-growth timber. Fungi appear to be in every single place, and it’s simple to miss them.
One November, a number of years in the past, I skilled a shift. Mushrooms went from being one thing I largely ignored to one thing I actively sought out. I signed up for a foraging group hike within the Gifford Pinchot Nationwide Forest on a whim. A light-weight dusting of snow coated the bottom. Nonetheless, we nonetheless discovered chanterelles too huge to slot in my palm, a cauliflower mushroom that stuffed a complete basket, and a Hericium species—issues I’d by no means heard of earlier than and undoubtedly hadn’t eaten. The hike chief, a Washington-based myco-educator, informed us the best way to clear and cook dinner the mushrooms. Once I received residence and adopted her directions, I might hardly consider how scrumptious all the pieces tasted. I wished to return out to the forest instantly and discover extra. So started my love of foraging, which ultimately led to my curiosity in searching sport. Each fall since, I’ve spent numerous hours within the woods on the lookout for meals and having fun with the forest’s bounty.
Within the Pacific Northwest, edible mushrooms might be discovered year-round. Nonetheless, fall is a favourite amongst foragers as a result of most of the tastiest mushrooms fruit throughout this time, which coincides with grouse season.
Looking grouse in Oregon and Washington can take you to high-elevation ridgetops, coastal forests, mountain meadows, edges, dense timber stands, boggy lowlands, and in every single place in between. Whether or not you’re after blues or ruffed grouse, you’ll possible be touring via prime mushroom habitat. Relying on the world, you would possibly even bag all three: blue grouse, ruffed grouse, and fungi.
Kayla Sulak, who has been dwelling off the grid since 2016 and hunts in Oregon together with her accomplice, informed me, “There have been days the place we get ruffed and blues in the very same space, on the western aspect of the Cascades, so there’s undoubtedly overlap in some areas.” It’s not unusual for them to return to their automobile with a restrict of grouse and bins stuffed with edible mushrooms.
And you may, too, as soon as you understand what to search for. These are among the most typical and easier-to-identify edible mushrooms within the Pacific Northwest’s grouse nation.
At first, you would possibly mistake the hunter-orange coloration for a damaged clay on the forest ground. Upon nearer examination, you notice it’s a mushroom. Truly, it’s a fungus rising on a fungus. Lobster mushrooms (Hypomyces lactifluorum) parasitize on white russula mushrooms (Russula brevipes). Come the opening day of grouse season, you will discover lobster mushrooms in Pacific Northwest forests. They emerge above the duff as early as July and fruit into November. Not solely does the flesh of this mushroom resemble lobster meat, but it surely additionally smells and tastes like shellfish.
An Oregon-based searching and foraging information, Tony Rousseau, says, “Creek bottoms close to clear-cuts and older development with a number of purple alder might be nice to push for ruffed grouse early season on scorching days.” That is the place you will discover oyster mushrooms (Pleurotus spp.), that are widespread however are likely to desire riparian areas, the place they develop on lifeless hardwoods. However Tony says one of the best oysters are present in late fall on cottonwoods (Pleurotus populinus) and ash (Pleurotus ostreatus). Relying on the species, oysters can vary in coloration from white, cream, and pink to grey, blue, and brown. They’ve an anise-like scent and ought to be picked whereas they’re younger for one of the best taste. You don’t need the caps to open up an excessive amount of.
The king bolete (Boletus edulis), additionally identified by its Italian title porcini, or “little pig,” is a delight to search out. Maintain a watch out for this candy, nutty mushroom when strolling edges and disturbed areas—search for one thing that resembles a hamburger bun on the grassy fringe of a path or meadow, alongside highway or path sides, and in forest openings, particularly about three weeks after the primary good rain. The underside of the cap is a agency, white sponge layer that turns pale yellow to a deep olive because it ages, and the chunky, white stem has reticulation (a mushroom time period for displaying a weblike sample). One technique to inform porcinis other than different boletes, that are plentiful in PNW forests, is that the flesh of the king bolete doesn’t bruise blue.
Pacific Golden Chanterelle
Maybe the preferred of all mushrooms, chanterelles (Cantharellus formosus), are whimsical-looking golden delights sprouting up via the duff and moss. Search for chanties above 1,000 toes elevation, on north-facing hillsides, close to Oregon grape, and below western hemlock and second-growth Douglas-fir stands. However actually, they will develop in virtually any Pacific Northwest forest and at decrease elevations, they usually not often develop alone. Should you discover one, search for extra close by.
They’ve a vase-like form, and the perimeters of their cap change into wavy with age. The stem options decurrent gills (that means they run down the stipe) and cross veins and its flesh might be pulled aside like string cheese. Sniff a chanterelle once you discover one—they’ve an unmistakable candy, fruity odor that resembles apricots. And make sure you haven’t picked a woolly chanterelle (Turbinellus floccosus), which has fooled many newbie foragers and is thought to trigger an upset abdomen. The golden chanterelle season peaks in November and lasts till the primary arduous frost.
When it looks as if chanterelle season is winding down, in come the hedgehog mushrooms (Hydnum spp.). Hedgehogs develop in the identical areas as chanterelles and might be present in late fall via winter. They’ve a nice, delicate taste that some say is much like and even higher than chanterelles. The fool-proof technique to determine them is to have a look at the underside of their creamy-beige to pale-orange cap. There, you’ll see white or cream-colored “enamel” that resemble the spiny mammal for which these mushrooms are named.
Bear’s head (Hericium abietis) is a showstopper of a mushroom with white to pale salmon branches and downward-pointing enamel that appear like icicles. These mushrooms can weigh as much as a number of kilos. In consequence, they’re arduous to overlook. It’s certainly one of my favourite mushrooms as a result of it tastes like crab meat. It’s generally present in higher-elevation fir and hemlock forests rising on lifeless logs, stumps, or still-standing snags. Bear’s head fruits late into the autumn yr after yr on the identical lifeless tree, so make sure you drop that pin.
Cauliflower mushroom (Sparassis crispa) might need you elevating an eyebrow the primary time you notice it. Normally rising on the base of a conifer or stump, this sprawling, brainy-looking mushroom resembles a pile of egg noodles or a head of cauliflower. They differ in coloration, starting from creamy white to pale yellow or mild brown. It’s mostly present in old-growth and secondary forests with broken timber. It has a candy, nutty, delicate taste that some say resembles morels. Due to its hearty texture, it pairs nicely with meats and can be utilized as a noodle substitute. Cauliflower exhibits up in mid-fall to winter and, like bear’s head mushrooms, fruits yr after yr in the identical spot.
When the temperatures are falling, there are nonetheless mushrooms to be discovered. The winter chanterelle (Craterellus tubaeformis) seems to be like a golden chanterelle that hasn’t grown up but. These cute, tasty little mushrooms typically develop in teams in mossy soil or on decaying wooden in saturated, cool conifer forests or bogs. Search for their small, yellow-brownish caps, which have a melancholy within the heart, and their slender, hole stipes. They are often present in late fall and winter, typically in the identical habitat as hedgehog mushrooms and chanterelles.
Grouse hunters are better off in the case of foraging edible mushrooms. Your hunts could take you to locations that haven’t been picked over, and also you would possibly uncover a honeyhole you may return to yr after yr. Right here’s hoping you discover a flush of mushrooms whilst you’re flushing grouse this season.