Wild Edible Mushrooms and Truffles of Oregon
Warning: Please use common sense when it comes to mushroom hunting or any time you are in the woods. Mushrooms are great to eat but you must use caution and common sense when consuming unknown foods from the wild. Many wild edibles have toxic and even deadly look a likes and you could eat the wrong thing. It takes a good amount of research and of actual field work to know your mycology and herbology before you can just start picking wild edibles and eating them. Please be careful in the woods, wild animals are territorial and will attack if they feel threatened. Always go with more that one person and bring the proper tools, supplies, and survival gear with you. I cannot stress this enough... be careful and use common sense!
Natures Wild Harvest
As this years morel mushroom season comes to an end here in the Pacific Northwest new hunting opportunities begin in a month as chanterelles begin to pop up from the ground in late July. So I thought, why focus only on morels when there is such a multitude of delectable treats out there in the woods of Oregon. So here I will talk about these rare and prized treats that can also fetch the avid hunter a good price from those culinary experts that use them in their cooking. I will talk about how you find them, where to look, and what to watch out for when out hunting for them in the woods.
Also Visit: Hunting Southern Oregon Morel
Chanterelle Mushroom Hunting
Chanterelles (Cantharellus cibarius)
C.Formosus or the Pacific golden chanterelle grows in the Pacific Northwest woods. Also known as Oregon's state mushroom it grows in Oregon in abundance.
Habitat: Chanterelles grow in conifer and oak forests where there is plenty of moist and mossy litter growth (the ground will feel soft underfoot). They are most of the time found near wild blueberries. They like wet soil so hunting for them after a fresh rain fall in late July through October should yeild an abundance of wild chanterelles.
Season: Late July through October.
- Mature chanterelles have a funnel shape. (pick mature chanterelles)
- They have a solid stem.
- The ridges are visible.
- They grow in groups not in clusters and they are ground mushrooms and grow near trees! (Jack-o-Lantern mushrooms are toxic and grow where there may not be trees.)
- The mushroom does not bruise or change color when handled.
- The color is egg yolk colored and is uniform all over the mushroom.
- Always cook them before eating.
- The mushroom has a pleasant almond or apricot smell to it.
Spore Print: Yellow
Note: Jack o Lantern Mushrooms are a toxic look a like, do not harvest any chanterelles that are a darker orange! Jacks can be identified by the appearance of false gills (gills that are forked and part of the solid cap.)
The California King Bolete (Boletus edulis var. grandedulis)
The California King Bolete grows in the Pacific Northwest woods from California to Oregon.
Habitat: These mushrooms grow in the ground not near trees. They have a sponge like tubed surface on the underside of their cap where spore pores are located.
There are not poisonous. if you do find an unknown bolete it will be safe as long as it does not bruise blue once being cut or if it is not red in the tube like gill area under the cap. Boletes can reach massive proportions, and can be identified by a pored surface that is brown to slightly reddish. The caps are affected by the amount of light it is grown under when it is developing, and may range from white in young shrooms that grow under thick forested canopy, to a dark-brown to red-brown or yellowish brown in those specimens receiving more light
Season: September through November.
- The cap is wood like brown, to an earth like brown, to a dark red brown.
- The color does not change when cut.
- The underside of the cap is tubal.
Spore Print: Brown
Morel Mushrooms (Morchella)
Oregon morels range in color from dark black morels to lighter more blondish morels. Morels grow from Northern California into Washington.
Habitat: Morels grow in burn areas or in conifer forests in the litter areas of moss or undergrowth of the forest canopy. They can be found throughout the forest after a fresh rain and a steady temperature rise of about 16 degrees. Though hard to spot once you find one they are easier to find.
Season: April through June
- The cap of a morel is pitted and has a sponge like network.
- The cap is connected to the stock of the morel.
- Morels have a hollow stock.
Spore Print: Cream to Yellow
Note: False Morels or Verpa Bohemica are highly toxic! These false morels have a fibrous stock. The top is slightly attached to the stock and falls off easily.
Oyster Mushrooms (Pleurotus ostreatus)
The Oyster Mushroom grows on the sides of trees. It is one of the only carnivorous mushrooms in the world as it eats small microscopic insects called nematodes by using it's mycelia. The Oyster Mushroom also helps to fight cholesterol since it produces a chemical called levostatin.
Habitat: Oyster mushrooms grow on deciduous trees and beech trees and act as a docomposer of wood. Look for them on the surface of dead hardwood trees.
- They are scallop shaped like the name suggest.
- They have the smell of anise.
- They grow in shelf like patterns on the sides of trees.
- They quickly grow back and can be picked from the same spot two to three times a season.
Spore Print: White
Note: No known poisonous look a likes in North America!
American Matsutake (Tricholoma magnivelare)
Also called the Pine mushroom grows in the Pacific Northwest. It grows in coniferous forests and likes the tops or crests of hills, and slopes in association with Ponderosa pine trees and Madrone trees.
Habitat: These mushrooms grown in sandy soil just below the litter zone of the forest floor. You can find them by lifting the litter and exposing the mushroom. Older Matsutakes will create bumps in the soil.
Trees in Association:
Shasta Red Fir
- They smell spicy but a little bit foul; think red hots the candy and dirty socks.
- They are white when young but begin to brown as they age.
- Younger Matsutakes have partly veiled gills that later become a stype that rings the stalk.
Spore Print: White
Note: Do not pick these mushrooms without being able to identify them because of poisonous look a likes!
Truffle Hunting in Oregon
What are Truffles?
Truffles are underground growing versions of mushrooms. They have no prominent stem and their spore surfaces are on the inside. It takes animals to find and eat them to distribute their spores, instead of the wind like mushrooms. Truffles resemble small potatoes, and often between the size of a marble and a golf ball. Truffles (and mushrooms) are only the "fruit" of the fungus the main body is a web of filamentous hyphae in the soil that are connected to the roots of trees; these are essential to the trees so they can acquire nutrients. The belowground fruiting habit of truffles is thought to be an adaptation to forest fires, drought, and frost in which aboveground mushrooms are more vulnerable.
How to find Truffles:
- The easiest way to find Truffles is to have a truffle dog; trained truffle dogs can smell the truffles even though they grow under the ground.
- Deer will often dig at the ground around trees where truffles grow to kick them out and eat them. Look for disturbed litter near trees in the forest.
- Use a rake to pull back the litter layer and the earth to expose truffles just underneath.
Oregon Black Truffle (Leucangia carthusiana)
- These dark coal like truffles have a distinctive smell of tropical fruit or pineapple.
Season: Winter Months
Oregon White Truffle (Tuber oregonense)
- They have a very strong garlic smell.
Seasons: Winter (smaller variety in size), Spring (larger variety)
Hunting WIld Mushrooms
Before you just head on out into the North-Woods with little but a bucket and a butter-knife we should take a look at the types of materials you should have and what you should bring with you.
What to Bring:
- Water - Always have bottled water or a canting of fresh water with you. I keep bottles of water in the trunk of my vehicle as well. Hiking in the woods can be very physically taxing especially when you are not used to that kind of physical activity. Dehydration is a killer and water will save your life.
- Compass, Maps, or GPS - When out in the woods it is easy to get lost. Always bring a compass
and have maps of the area you are in (you can get these types of terrain maps at any BLM office in your area). With your eyes pinned to the
ground you can get lost easily. The forest canopy can make it easy to
get turned around and you can lose your bearings real fast. Know where
you are and travel in a group of people. Knowing how to use a compass,
having maps, or even better having a GPS can save your life.
- Pocket Knife, Small shovel, or a Three Pronged Rake (truffle hunting) - A pocket knife to cut the shrooms from their stocks or base. You cut them just below the base of the cap and leave the stock. Small hand shovels or trawls can be used to dig out certain kinds of shrooms such as King Boletes. Three pronged rakes are used when hunting truffles near the base of trees.
- Mesh Bags, Wax Paper, and Paper With White and Black Lines for Spore Prints -
Mesh bags are great because they allow for mushroom spores to drop as you
trek through the forest back to your vehicle. It also allows for the
fungus to breath and not spoil like they do in buckets. Wax paper allows you to wrap your specimens up to keep them nice for the trip back to your vehicle. White and Black lined paper can allow you to identify a mushroom by placing the cap of the shroom onto the paper and covering it in wax paper for about an hour. When you return the shroom cap will have dropped the spores onto the paper showing the coloration and pattern of a print. With your field guide you can identify the shroom by this spore print in most cases. Use a field guide that tells or shows you about spore-prints! If in doubt though, through it out!
- Long Sleeved Clothes, and Head Cover
- Long sleeves are a good idea when out in the forest because of where
mushrooms grow in thickets and in deep brush. With all the nasty bugs like
ticks and sharp sticks it is a good idea to remain covered. Wear boots
or good footwear when out in the forest as well since you will be in
- Emergency Kit with Snake Bite Kit - Always have an emergency kit that you have in your vehicle and one that you carry with you. I have a backpack that I carry my emergency kit in. In the kit I have emergency blankets, a compass, maps, wound closure supplies, antiseptics, clean water, poison oak treatment, a snake-bite kit, mosquito spray, pepper spray, dry matches and lighters, an LED light, a whistle, and a rope. I know that seems like an awful lot to carry but it really isn't, there is less than 10 pounds of material here and it could save a life. You can also bring energy bars which is a good idea if you are going to be in the woods for hours on end like I am, just remember to carry out your trash!
- Mushroom Field Guide - Having one of these books is essential when hunting wild mushrooms and it can help you identify the types of mushrooms you come across. There are many different species and many of them grow wild in the woods and many of them look alike. Having a field guide can help you find the mushrooms you may want to grab on your hunt! If it is your first time or you are not experienced and out alone for the first time hunting I recommend you use one of these guides for sure. It is best to go with someone who knows what to look for and has mushroom hunted before, you don't want to risk your life on getting the wrong kind of shroom! Find a guide that has information on spore prints and that gives good details on markings and growth habitats.
- Other Stuff - Bells - Yes bells help animals know you are coming and they will run when they hear you. It is much better to scare a bear away at a distance than it is to walk up on one by accident.
- Dogs - Dogs trained in identifying truffles can sniff out this treat since they have a strong smell. Dog activity can also discourage any unwanted wild animals from approaching you and keep you safe.