Firsts Among Fungi

My husband and I have spent enough time morel-hunting over the years to border on embarrassing considering we have never found a single one. That is until now, or rather, our last week at our new home. Best or most ironic of all: it was in our own backyard. We had purchased a bagful at the Eugene farmer’s market the morning before.

We actually found two, both in burn pits. I had the highest hopes for finding morels among the charred debris and across the snarled land that was logged last year, both inviting conditions for the delicious mushrooms. I’m hoping that there will be many more in two weeks as people have been reporting their finds all over the Willamette Valley and at higher elevations.

My husband fried them up– along with our market specimens– in a bit of butter, and the flavor was unparalleled.

My daughter also picked her first mushrooms on that trip: dozens of puffballs scattered across a sunny field. She’s been with me as I’ve collected meadow and brown field mushrooms plenty of times, but these little white delights were all hers. Like a true fungophile in the making, she drank in their mellow mushroomy scent.

On a short hike up the road we also came across gatherings of gregarious Agrocybe praecox, which are pretty and interesting, but whose edibility is, according to David Arora, “mediocre at best; disgusting at worst.” We took enough for identification but let the rest be.

All those hours in the woods and meadows of the Pacific Northwest are never wasted, even when the disappointment over an empty bag is at its worst. I’m notorious for traversing the most majestic of landscapes with my back hunched and my eyes trained intently on the ground. The forest floors have so much to offer– orchids, trillium, violets; beautiful but toxic salamanders; and on a good day, the most intriguing of wild mushrooms.

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5 thoughts on “Firsts Among Fungi

  1. Hi Kelly! I’m very intrigued with your mushroom knowledge! I too live in the Pacific Northwest, the inland northwest to be exact, and we have mushrooms growing on our property, but I have no idea, nor anyone to show me, which are good or bad. I took a picture of some yesterday, and they are on my blog (if you will click on my name it should take you to my blog). Maybe you might recognize it. So, morel mushrooms usually grow around burn piles? We have lots of those. I’ll keep my eyes out for them. Very interesting post!

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    • Thank you! Morels are choice mushrooms for novice hunters because with proper, thorough identification, they are virtually unmistakable. I highly recommend David Arora’s fantastic guide “Mushrooms Demystified” and cross-referencing before you ever consider eating a wild mushroom. I also recommend going out with an expert a few times to get your feet wet. Next, I recommend joining the PNW Mushroom ID Forum on Facebook. Finally, you will learn that IDing a mushroom involves spore printing, cap and gill examination, and many other important factors. All that said, mushroom hunting is one of my favorite hobbies and you are in an excellent location to begin your journey! I will check out your pictures on your blog! Happy hunting. 🙂

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  2. Beautiful fungi pictures! I love mushrooms, but in this household they all come from the grocery store (unfortunately). I do not trust my knowledge about mushrooms enough to go out and pick them myself.

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    • That is a good approach to take if you’re not confident in your identification skills! It takes a lot of research and practice and I definitely have a lot of learning to hone my own familiarity.

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  3. Pingback: Pickled Cat’s Ear Buds | Little Fall Creek

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