It’s mushroom foraging season in the Pacific Northwest right now. Last weekend Sis, Dad and I went foraging on Saturday and then Sis and I also went on Sunday. The first day I was carrying my 15-pound dog in a backpack, and I didn’t find much. Dad didn’t find much either, but Sis did pretty well. Foraging for mushrooms isn’t very fun when you don’t come away with a big haul.
Sis and I decided to go out again the next morning and look in a different area. It started out with a bang with us finding a bunch of Oyster mushrooms as soon as we stepped off the road and before we even made it into the forest. After our initial discovery, climbed a trail and then headed into the forest tromping through dense trees and plants for a while not finding much. Finally we climbed over a hill and spilled back out onto the trail we had started on but much further up the trail, and decided to try the forest on the other side of the trail where we found a few patches of Chanterelles.
I had better luck than I had the day before but still didn’t find as many mushrooms as I would have liked. Sis did well again but wasn’t ready to call it a day. We decided to head back down the trail and cross the street and continue our foraging. Sis and I were separated when I heard the crunch of gravel as a truck headed down the street. I was just at the entrance to the trail where we had found the goldmine of Oyster mushrooms and I crouched down to hide from the truck.
I cannot explain to you why I did this. It felt intuitive. I watched the pickup truck pass from my crouched position and then headed back to toward the trees in case the truck returned. We were parked on what I thought was a dead-end road so I figured it would have to pass us going back. Eventually Sis emerged from the forest and I met her on the street.
We crossed the street and swung behind her car looking for an opening in the dense trees when Sis stopped and screamed, “There’s a dead dog or deer!”
Something dead, and cut into pieces, was stuffed in a garbage bag. Sis couldn’t tell at first if it was a deer or a dog, and I couldn’t take more than a glance at it and was no help in determining if it was a deer, dog, wolf or coyote.
Needless to say, we did not continue hunting for mushrooms. Instead Sis snapped a pic and contacted the Oregon Department of Wildlife to report the matter. Eventually she decided it had to have been a deer that was poached and dumped on the side of the road. We decided the truck that drove by was coming back for the carcass because as we were standing in the middle of the road struck by disgust, the truck we saw a few minutes earlier started to turn down the road a second time but then quickly turned back onto the main road, turned around and disappeared.
That didn’t completely deter us from foraging. We went out again this weekend (to a different location!) and, between the three of us, came away with several pounds of Chanterelles. Enough to spill out over two wire drying racks.
If you’ve never foraged for mushrooms, you may not know how much of a pain in the ass it is to clean the mushrooms when you get home. It is essential that you bring a mushroom foraging knife with you while mushroom hunting. The knife should have a brush on the other end that you can use to remove the dirt before putting the mushroom into your satchel. If you don’t clean the mushrooms off right away, it adds to the time you spend in the kitchen cleaning off the mushrooms.
As an aside, it can be difficult to clean the mushrooms while foraging especially if the forest is wet and/or it’s raining. I’ve tried using mushroom foraging gloves for brushing off dirt but it felt like the gloves just pushed the dirt around on the mushroom instead of brushing off the dirt. Even with a mushroom knife that also has a brush it can be difficult. However, you should do your best to clean it off in the forest because I promise you when you get home and lay your goodies out on the counter you will have little motivation to power clean all your mushrooms.
And forget about water. You’re not supposed to use water to clean the mushrooms unless you want water-logged mushrooms. Which you don’t.
Sis and I have been taking turns finding wild mushroom recipes to use up our stash. So far we had two different soups and three different lasagnas, none of the recipes particularly healthy. To stay with that theme, I found a wild mushroom pasta recipe involving garlic and butter. I added cream to it. It was supposed to be a Fettucine Alfredo recipe. Sis described it as Fettucine Alfredo meets Mac and Cheese. It was 100% decadent and delicious.
- 16 oz pasta
- 24 oz sliced wild mushrooms
- ½ c butter, divided
- 6 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tsp. kosher salt
- ½ tsp. freshly cracked pepper
- 1 c. shredded parmesan cheese
- 1 c. heavy cream
- pasta water, reserved
- Cook the pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water according to package directions. When the pasta is finished cooking, drain and reserve pasta water. I usually reserve about a quart but you definitely will not need that much.
- While the pasta is cooking, melt half of the butter in an extra-large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and cook for 4 to 5 minutes until they have started to turn golden brown.
- Add the minced garlic to the pan along with the salt and pepper. Cook and stir constantly for one more minute.
- Turn the heat to low and add the remaining butter, pasta, heavy cream and parmesan cheese. Stir to combine. Use reserved pasta water to bring everything together. Stir in half a cup or so at first and add more as necessary. Add more cream or pasta water as necessary to achieve desired consistency.
- Taste the pasta and season with more salt, if necessary. Serve immediately.