Ladies and gentleman start your engines

You’ve often heard “Start your Engines” to express the start of something big, or at least to imply it’s going to be something big. “Let’s play ball”, “And their off and running”, and who can forget Sherlock Holmes famous expression, “Come, Watson, come!, the game is afoot”.

Unfortunately, in the realm of mushrooming there is no standard idiom designating the start of the season or even the start of an organized mushroom hunt. No one says “And the mushrooms are off and running”,  or “Now, let’s beat the bushes”. It’s not that the enthusiasm isn’t there or that the activity isn’t exciting to those that participate. So, I can only conclude that mushroom hunting doesn’t need all the hype and hysteria associated with sporting events. We don’t need the buildup, loud broadcasters, or instant slow-mo replays suspending someone in space as an opponent slams them from behind. Mushrooming doesn’t require helmets, body armor, or special uniforms. Happily, ours is a friendly activity that everyone can participate in and be successful at. So where am I going with all of this? I don’t really know but all my rambling is allowing me to get my monthly Mushroom of the Month articles off to a running start.

 Actually, I was trying to get around to telling you that “The mushrooms  are off and running”. Our late summer mushroom season has been energized by cooler temperatures and sporadic rainfall events. Oregonians have been finding edibles in areas that have been receiving on and off moisture from rain and/or fog events for several weeks.

The classic trinity of Chanterelle, Lobster, and Bolete are popping up in those moisture laden areas. And now with our early September streak of great rain accumulation, more areas are beginning to fruit. Our backyard weather gage showed over two inches of accumulation in North Santa Clara. The general wisdom is, it takes a few weeks for a dry area to begin mushroom fruiting once a good rainfall has started there. The rain needs time to penetrate the surface and get deep enough for the various fungi to spring into action. After a mostly dry summer, every water loving organism in the woods is trying to suck up as much moisture as possible so there is lots of competition on and under the soil. It is also more difficult for rain to penetrate closely planted trees that create dense canopies. Fortunately, our early September rain event is generous and widespread enough to compensate for most woodland situations. The last time we had this kind of September weather was in 2013, which turned out to be an amazing mushroom season until multiple December freezes brought most things to a halt.

A late August coastal hike happily became a mushroom picking event as well. It started when I spotted an orange and yellow beacon glowing through the woods, aha a Chicken of the Woods, Sandy shouted. It wasn’t like we were tripping over mushrooms that day, it was more like your classic Easter egg hunt. But, it was also a nice change from all things gardening to get back into the woods and enjoy the fresh forest air and feel the spongy soil under our feet. Not to go all Zen on you, but a walk in the forest is definitely refreshing for both mind and body. Health researchers are now touting the many benefits of spending time in the great outdoors. So, break out and dust off your mushroom field guides, grab your basket and harvesting tools, call, text, or email some hiking buddies and head out to a spot that has been getting some of these great early September rains. And at the start of your mushroom hunt don’t forget to yell out “Now, let’s beat the bushes”. But don’t literally beat them, just move them gently aside. Mushroom hunting is not meant to be a full contact sport. Stay safe and happy hunting.

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