My friend and I went morel hunting last week on the Eastern slopes of the Cascades near Leavenworth. After searching many miles of forest service roads, we were humbled by the elusiveness of our prey. However, I did find three new (to me) edible mushrooms as a consolation.
By far, the easiest mushroom to spot was the puffball. These white mushrooms, mostly the size of a softball or grapefruit, clearly stood out in the middle of the fields. Puffballs are edible if they are pure white inside but must be differentiated from young Amanita mushrooms that may have a similar appearance. My puffball was Calbovista subsculpta, which is characterized by the warts on its thick cover. Although several references stated this puffball was edible, I found it to be bitter tasting and not something I want to try again.
The second mushroom I found, was a yellow coral mushroom, a Ramaria species. This ground-dwelling mushroom looks like a buried yellow cauliflower. It was a pain to clean because its numerous stalks trapped all sorts of soil debris. But it was worth the effort. Sauteed in butter and garlic, it had a nice nutty flavor.
The final mushroom, a slippery jack (Suillus brevipes), was the best tasting of the three. In contrast to the previous two mushrooms, this one was hard to find. Typically, the mushroom was partly buried under a thin mat of pine needles and its brown color provided good camouflage from harvesters.
Mushroom hunting is a great way to stay active and get out into the forests. Of course, before you start salivating, make sure all mushrooms you intend to eat are verified by trusted mushroom experts first.