Imagine yourself walking through the woods on a clear autumn day. Morning dew glistens upon fir boughs as the afternoon sun filters through the canopy. The air is crisp but you can just pick out the scent of rich duff — the fallen needles, leaves, and cones now decaying on the forest floor. Turning your gaze downward, you spy a button-shaped mushroom peeking out from the dirt.
You’ve just opened a door into the magical — and immense — world of fungi.
Mushrooms play a big role in PNW culture. Many people enjoy cooking them into their favorite homemade dish, or just savoring those someone else has prepared. For others, the joy comes from experiencing nature firsthand and doing the dirty work. The hunting and harvesting, that is.
We rounded up some local resources and tips for those interested in learning more about wild edible mushrooms. But first, a quick disclaimer: Never consume anything that you aren’t 100% certain you can identify as safe.
Fall is the best time to look for edible mushrooms in Oregon. The season generally starts in late August and lasts through November — and sometimes into December. Other mushrooms, like morels, are among those that you’ll find in the spring. Notice a trend? It all hinges upon rainfall.
The mushroom foraging community is notoriously tight-lipped about sharing hunting ground locations. But all you need to know is that mushrooms grow in wooded areas — so start there. Just be sure you aren’t on private property and double-check permit rules.
Correctly identifying fungi starts with knowing how to ID trees; mushrooms often like to grow in the soft, spongy ground under Douglas firs, cedars, and evergreens. Forage with an expert in the beginning and always carry a pocket guide. Two more golden rules are to never pick very young mushrooms, and always leave some behind so they can drop spores and start the next round of growth.
Go on field trips, learn from experienced identifiers, or just grow your mycology knowledge by joining the Portland-based Oregon Mycological Society. Tap the collective wisdom of the 113,000+ members of the Pacific Northwest Mushroom Identification Forum Facebook group, or take a class at WildCraft Studio School.