The rain is here, and my pace is slow. I am getting lost in the woods with alarming frequency. Its mushroom season; I am completely distracted. My fervour hit a ridiculous peak last week on a sunset run, three kilometres left to go, boletus in both hands and a bumper crop of lobsters stuffed down my sports bra. I just couldn’t leave them behind. I probably should have. Note to self- a mushroom filled shirt is not an appropriate training incentive. Complete discomfort. Until I start to train for a 50k and need to learn to cope better with self-induced pain, I am not doing that again. This morning I almost crashed my car thinking I spotted a pile of chanterelles on the side of the road. Again, dumb. But, the point is that this is an exciting time of year where one can move away from doom over impending centimetres of rain towards thrill in finding delicious dinner intact in the woods. Because, more rain equals more mushrooms. More mushrooms equals a woman possessed.
The silly part of all of this is that I don’t actually like eating mushrooms very much. I like them in gravy. I like them in this soup. I like to look at them rotting in the fridge. I mostly like how quietly meditative I become during the process of finding them. Deep primal focus. The here and now of feeding oneself in one of the oldest known ways.
Whatever your mushroom style, here are a few photos of three easily identified edible fungi that are prolific right now. There are so many others about to show up-honeys, oysters, hedgehogs, and corals-that I will show you when I find them. And, if this rocks anyone’s boat, perhaps in a future post I will go into fundamentals of mushroom identification and collection. For now, please (please!) don’t do anything crazy. Learn your local mushrooms from someone knowledgeable, or from a reputable book like “All that the rain promises and more.” Take spore prints. But, if you are careful, you don’t have to be afraid.
Bolete: A non-gilled mushroom that is almost impossible to sell commercially, as it depends on trees to survive and cannot be grown on compost or manure. It is most delicious dry-fried with a little butter and lemon at the end. It dries poorly. If you find a patch once, it will most likely be there again as boletus are what is known as “mycorrhizal” or, symbiotic with specific trees.
Chanterelles: Chanterelles are so delicious. They smell slightly of apricot. They often grow together in clumps in douglas fir zones, and prefer older trees to newer cuts. After much secret interrogation of the mushroom man at the Squamish farmer’s market, apparently they are easiest found right now around 500 meters sea level! Also, check out transition areas- river bottoms are too wet, cliffs too steep, but that curvy area right near the top of a stream valley? Perfect chanterelle land. Chanterelles also love moss. They cook beautifully as long as you do not rinse them in water: always dust off mushrooms, never soak.
Lobster: Lobster mushrooms are actually parasitic of other mushrooms. Sometimes it is hard to identify the base species. However- at least in the Pacific Northwest- whatever the lobster mushroom parasite takes over is edible. This makes the finished product ok to cook. There are some good recent studies on this, but if you trust me, go ahead because holy, its the best.
*Note: I had an email from a reader reminding me that yes, mushroom picking can be really dangerous (even fatal) if you are not careful. Please don’t take my photos as a mushroom guide; only a reminder that these are available now if you have the information to safety identify and pick them. As a general rule, I only eat what I have triple safety checked three times-from someone who knows, from a book/internet, and from a spore print in the past. I also stay away from the “white” ones and random browns, because I find them harder to figure out…….