This week I had the strongest urge to head into the woods and find some mushrooms. It’s full blown mushroom season in the pacific northwest, and the woods are alive with new life as the rain returns and quenches the thirst of late summer.
I was especially keen on finding some chanterelles. They didn’t appear right away, but to my surprise, the first thing I found was a king bolete. King of the forest! Porcini! Delicious, beautiful bolete! I thought it was pretty lucky, but then happened to find a few throughout our wander.
The mushroom above caught my attention, as it looked similar to a chanterelle from a distance, but on closer inspection we found it was actually a hedgehog mushroom. The giveaway is the spiny or toothy looking underside – like the body of a hedgehog.
A type of coral or club mushroom. Many of this group are edibile, but can be hard to ID (we didn’t pick any). There is a salmon-colored coral mushroom that looks a lot like this one pictured, that will dye wool a purple color!
This crazy looking bleeding mushroom was new to us both, and totally freaked us out. We thought for sure it was deadly poison (or some weird, confectionary delicacy?). This is Hydnellum Peckii, and while it’s not edible, due to it’s bitterness, it’s actually not known to be poisonous. It works symbiotically with conifers, as do many mushrooms, and plays it’s important part in the ecosystem.
When harvesting chanterelles, cutting above the stem base will allow more chanterelles to fruit in the same spot later. The beginnings of more chanterelles are contained in the stringy mycelium that connects to the mushroom base. It’s important to understand how to properly harvest mushrooms so we do not cause unnecessary harm to the delicate ecosystems we are disturbing.
While we ate dinner last night, enjoying the experience of the mushrooms we found, I said how, in many ways, it feels much more exciting to eat food that I have found in the wild than the food I have grown in our garden. It makes me feel alive and a part of things in a way that is deep and enduring. Like an animal. A part of the universe. I feel encouraged to learn to identify more of the edible plants around me. We live in such a lush and amazing place here.
Note: My main resource for mushroom identification is All That the Rain Promises and More: A Hip Pocket Guide to Western Mushrooms, by David Arora. It fits in my back pocket and is packed with PNW mushroom knowledge. As with any kind of wildcrafting of edibles, be sure you can 100% identify that the plant you pick to eat is what you think it is. And be sure to always treat the land, and the plants and animals that you encounter, with the utmost respect and care.