With what AS Outdoor Center Excursions Coordinator Kelsey Ball referred to as “a super-storm of mushrooms this year,” a hype and excitement is swelling for local mushroom hunting.
Ball organized an Outdoor Center excursion to go mushroom hunting in the Chuckanuts in late October. Following the trip, Monica Tonty, the AS Environmental Center Coordinator, designed a mushroom identification workshop this past week with local mycologist, Christine Roberts in the Chuckanut Community Forest.
“I know folks in the Pacific Northwest love mushrooming and foraging for their own food, so I wanted to provide an opportunity for students like me who don’t have much experience but want to learn,” said Tonty.
Although the mushroom season is coming to an end, there still are mushrooms around that can be of use.
During the mushroom identification workshop, most of the mushrooms found were chanterelles and honey mushrooms. Chanterelles have a golden or apricot color with a fragrant odor and gill-like ridges down the sides. On the other hand mushrooms with a honey-like color that are spore gilled are honey mushrooms. They are small, rounded and can appear in groups, growing on both dead wood and living plants.
“I like the idea you can pick and eat wild mushrooms,” said Breanne Bartok, an AS Environmental Center intern. “The Environmental and Sustainability Programs is offering that chance to move past the notion everything is poisonous.”
Foraging for mushrooms requires a trained eye. Some mushrooms are poisonous and can be fatal. On the other end of the spectrum, other mushrooms can actually stimulate the immune system. Experts recommend only consuming mushrooms you find in the wild once you can confidently identify them. One tip is to make identifications based on descriptions, instead of trying to match mushrooms to pictures. If you’re trying a new mushroom, try only a small amount and wait 24 hours before digesting any more to be sure you won’t have a negative reaction.
As a liability, on the Outdoor Center hunt in the Chuckanuts, no mushroom consumption was permitted. It can be easy to make a dangerous mistake as some mushrooms can appear very similar. For example, the oyster mushroom is a cream to a light brown color with a fanlike convex shape with a fruity odor. A poisonous look-alike, the angel wings mushroom, is white and has no odor and grows on dead wood.
After collection and identification, the mushroom must be cooked before consumption. Mushrooms have a cell wall that is crafted from the same material that crab shells have been formed from, known as chitin. By cooking the mushroom, the chitin will be broken down to allow for easier consumption.
“I’m excited to sauté and eat what I collect,” said Tonty.
In order to sustain the mushrooms for the future, it’s suggested by a Washington state mushroom harvesting guide that only two-thirds of the mushroom found should be picked. When removing a mushroom from the ground, use a rock and twist, pop or cut above the ground level to minimize destruction.
“I think learning about our local natural environment is important for new students, especially if they don’t know the flora and fauna from around here,” said Ball.