Edible Mushroom Forecast – August/September
Most people who join CMS do so because they want to learn how to identify edible mushrooms and where to find them. Hopefully, over time, those who attend CMS meetings, read the CMS E-news and do some personal research soon discover there is much more to the wonders of Fungi than just consuming their fruiting body. Having said that, we decided that an “Edible Mushroom Forecast” will be a nice addition to the CMS E-News. We would like to include photos and personal experiences of CMS members. So, if you would like to contribute a photo or story, send them to firstname.lastname@example.org. We will try to make this a forward looking forecast, so submitting pictures and stories from past years around the same time is perfectly acceptable.
So, what edible mushrooms can you find in August/September? This time of year definitely lives up to the saying “Hunting for mushrooms is like an Easter Egg hunt in the woods.” Becuase, it definitely will be a hunt. But for those that are up for the challenge, your best bet is to head to the Coast for Chanterelles and Lobster mushrooms. Chanterelles started appearing in the grocery store this week at $39.99 per pound. Dustin from the Mushroomery is selling both Chanterelles and Lobster mushrooms for $5 per basket (not sure of the weight) at the Saturday Market. Early Chanterelles can be quite small, so many may think they are just not worth it. That is what Ron and I used to think. We would often go to the coast just to hike during the late summer and see “button” Chanterelles popping up along the trail. We would always pass them by. Until one Saturday in 2010 when we mentioned the small Chanterelles we had noticed to Freeman Rowe, the founder of CMS. When we recalled to Freeman that we had seen quite a few small Chanterelles while on a recent hike he responded: “You harvested them didn’t you!” We said, no, they were too small, we wanted to give them a chance to grow bigger. That is when he informed us that they would not be growing bigger. Chanterelles that pop up during the summer or more often in late August have enough moisture to get above ground, but often do not have enough moisture to do much more than that. Freeman said they will most likely just dry out and get moldy rather than grow large enough to release spores or be of any consequential size. And, that in his opinion, the small early button Chanterelles are the best. He believed their flavor was much more concentrated because they are not “watered down”. So, the next summer when we went for a Coastal hike in July, we kept our eye out and found this “big haul”. In addition to some button Golden Chanterelles, we also found some Winter Chanterelles. Certainly not enough for a banquet, but I was quite happy with the Chanterelle omelet that Ron prepared the next morning.
Warning – Be sure you “know your Chanterelles” before you harvest button ones. There is a Cortinarius mushroom that looks very similar to a button Chanterelle when it is in its button stage. Once we receive a little more rain you will also have to contend with the False Chanterelles that have become much more prevalent in our area in recent years.
If you are lucky, you may also find one of my favorite edible mushrooms, the Chicken of the Woods. The CMS Cookbook fruiting chart states they can be found from late August thru October in our area. I am pretty sure that information came from a very good source, whose online persona happens to be “Chicken of the Woods”. But, they say the “proof is in the pudding”, or in this case, in the picture to the left-top posted yesterday by CMS member Peg Boulay on Facebook. Peg and her partner Bruce Newhouse were hiking this weekend in the McKenzie watershed area at about 2000 feet when Bruce spotted a Chicken of the Woods. Although this Douglas Fir tree does not look dead, the fact that it has sprouted Chicken of the Woods tells us that it is indeed dead as Laetiporus conifericola only fruits on dead conifers. This fruiting is rather small and Peg reported it appeared to be a few weeks old and passed its prime. But, I would bet that Bruce and Peg have marked this spot for a return trip both this year (when there may be more) and in future years; as they tend to fruit in the same location for many years as the mycelium consumes the dead tree or downed log they are fruiting on. As you can see by the left-lower picture, fruitings can be quite large. Chicken of the Woods can be found both on the Coast and in the Cascades and should only be harvested and eaten when it is young, tender, and pliable. If you find a mature specimen you may be able to harvest just the outer tender edge of each of the fan-shaped brackets for consumption.
In his book Mushrooms Demystified, David Arora made this comment about Chicken of the Woods – “One of the Foolproof Four, the brilliant yellow-orange shelving masses are unmistakable. Actually, nothing is foolproof, but the Chicken of the Woods is certainly intelligence-proof, and I trust that no one reading this book is a fool!” I agree wholeheartedly, Chicken of the Woods is both amazing to find and easy to identify. However, be sure to follow the CMS recommended Edibility Guidelines when tasting this one for the first time, as some people have an allergic reaction to it.
Best for Beginners – Lobster mushrooms, Chicken of the Woods, and well-formed Chanterelles with all features visible. Yes, you should be able to find some larger ones, just follow Freeman’s advice and check under the ferns where no one else has looked. If you are new to mushroom hunting it is always best to only harvest mature mushrooms that you can easily see all of their distinctive features. Better yet, register for a CMS foray so that you can have all of the mushrooms in your basket identified.