Making our own trails in search of food–we were bushwhacking on hillsides and scanning the ground to identify mushrooms. It can take years to find stashes, and there’s a reason why foragers don’t openly share their secrets.
Andy and I have been wanting to learn more about foraging. As the rainy season in the PNW creates prime conditions for scrumptious mushrooms, we knew it was a decent time to find them but wanted to learn from an expert.
We’ve all heard the warnings. Eating wild mushrooms are harmful if you don’t know what you’re doing and eating the wrong ones can lead from a mild stomach ache to poisoning your gut, landing you in the hospital.
Register for a free, ranger-led wild mushroom hikes or talks on Fridays and Saturdays in Fort Stevens State Park. Ranger Sam guided us and another couple on a private tour arranged for an Astoria press trip on October 22nd.
Sam had a group of 55 people join him the day prior, which was larger than the normal group size. It’s prime foraging season and everyone was out looking for King Boletes, which flourish after the first few days of heavy fall rains.
Sam carried a bucket of sample mushrooms found and gave us his spiel while walking the trail–it’s normally done at Battery Russell before walking. As group of five, we were more nimble to forage on hillsides and off the trails. I asked the impact we were having by doing to protect the vegetation. The normal outings stay on less steep terrain and around pathways within the park, so the smaller group didn’t seem to bother him.
A light dusting of rain meant dodging wet branches and walking on the wet, spongy ground. Dressed in GoreTex and synthetic layers made for a more enjoyable foraging experience. After finding the first boletes, I was thrilled to finally say I’ve successfully foraged for mushrooms. We continued to add mushrooms to the bag Andy was carrying, which ended up with multiple boletes and chanterelles.
Being prepared, I had an extra bag to carry and was disappointed once we started seeing trash left along some of the trails. Wanting to leave less of an impact, I started picking up the trash left by others. Public service reminder: Pack in and pack out your waste and leave nature how you found it.
Walking on the trails.
What We Learned about Mushroom Foraging
1. Like flowers, mushrooms grow at certain times of the year. Mushrooms reproduce by means of spores and mycelium is the network where mushrooms grow. Mycelium needs rain to develop fruiting bodies, which makes the PNW a perfect place to find mushrooms.
2. The parts of a mushroom.
3. Types of mushrooms found in Fort Stevens:
- King Boletes (Boletus edulis) – edible.
- Boletes – edible.
- Chanterelle (Cantharellus cibarius) – edible but easy to confuse with False Chanterelles.
- Oyster Mushroom (Pleurotus ostreatus) – edible.
- Russula Species – some are edible and some are not.
- Lobster Mushroom (Hypomyces lactifluorum) – edible.
- Fly Amanita ((Amanita muscaria)) – poisonous.
- White Matsutake (Tricholoma magnivelare) – edible, but hard to find in the park.
- Prince (Agaricus augustus) – edible, but a rare find.
- Slippery Jack (Suillus luteus) – edible but best used in soups or stews.
Don’t use plastic bags. We found this out the hard way and used what we could get our hands on. Baskets, mesh, or cloth bags work best.
Cleaning and Storing Mushrooms
Some species of mushrooms should be cleaned immediately and check for slugs and other contamination, such as maggots. We had a good bounty of boletes, which we learned should have been cleaned right away and were bad by the time we arrived home (a day later).
All mushrooms should be cooked, which will release the stored water within the mushroom. Decide to whether or not you want to pretreat the mushrooms by blanching or precooking the mushrooms. If you plan on eating them right away, cook them up and serve them with your meal. Lastly, mushrooms can be preserved by drying them, which varies depending on the species.
The guided trip lasted just under two hours but felt much longer in a good way. Having more than enough to take home, we thanked Ranger Sam and went to explore Battery Russell. Battery Russell is a was built to defend the entry from the Pacific Ocean to mouth of the Columbia River.