This has been an idea in my head for years…. Hunting Mushrooms. I find that my passion for foraging just grows year after year. I spend more and more of my free time in the woods looking for wild edible foods. This year my son bought me two mushroom hunter guide books for Christmas. He bought them after a conversation we had about how we should take up the hobby so that we can spend more time in the woods in the summer. Summer is our OFF season, trout fishing is over and deer hunting is not in season, so we really had no reason to go into the woods in July. That all changed a couple of weeks ago when we began Chanterelle mushroom hunting for ourselves.
With help and encouragement from my husband’s friend Mark Metzger, Tom and I took off on a Saturday morning to a woods that my husband has hunted for years. We had photos and seen real examples of the mushroom we were looking for. We read where these tasty morsels grew but you never really know what you will find until you try. Our hopes were high that the mushroom hunt would fill our bags, we were not disappointed. We ended up with about two pounds if bright yellow flesh ready to eat.
Here is a photo of our friend Mark with a mushroom of a life time,a portion of a 100 pound “Chicken of the Woods” mushroom found in a drainage ditch while at work. Working for the DOT sometimes has its advantages…
It was this photo and story that pushed me into this new adventure. I wanted to see, find and eat something like this. I knew that edible mushrooms were just waiting for me to find and enjoy them. We started off looking for some of the easiest to identify wild mushrooms so that we were sure to stay safe and get an easy start on this new project.
Our first steps were to pack up for the trip. I read and reread the ways to ID the Chanterelle, the mushroom type we wanted to find. We packed several “green” grocery bags, a roll of paper towels, a couple of pocket knives and water bottles. We all dresses very comfortable yet in jeans. This time of year you tramp through wild roses and brier batches along every hill-side. We did not travel along pathways or trails, we brush busted through groves and thickets. I also took along our “for beginners” identification book just in case of confusion and of course my camera.
It took Tom, Christopher and I several minutes to get to the proper location for chanterelles. They only grown in the darkest part of the woods under mostly oak trees. To find an area with the correct environment took about an hour of hiking.
We past thousands of mushrooms that morning of every color, style and size. One of the most interesting ones was this beauty, possibly a Morgan mushroom.
Since we were not totally sure what this thing was we left it to grow and just took a photo of it. I at some time hope to use the photos in paintings and drawings.
The grove we found our mushrooms in is old and thick. The canopy was full, making the ground dark and damp, very little vegetation lived on the ground. Only the wondering grape vines and the yellow of the chanterelle were visable.The chanterelle’s bright yellow trumps are hard to miss in the dark of the woods. We literally passed from one level to another on the hillside picking as we move down. Of course I was so excited to see the little guys I forgot to stop and take a picture of the hill-side covered with little yellow flower like mushrooms (live and learn). We ended up with about two pounds of mushrooms from this location. We also left some of the smaller ones for later and to make sure that the spores dropped on the ground for the next generation of chanterelle.
Also while wondering in the woods, we found another type of edible mushroom in a random passing of dead trees called boletes. I collected them also but made sure not to mix the mushrooms in the same bag and rapped each in a paper towel to remove some of the moister that was on all of the mushrooms. Some were still water-logged from the weeks of rain we had just gotten through. This type of mushroom also has no gills but has the shape of any common mushroom, but it does have a more flattened cap and velvety appearance.
We brought home about 6 Bolete mushrooms and was able to identify them as Bragger’s Boletes and will look for them again when we head out next time.
The most popular mushrooms that also grow in West Virginia are Morels. They are an easy to spot spring mushroom that also grows in the dark oak groves of the Appalachian mountains. Tom and I did not have time this year to pursue hunting them but our friend Mark was able to find some. We have added this to the list of things we hope to do next spring.
Edible mushrooms are fun to collect, spending a day off in the woods is refreshing, but it is even more enjoyable to eat what you have found. I have always been a fan of trying new things in the kitchen so cooking up a batch of wild mushrooms is not hard. Tom, Bill(a family friend) and I cleaned and fried up our treasure in flour and butter.I added a little salt and pepper for flavor cooked them over low heat. The taste was a rich and strong mushroom flavor… and they melted in you mouth. I really wonderful way to start a meal.
I can’t really put into words what it is that I love so much about foraging for food. It is like treasure hunting for me. I get an idea about what I want to find and some how God and the earth provides me a place and time of year to find it. I enjoy my time in the wilderness it recharges and invigorates me. Foraging also allows us to see lots of wild life. On this trip to the woods we found a spotted fawn, several song birds, what Tom and I believe was a Bob Cat sleeping in a tree and lots of squirrels. What a wonderful way to spend time with those you love,sharing time in the woods, finding wonderful treasures, then taking them home to eat a fun meal together. Dose life really get any better than this?