I’ve been interested in mushroom hunting for a long time but haven’t acted on it until now. Fall, as all good NW fishermen know, is prime time for salmon fishing and everything else is secondary. But I finally decided to learn mushrooming this fall. Many mushroom experts recommend that newbies start with the Pacific NW chanterelle, one of the most popular edible mushrooms in this region. The chanterelle is fairly distinctive and can be reliably identified with a little practice.
I started my chanterelle hunt a few weeks ago when the first fall rains began in Western Washington. Sadly, my first four exploratory trips all ended in little more than disappointment and wet shoes. On one of the trips, I did find a bunch of chanterelle lookalikes that ended up being false chanterelles. Chanterelles have primitive gills whereas false chanterelles and other mushrooms have true gills that are thin and well formed. Primitive gills appear as ridges or folds on the undersurface of the mushroom. True chanterelles also have solid stems rather than hollow ones.
My luck changed today. While hiking in a mixed conifer forest less than an hour from my house, I spotted a couple of yellow specks at the base of a towering Douglas fir tree. Brushing away a thin layer of needles and soil debris, I excitedly uncovered a small cluster of golden chanterelles. It was like catching my first fish on a fly rod. I knew it could be done but didn’t really believe it until I was able to do it myself. After getting a definitive ID from a mushroom expert, I sauteed my new forest friends for dinner. I’m hoping that these will be the start of many more successful mushroom hunting forays.