For most of my life, I despised mushrooms. I hated the taste and color of mushrooms, but most of all I hated their slimy texture. I viewed mushrooms as an obstacle between me and a delicious slice of pepperoni pizza.
Granted, I had good reasons for hating mushrooms. When I was a kid, I ate a small handful of mushrooms I found growing in the backyard. My mom freaked out, naturally, and had me take some sort of medication that forced me to puke up all the potentially poisonous mushrooms. It was not my finest hour. In fact, I remember the whole experience was absolutely miserable.
That day, I decided I hated mushrooms and I never looked back.
Fast forward 20+ years and I am now living in Oregon. I am married to a mushroom-loving Oregonian. Mushrooms grow like weeds in Oregon, so I am literally surrounded. Eventually, I gave in. I can actually remember the first bite of a mushroom I tried that I actually liked. It was a morel that had been sauteed in a bit of butter — and it was nothing like those sad, grey mushrooms slivers I habitually pick off my pizza. It was meaty and dense, full of flavor and texture. It was delicious.
And now, I find myself wandering in the woods in search of wild mushrooms. I’m that person. (To be fair, I still don’t get mushrooms on my pizza. Old habits die hard, I suppose.) I have been converted to the wonderful world of mushrooms, and there is no looking back.
Here’s the thing, I am very new to the world of mushroom hunting. I am no expert, by any stretch of the imagination. But, I think that foraging for mushrooms is a blast and I thought I’d share a few tips and tricks with you all.
The first rule when hunting for mushrooms, is know thy mushroom. Do your homework! Buy an identification guide. Before you go picking (and eating!) wild mushrooms, you should know what you’re looking for. Secondly, be safe! Do not hunt for mushrooms on private property and be sure to wear bright colors when wandering about in the woods. Lastly, pack lightly. When I forage for mushrooms I bring a knife (to cut/harvest the mushrooms), a sack for carrying the haul (burlap or something porous, so the mushrooms will spread their spores), a bottle of water, and my iPhone (for Instagramming, of course). That’s really all you need!
Since we are in the midst of chanterelle season, here a few notes about hunting for these particular mushrooms. (Thankfully, chanterelles are one of the easier mushrooms to identify and there aren’t many ‘false’ chanterelles.) Chanterelles do not have typical gills like other mushrooms, rather, they have shallow ridges. Chanterelles are not hollow and they are usually orange in color and grow out of the moss and dirt. (Note: there is a variety of mushroom that looks something like a chanterelle and it grows on wood. Chanterelles only grow out of the ground and do not grow on wood, which is a helpful identifying tip).
As I said, I’m no expert. I’m very new at this, but I’m having a blast! Oregon is teeming with an amazing array of mushrooms, and I’ve only begun to scratch the surface. I can’t wait for more mushroom hunting adventures! As for now, I have chanterelles coming out my ears. :) My last few foraging trips have been quite successful and I’ve cooked a lot of chanterelles in the past few weeks. Of all of the recipes I’ve tried, this one is my favorite, so I thought I’d share. Keep in mind that this recipe does not have to be made with foraged chanterelles — you can also purchase them in stores!
- 1 pound chanterelle mushrooms, cleaned and roughly chopped
- 4 large shallots, diced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 bay leaf
- 4 sprigs fresh thyme
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 cups chicken (or vegetable) stock
- 1 cup heavy cream
- Salt, pepper, nutmeg and cayenne
- In a large pot, melt butter over medium heat. Cook shallots and garlic in butter for 5 minutes, or until translucent.
- Add chanterelles and continue to cook for 5-10 more minutes, or until all the liquid has evaporated.
- Pour in the chicken stock, bay leaf, thyme, and season with salt, pepper, nutmeg, and cayenne. (Be sure there is enough liquid to full cover the mushrooms.) Bring to a boil and then lower to a simmer. Cook for 30 minutes.
- Remove bay leaf and thyme stems. Using an immersion blender (or food processor), puree the soup. Stir in the cream and return the pot to the stove and cook for 10 minutes. Taste, and adjust seasonings as needed.
- Optional garnish: cook a few cook a few extra chanterelles with butter, salt, and pepper for 5-10 minutes over medium heat. Sprinkle the mushrooms atop the soup for added texture and color.
Adapted from Saveur