Here in the Pacific Northwest, we are truly blessed with a bounty of gorgeous wild edibles waiting to be foraged and enjoyed. The fall season is upon us here and with the falling, colourful leaves, still warm days and cooler nights, we start to see mushrooms popping everywhere, cleverly hidden underneath the thick carpet of luscious moss.
From the glowing golden chanterelle, the deep purple blue chanterelle, the vivid red lobster mushroom, the spiky hedgehog mushroom, and finally the much prized and sought after florally fragrant pine mushroom, there is no shortage of delicious creations a curious culinarian can enjoy.
Before I continue, a word of warning to any newbie mushroom picker : BEWARE and GET EDUCATED! Although mushroom picking is a fun activity that is akin to a going on a treasure hunt, it is a VERY, VERY important that before picking any mushrooms to consume, the picker is 110% confident on the proper identification. There are poisonous mushrooms out in the forest that can make a person very sick. If ever there is doubt in the ID, stay on the safe side and throw it back into the forest.
I won't go all the details of proper identification here but there are a number of great resources available to help the newly interested picker learn the basics of safe ID under the guidance of experienced fungi officienados.
Swallowtail Tours in Vancouver, BC offers 2 hour introductory foraging trips with a gourmet lunch included.
Royal Roads University around Victoria, BC, offers a weekend foraging course for mushrooms, a great way to spend a weekend in the woods!
The Vancouver Mycological Society is an organization that is dedicated to the study of mushrooms and fungi. They hold monthly meetings, an annual mushroom show at VanDusen gardens and many other events throughout the year. Anyone can join, annual membership is only $20 for an individual. They also have links one their site for other fun mushroom related events such as Fungus Among Us in Whistler, BC, the Sunshine Coast Mushroom Festival and the Richmond Mushroom Show.
Mushroomy friends are also a great resource for those wanting to learn about hunting. It may take a while to convince your friend to show you their secret spots but with a bit of persistence, you'll find most folks are willing to share their knowledge with a keen beginner.
There are also a few mushroom books that are my personal favorites.
All That The Rain Promises And More by David Arora
- Just looking at how excited the author is on the cover of this book tells me how fun mushroom picking can be! Giddy joy :). This book is really a wonderful resource. The colour pictures, specific descriptions, precise identification features and look alike information really make it an invaluable resource for any mushroom lovers library. My go to resource for sure.
Mushrooms of the Pacific Northwest by Steve Trudell and Joe Ammirati
- Another great resource with plenty of colour photographs, detailed descriptions and information specifically focused on our region.
Mycelium Running by David Stamets
- This book is not so much focused on proper identification of mushrooms but rather on how mushrooms can benefit the world. From their immunological and nutritional properties, to their role in soil makeup and their potential for cleanup of waste, it is truly a great resource for anyone interested in diving deeper into the mysterious and fascinating world of mushrooms.
So, now that you have some tools, resources and weekend retreats at your disposal to collect wild edible mushrooms, you may be wondering how these delightful treasures can be used in cooking, or how can they be preserved if a huge load is found one day.
Next weeks blog post will cover some of the best tips, techniques and tricks to preserve your wild mushroom harvest.
Later this week, I will be posting culinary mushroom creations in the recipe section of this site. Check back soon to try your creative hand at these mouth watering dishes.
Blue chanterelle and aged cheddar omelette with mixed baby greens
Slow braised teriyaki chicken with pine mushrooms and scallions
Grilled free range striploin steak with ginger sautéed lobster mushrooms