by Brady Raymond
Cold frosty nights usually spells the end for most mushroomers, but the observant are still rewarded with a plethora of fungal finds. 2017 may not go down as “the year” at least in our neck of the woods but I have valued each moment spent outdoors with my family and have enjoyed very much what nature offered up to us this year. Although the inevitable cold wet months of winter have yet to set in, the general gloom and sulk of it all are lessened by thoughts of spring and of course, Morels.
The cold weather doesn’t have to be the end of your season, there are plenty of rotten, moldy slimy mushroom carcasses to be found under wet leaves and amongst saturated duff. Good luck identifying any of them. There are also conks and other persistent woody fungal fruitbodies, scattered through the forest and parks. Thankfully, cold weather is relative, and often times what folks around here complain about, folks in other parts would laugh at as being considered cold. Truth is, winters around the Puget Sound are fairly mild and as long as it gets above freezing during the day, I think it’s worth keeping your eyes open, ready to spot any frosty mushrooms that make themselves apparent.
The two mushrooms on the left were found down the road from my house. The mushroom on the right is one from my yard. Are they the same?
by Brady Raymond
This article is intended as a preseason metaphysical mushrooming warm up. As our summer edges closer to the inevitable rains of fall, I think it is important that we get our heads right. What follows is my attempt at explaining to myself something about mushrooms. What that is and if it is of any value to the reader is for them to decide.
You don’t have to put a name on a mushroom to understand a mushroom. Putting a name on it only identifies it, understanding a mushroom is a whole different thing. Names help when communicating with other people about a given mushroom, but if you’re trying to understand it from a name alone good luck.
Experience only comes with time, the more time you spend with mushrooms the more you will start to understand them. To fully grasp mushrooms takes time, and as your experience grows so too will your perception of the patterns which associate with fungi. However, many patterns as soon as they start to form become disrupted, but if you broaden the scope of your perception, you may see the same or similar patterns start to reemerge.
When you can instinctively calculate the patterns around you and benefit from understanding them to find more mushrooms, you know you have moved from a novice to a novice+1. It’s a long way to go to get to expert and there is a kind of scientific inflation if you want to get to pro. Though, for many of us being a novice+1 is sufficient enough for what we hope to achieve.
Having a hunch may just be your brain telling you it is recognizing a pattern. In a spot like this, what have you got to lose poking around a bit?
Thanks to Sweta Agrawal for sharing some snapshots of her success this season finding the “Spring King.” Persistence is key when trying to locate this mushroom. It seems that you have to check your spots regularly and catch them just at the right moment if you want to have any real success.
Keeping things simple like the salad pictured above is a great way to enjoy the more subtle flavors of this enigmatic mushroom. On the other hand, you can get quite decadent. If you were lucky enough to find as plentiful of patches as Sweta you can try all sorts of recipes.
Having not found any Boletus rex-veris myself I can’t comment much on distinguishing features. I have a feeling though, that if you have found Boletus edulis in the fall and saw one of these Ceps during spring growing in front of you, alarms would sound and the hunt would be on. Names and seasons aside a Porcini is a Porcini.
Some specimens grow quite large and will be enough for a few meals. But remember, the more you pick the more you’ll have to clean. Always clean your mushrooms in the field as best possible. Doing so makes kitchen chores much more enjoyable. Also, make sure to check for bugs in the field by cutting your mushrooms in half. Remove buggy areas immediately. The bugs will continue eating the mushroom, even after being picked and wreak havoc after a long ride home from the mountains.
If you didn’t find any Spring Kings don’t fret yet. The season is not over for Boletes and Boletus edulis the fall cousin of Boletus rex-veris will be fruiting later this year. So read up and scout some locations while out hiking this summer.
You found some mushrooms but can you find your car? A quick jaunt in the woods can quickly turn into an ominous trek through the wilderness if you don’t pay attention to where you are.
by Wren Hudgins
Wild mushroom foraging may not seem like a dangerous hobby, but there are real risks involved here, as there are in most outdoor activities. Few people would argue that the freedom of not wearing a car seat belt outweighs the safety of wearing one, but people do make their own choices. The point is that there is general recognition that certain preventive behaviors can minimize risk, although not eliminate it. Mushroomers tend to walk off trail and through the woods, so there is always a risk of tripping and falling or otherwise injuring yourself far from your car or the nearest first aid kit. However, by far the greatest danger is getting lost and spending much more time in the woods than you had planned. The quality of that extra time in the woods will vary from life threatening to miserable to merely inconvenient, depending on how prepared you are. A friend of mine is an officer for the Snohomish County Search and Rescue and he thinks that in 2016 there were three lost foragers in Snohomish and Pierce counties, all of which involved extended stays in the forest, in one case overnight, but all three were found. None of the three were adequately prepared. We don’t have numbers on this but there may have been other foragers who were lost but who were adequately skilled and prepared such that they never had to call search and rescue. (BTW, Search and Rescue teams do not charge for being called – at least in WA state)
When you find a bunch of Morels in a small area make sure to mark it on your GPS. Erin and I have some reliable patches that seem to produce each year.
by Brady Raymond
How do you thank those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country? As folks barbecued with friends and family this past weekend or in my case mushroom hunted, I hope we all took a moment to reflect on the freedoms we have to do these things and the lives that were lost to protect those freedoms. Since I can’t thank those who were lost in the line of duty I would like to thank those who are currently serving and those who have served in the past. Thank you, your service does not go unnoticed by this author.
For the last five years, Erin and I have taken part in what may be the premier mushrooming foray in the Pacific Northwest, maybe even the country. As we arrived at our destination, thoughts of the Morel season coming to a close were on our minds. Things had been dry over the last week and as we all know “dry” is the enemy of fungi. What would we find this weekend? Would we find anything at all?
Erin took this picture with her phone. It’s incredible what phones can do these days, maybe some day genetic testing in the field will be possible.
by Brady Raymond
- 5-19-17 – 5-20-17
- 70 degrees, sunny
Things are heating up and Morels are popping. Erin, our daughter, the dog and I headed out for an overnight mushrooming mini adventure and we were not disappointed. Over the two days we spent looking, we gathered around 120 Morels totaling 2lbs almost exactly, not bad for naturals considering we had a small child and a dog who is more of a trail dog than a hunting companion.
On Friday we hit up a trail in one of our spots and within a minute or two I had already picked my first Morel. It didn’t take long to find the next few either. I hopped off the trail expecting to find Morels everywhere but to my surprise, I found zilch. There were a few spots of snow in the shade but for the most part, it was gone. I’m assuming the trail itself received more sunlight thus was a bit warmer than the surrounding woods. We were at 4000ft. and up here it was still getting quite cold at night.
We continued down the trail happily picking Morels along its edges for a quarter mile or so. As the trail gained in elevation the mushrooms were fewer and further apart. After a hundred yards of finding nothing, we turned around. We wondered how many we would spot on the way back and were greeted by a number of these shifty fungi we had somehow missed. It doesn’t take much for a Morel to be obscured from sight, it only takes a leaf or branch to hide it from you. Erin spotted a number of them that I had walked right by as she walked behind me, no doubt due in part to the discrepancy of height between the two of us.
by Brady Raymond
- 50 degrees, partial sun to drizzle-light rain
I have a problem, I’m addicted to Morels. Erin and I have put some serious miles down the last two weekends, driving up and down mountain passes and zig zagging our way through forest service roads. The urge is unbearable, one that is only quelled slightly by the meager yields we have so far harvested. Twenty-one Morels this weekend, that brings our total for the season of twenty-eight.
“Brady” I said to myself “it’s not a competition, relax, enjoy the hunt.” But, it is a competition and I’m at twenty-eight. Lots of people have found more than me, and they laugh at my season total. These folks have accumulated more weight in spores than I have in the spore bearer. There is a good chance though that the average person among me has found none and I relish in this fact.
Mushroom hunting isn’t really a competition but anyone who’s done it knows how guarded and secretive you get when questioned about the subject. I imagine that this traces back to ancient times, to protect what is yours and when you poses so few things it would seem this behavior may be stronger especially when regarding something so tantamount to survival as a food source.
Just fry them up already!
by Brady Raymond
- 55 degrees
They’re here, they’re here! I have officially found my first Morel of the season, seven to be more precise and they were as delicious as I had remembered. I can still taste their delectable flavor and can rest easy in knowing that the essence of the Morel now resides in my body, helping to build the future me. We have bonded, man and fungus. Wait, I’m not sure if that sounds right but it is essentially true, this is a fungal infection I hope sticks around for a while.
by Kim Traverse, PSMS President
Lichen study might pass for exoteric if it weren’t that lichens are almost everywhere- on the sidewalks and streets we use daily, on the walls and trunks of trees that we walk past, clinging to the branches of those trees and on shrubs. From the shore to the top of mountain peaks, lichens coat the rocks and sometimes cover the ground. They are part of every ecosystem except the deep sea and can live in the harshest places on the planet- the driest, the coldest, the hottest- at least one grows underwater.
A False Morel, Verpa bohemica often time fruit just before Morels do
by Brady Raymond
- 55 degrees
My expectations weren’t too high setting out this last Saturday, but I had an inkling that fungi flourished on the Eastern slope of the Cascades. Many of my friends and family were finding Morels back in Southern Michigan and that got the bug in me enough to head out and poke around a few of our regular spots. We decided to gauge what conditions were like at 1800-2800ft. east of the pass. The temperature still seemed a bit cool but moisture levels seemed good.