Now that summer is gone and the rains are moving in, here are some common edible fungi you might find while exploring the Southern Oregon wilderness!
The best places to hunt for edible mushrooms would be toward the coast on the other side of the mountains to the west where there is much higher precipitation. I’ve heard reports of people finding all sorts of things like boletes, chanterelles, shaggy manes, and more! So in the spirit of the season, I thought I would write up a quick little introduction to common edible fungi. You are likely to find these in this area right now. I hope to get you aspiring mushroom hunters out into the field!
As a quick disclaimer: Mushrooms can be poisonous and even deadly. This being said, there is no reason to fear mushrooms. Edibles are often easy to distinguish once you know what to look for. You will not get sick from handling a mushroom. Do not eat any mushroom that you do not feel like you have confidently identified 100%.
Alright, let’s get to it!
These mushrooms have a pretty distinct morphology (physical appearance). They are usually yellow to orange (although there is a lot of variation) and are trumpet shaped. They have rudimentary gills which often appear more like veins running slightly decurrent down the stem. Once you see one chanterelle, start to look around because there are almost always a lot more hiding! A dangerous look-a-like is the False Chanterelle which is typically smaller than a true chanterelle and has true gills. These are found in forests, are mycorrhizal, and can associate with either hardwoods or conifers depending on the species.
Young puffballs are edible! Just cut one in half to determine age. If it is white and spongy inside, then it is good to eat!
Oyster Mushrooms (Pleurotus ostreatus)
These white-rot fungi grow on decaying logs and fallen trees, as well as on wood chips and debris. These are gilled mushrooms with white spores that often grow in clumps and do not have a true stem, although they are often elongated and look like they have a stem.
Lion’s Mane (Hericium erinaceus)
This toothed fungus is pretty easy to identify. It grows on decaying wood. I find that in the Southeastern United States, they tend to show themselves when fall approaches winter and when winter approaches spring, but in general it is thought that they are a late summer/fall mushroom. There are a few look-a-likes for this mushroom but they are edible so fret not!
The Lion’s Mane mushroom serves as a good seafood substitute!
Boletes are easy to spot as they have pores rather than gills under their caps! They are often medium to large mushrooms with a yellow, brown, or reddish colored cap. Many boletes are edible and choice, but you really will want a field guide to learn the different varieties. Some general local wisdom is to avoid red pored boletes, although other people will claim that some red pored boletes are edible. This is why, in the end you have to use a guide and identify to species!
Shaggy Mane (Coprinus comatus)
Shaggy manes (Coprinus comatus) are unique mushrooms in that they digest themselves in order to expose their spores. This results in a black “ink” at the cap margins. The shaggy scales, unique elongated bell shape, and black ink make this a fairly easy mushroom to identify. As always, use an identification guide. These could possibly be confused with other field mushrooms that are gastrointestinal irritants.
This should be enough to help get you started looking for mushrooms! When hunting, keep collected mushrooms in a basket, paper bag, or wax paper, but NEVER plastic bags. Be aware of mushroom permit regulations in parks. Be respectful and try not to over-indulge when collecting. I like to give mushroom caps a tap before collecting to try and knock out any last moment spores before carrying the mushroom from the area!
For more information about all things mushrooms, visit the educational website, www.toadstoolstreasures.com
(all pictures from Google Images)