Foraging for mushrooms–getting our fungi fix

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Washington state is rich in many natural resources–making it a great state for good scavenging and foraging.  With the summer behind and fall in all of its glory, mushrooms are at their prime right now and what I hear from my shroom peeps, its a good year.  Paul and I know only a handful of edible mushrooms and are cautious with unknowns since it takes very little mushroom to make you very ill and potentially do some damage (some are deadly). My public safety announcement is not to eat a mushroom you can not identify.

Here is a list of some of the mushrooms that can be found in the Pacific Northwest  It’s a modest list, but we can identify all of them with certainty.

Slippery jack:  brown caps, spongy yellow under-cap and white leg/stem.  We peel the brown off the cap (it’s the slippery slimy part).  These are considered the lower class citizens of mushrooms–but I love them.  We saute them, use them as piroshki or savory pie filling or pickle them.  They are often found under fir trees and are very plentiful often growing in little “family” clusters.  Slugs and bugs really love these guys, so cutting the stem to check for worms is a must in my household.  Some mushroom hunters soak mushrooms to get the bugs out–not this gal.  I don’t care to share my food with worms…I am not that hungry.  Older, bigger mushrooms tend to be on the wormy side.

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Birch Boletes:  brown cap, spongy with a variable stem (thin or wide) in white color and black spots (resembles a birch tree trunk).  As their name indicates, these are often found growing in symbiosis with birch trees.  Next time you are under a birch, take a look around the grassy area, sure enough (hopefully) you will find a little mushroom peeking at you.  Birch boletes  make up about 90 percent of all the mushrooms we harvest.  They can be dried (make excellent mushroom and barley soup), boiled and frozen for future cooking (rice dishes, pie filling, with potatoes) and pickled.  These mushrooms have an amazing firm texture making it very user friendly to work with.  These tend to be about $25-30 per pound at farmers markets and absolutely free under your neighbor’s birch (just ask for permission first).  Again, please don’t pick mushrooms unless you are very certain you are picking the right one.


King Bolete (and other boletes): these are a bit more sparse in the city but a short trip to the mountains, and you could be lucky to stumble on a patch of these beauties.  There are different types of boletes, here is the Wikipedia link

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Shaggy mane: they look really cool and get inky, here is a great description for them.

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Oyster mushrooms: Paul appreciates these a bit more than I do. Last time I had them I was pregnant and that did not go well with me so now I am not a fan.

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Chanterelles:  orange funky looking shrooms that I personally don’t feel comfortable identifying as there are a lot of false look alikes that are poisonous.

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We have also cultivated our own mushrooms and plan to expand our mushroom patch next year.  We grew garden giants outside and Lion’s mane mushrooms from a starter kit that we purchased at a farmer’s market.  It was pretty cool to go out in the backyard and pick your own mushrooms.  The Lion’s mane grew in our kitchen from a plastic bag.  Our  mushroom patch was under a very shaded area of our garden, it was nice to utilize that part of the yard, we plan to put the garden giants back there and get some spores for shiitake, Lion’s mane and oyster mushrooms for indoor cultivation

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Lion’s mane in the wild (above) and below is what we cultivated in our kitchen.305815_2213513130277_3396721_n302971_2213508170153_801655_n251450_2165202682546_5158385_n

Our chickens took over our garden giants patch, we hope to soon claim that territory as our mushroom patch.

From late August till the end of October, every Saturday is dedicated to mushroom hunting–it’s so much fun! The kiddos get a kick out of picking mushrooms and carrying them (although it causes me a lot of stress when they break the mushroom–I have to keep telling myself, it’s educational for them). And it’s good for the whole family to spend a few hours walking and getting fresh air.

If you are interested in mushroom hunting, there are lots of opportunities to join clubs and groups in Washington. Here are a few link that looked cool:









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