Out of the meager harvest from the woods walk the other day, I was able to enjoy half of the fresh chanterelles and hedgehogs, the other half was set aside for future use.
The mushrooms were cleaned, chopped and placed in a saute pan. A quick sear made the mushrooms start to release their moisture.
As soon as I could see the moisture, I removed the mushrooms from the heat. Half of the mushrooms were spooned with the liquid into a mini cupcake pan (the silicone rubbery pans make the process to release easy without the need for any added grease or oil).
The frozen mushroom pods are popped out and placed in a zip bag. The bags store well in the freezer for use throughout the winter and into the spring and summer months. One, two or three can be added to soups, stew and casseroles.
The other half of the sauteed mushrooms were added to a butter sauce and served over steamed rice for dinner.
It has not been a very productive mushroom season this year. First it was way too dry, then once the rains came it brought a cold front that hampered growing. Before the fungi could get growing again, very heavy rains beat the fragile stems to pulp.
With the forecast calling for freezing weather during the next week, I took one last foray into the woods for what will most likely be the last of the mushroom crop for this year.
Pickings were slim and the chanterelles that I did find were small and very water-logged. There is enough to make a good meal, but that is about all.
I did however, find a few hedgehog mushrooms during my search.
I found a clear picture on The Mushroom Forager webpage,
Hedgehogs are more rare to find than the chanterelle. They are usually found a little later in the season and they don’t seem to get as water-logged as the chanterelles.
Hedgehogs are not prolific and are very particular about where they grow. I know of three different patches on our property and they can usually be found in their patches each year, but I have never found more than ten in any particular patch.
The ones I found are dwarfed by the single chanterelle that is at the bottom of the picture.
They are a real treat and the only hedgehogs that I have found this year.
A walk into the forest did yield a handful of Chanterelle mushrooms. The rain we have had in the last week will force the fungi to send new ‘fruit’ to the surface and I expect that we will see a more plentiful walk in a few days.
When talking to professional mushroom hunters, they refer to the old adage of 10 days after a good rain of an inch or more.
Here on the farm we had only amassed an inch of rain in the whole month of September so it was a surprise to find any at all while I looked through the woods. This treat just makes my mouth water for better gathering.
I found an odd looking mushroom as I was lifting some firewood from the bottom row and came across this ugly duckling of a specimen.
At first I thought it was a salamander hiding out along the ground because of the glossy, wet-look, but all the rounded bumps didn’t fit into description. The base of the mushroom is mottled white from another musty mushroom living off it.
As far as I have been able to figure, this vegetation would be part of the false morel family and is not edible. That is just fine with me, it doesn’t look that appetizing anyway.
I had the chance to walk up the hill with my little white bucket to see if the cold weather was actually enough to freeze the Chanterelle mushrooms that were so plentiful this year.
I saw many mushrooms but when I touched them I found them to be nothing more than mush after getting frozen and thawed several days.
The mushroom hunting season is officially over for the year. Or so I thought. A friend of mine believes that I should train one of my dogs to be a truffle hunter.
I am skeptical, but I now have some white and black truffles for the dog to sniff and find. I am keeping them in the fridge for now and give them fresh paper towels each day to stay fresh. I have noticed a wonderful sweet smell that the truffles give off when they are ripe. This is the smell that the dogs find under the carpet of needles below fir canopies.
I may have to have help on training me to attempt training a dog. I’m not sure I have the patience for this.
A cousin of mine had recently spent some time visiting along the Oregon Coast and ran into my go-to-mushroom-guy Park Ranger Dane Osis at Fort Stevens during a mushroom forage training class. The cousin wanted to learn more so gave us a call and asked to go hunting with us.
Since we were going to have a newbie with us on the hike, we also invited a couple of experts who have hunted wild mushrooms across many states. With lots of clothes on and heavy hiking boots trying to weigh us down, we headed up hill.
It was exciting to get the chance to point out the environments that make the Chanterelle mushrooms so abundant in this area. The first mushroom that he found on his own was celebrated by the whole group.
Deeper into the woods we found several species that our experts harvested so that we try to get them positively identified once we were done with the hunt.
Bolete, hedgehog and hen of the woods were some of the other edibles that we had come across during our walk. This large white mushroom was a stumper and we were not able to come to a positive identification.
The outing was a great success with the newbie and the experts getting their buckets full of fresh wild mushrooms.
Now I have to find someone to clean the harvest.
With all the commercial harvesting we have done over the last half century, we have seen some whopper mushrooms but the one Mike found is the heaviest we have come across in recent years.
That is one of my dinner forks sitting next to the large mushroom just as it came out of the woods. The base was two inches thick and it weighed a full pound.
It was hard to get all the dirt and fir needles removed so I had to break off some of the floppy edges in order to prepare it.
Cutting through the stem felt like cutting through a meaty steak.
Since I already had mushrooms in the dinner casserole and this one was broken into pieces during the cleaning process, I cut it into slices and laid it in the dehydrator. The single mushroom filled two trays and that was squishing them in to fit.
This will good addition to a soup or stew during the winter months.