Wandering through the woods in search of mushrooms is not only very exciting, but I feel like it makes me hone my senses. My vision tends to narrow while my mental focus sharpens and I get lost in the task that lays before me — hunting chanterelles.
As we ventured out this past weekend, I was a bit worried that we might be a bit early in the season. While the Pacific Northwest has had a very high dew point summer lending itself to some humidity I just wasn’t sure that the chanterelles would be out. We did have two good rains dump over the last two weeks, and our friends who are more expert than I am, had suggested that two weeks after a good rain the chanterelles would be out in our spot. They were right.
We had to look a bit harder than we do in the fall, but we found patches and clusters of the mushrooms in the same spots we normally find them. After a bit of bushwhacking to knock back the forrest floor we arrived to the spot and it wasn’t long before we located some. This was only my second time ever foraging for mushrooms and this past summer I picked up the Holy Grail of identification books, Mushrooms Demystified. While this 1000 page book might not make for a great field guide, it definitely is a great reference guide for any bookshelf. Long story short, I now feel confident in my ability to identify chanterelle mushrooms with 100% certainty. Our friends showed me the closest faux chanterelle and I pointed out some of the differences between the real deal and the faux mushroom.
Chanterelles are brightly colored, very dense and not hallowed stems, the gills on the underside of the cap run down the stem and their pattern is very identifiable. Once one knows the type of ecosystem that these mushrooms flourish in, then locating them it just that much easier. Unlike other varieties of mushrooms, chanterelles do not necessarily grow around the base of conifier trees, even though if you have found a doug fir then chanterelle mushrooms are not necessarily that far off. Just keep those eyes open.
There is great satisfaction in finding food in the wild. You know it’s local, sustainable, organic and your meal with taste just that much better. Yes, you worked to find it and it may not have been as easy as running to your grocery store, but it’s free to your pocketbook and it feels wonderful to prepare it for your table. Just remember when foraging for any wild edibles, always be 100% certain on what you are harvesting, when in doubt, don’t harvest. Always leave some behind so the patch can enjoy regrowth.