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Must stop

November 8, 2010

foraging for Chanterelles.

Pacific Golden Chanterelle – Cantharellus formosus.

Yesterday was actually the first day I didn’t feel the lure of the woods.  I think I am cured…until next fall, anyway.   These beauties pictured above were a quick find while I was looking for trespassers hunters the other day.  Another reason to wear layers, I have used my sweatshirt to lead a recalcitrant cow, as a scarecrow of sorts when moving cattle downhill into a paddock, and to bring home unexpected bounty, like these mushrooms.

I  grew up eating morels in the spring, which were plentiful enough in our orchard; other mushrooms escaped my notice.  But when I was in high school my sister-in-law got the mushroom bug, and to profess his undying love, my brother took up the cause.  I was skeptical when they would come home giddy with their cache of gold.  Their marriage didn’t last, but his penchant for chanterelles did.  I am glad my brother convinced me I should learn to forage for mushrooms, too.

I don’t know really know whether it is the connection to my brother or the finding of the bounty that is so enjoyable.  Most likely all of it.  The scent of the damp woods, alive with fungi and chest high ferns everywhere you look.  Falling on your butt on the slick elk trail, and trying to keep from landing on your bag of delicate mushrooms.  For sure the taste of the ‘shrooms keep me going back.  On the last day I picked, my daughter went with me, each with our prospective bags, and I realized how much she had grown, she off on her path seeking the gold, leaving me with the memories of her as small child, bouncing off me like a small foal or calf on its dam.  She led the way, heading cross-country over windfalls, and through boomer cities, until we got to the walk log, and then, like my brother she darted across the log, and then made fun of me methodically picking my way across as she jumped up and down on said log to tease me… .  We both likened chanterelle hunting to weeding, you shut your mind off to all the other orange hues except “the one.”  Just like weeding, it’s all green and brown, but rarely do you pull a green carrot top when you’re gunning for weeds.  It’s the same with ‘shrooms.  Fallen leaves are gold, and yellow and tannish-orange, but they aren’t right, as you scan the forest floor you barely pay them any mind, once you see a chanterelle, you don’t see the other shades of orange.

We would stop periodically and breath deeply the scent of the mushrooms we gathered.  Ahhh, that scent, floral and woodsy, although I have heard it took after apricots, I don’t get that impression at all.  All I smell are memories of my brother bringing home a hard hat full of delicate mushrooms after a day of logging, or my husband doing the same after a stint of firewood cutting.  Those rough-cut hands gently picking woodland delicacies?  And I catch another scented memory too, me passing on to my daughter the shared memories of watching the weather, and the exchanged glances, chanterelle weather!  Let’s go!

30 Comments leave one →
  1. November 8, 2010 8:08 am

    What a wonderful post! I enjoyed tagging along on your shroom picking adventures and I could smell the damp forest along with you. I miss the smell of the forest….here in our part of Kansas we haven’t had a good long hard rain or any rain to really speak of since July 4th weekend! When we trenched not long ago we were bone dry to at least 3 feet…something I’m not used to even after being away from British Columbia 10 years. I miss that musty smell. Enjoy your shrooms! Maura 🙂

    • November 8, 2010 8:32 am

      Maura, oh my, July 4th! We had a week long reprieve of sunny t-shirt weather, and now the storms are lining up and dumping a fair amount of rain. I wish I could send some your way!

  2. November 8, 2010 8:29 am

    It sounds like a wonderful tradition! I could almost see the sights and smell the air as I read your post. Thanks for the walk in the woods this morning!

    • November 8, 2010 2:18 pm

      Claudia, thanks, I think we got all we’re going to get, the rains are almost constant now, and now the work begins, adding them to the freezer stash!

  3. November 8, 2010 8:40 am


  4. susan permalink
    November 8, 2010 8:41 am

    What a joy to share with your daughter. I need to learn more about them (mushrooms), although I found my first patch of morels while walking the dogs and it was so incredibly exciting! I would love to run across a patch of chantrelles. Lovely post.

    • November 8, 2010 2:20 pm

      Susan, she used to be right under foot, but that is how they learn. Now she can spot them a mile off. I haven’t seen morels in our area for a long time… I miss them.

      • greenhorn permalink
        November 8, 2010 7:48 pm

        My father tells me morels like a forest fire to precede them….

        • November 9, 2010 6:01 am

          GH, he is surely right, they used to love growing around our burn pile, which has now been moved. We haven’t had a forest fire nearby since 1991 – too hair-raising – I’ll wait that one out 😉

  5. November 8, 2010 8:54 am

    Oh yummy I love chanterelles! I’m just getting started in identifying mushrooms on my property (you can check out pictures on my website).

    May I ask, what is your elevation? Are you on the east side of the mountain?

    I am only 800 feet and in the valley. I’m thinking I probably won’t find chanterelles around here, but I so many doug fir trees that I keep thinking it is a possibility.

    • November 8, 2010 2:41 pm

      VGC, we’re on the west side and at around 1200′ -1400′ depending on whether you’re in the canyon or on the ridge. But we have been picking some chanterelles since September, so you may have some old ones around that popped up earlier.

      Great pics, BTW, but I am terrible at identifying the multitudes of fungi around here – I only know a few of the edible ones, and some even though edible don’t really taste that good, so I don’t bother with them.

      I saw a clip on the news the other day and the chef that was featured repeated the saying, “There are old mycologists, and bold mycologists, but no old, bold mycologists.” I definitely am not bold 🙂 (They were foraging in the Tillamook forest.)

      • November 9, 2010 4:10 pm

        Interesting, so you must not be far from me then (I am just outside Oregon City). I am joining the local mycological society soon, and plan on writing about what I’ve learned on the blog. I just love mushrooms! Especially chanterelles. 🙂

  6. November 8, 2010 9:40 am

    Great post! You conveyed a wealth of emotion and beauty very well.

    • November 8, 2010 2:42 pm

      TC, thanks so much, I’m really at home in the woods more than the pasture, it’s a lovely place.

  7. November 8, 2010 10:15 am

    Thanks for such a vivid, sensory post. Makes me want to go out mushroom-hunting, and i’m not even that fond of mushrooms!

    • November 8, 2010 2:43 pm

      Susan, you’re welcome – and you never know, I didn’t used to be really keen on them either, but it’s hard to pass these beauties up. 🙂

  8. November 8, 2010 11:25 am

    Lovely post, Nita! I love chanterelles, and this post makes me think I am missing out on the mushrooms at my sister-in-law’s place….ah well.

  9. November 8, 2010 12:38 pm

    I have never learned how to find mushrooms but the joy you express here makes me wonder if I could.


    • November 8, 2010 2:45 pm

      Linda, certainly you must have some around in the hills there – probably different than here for sure, but maybe some tasty ones!

  10. grego permalink
    November 8, 2010 1:57 pm

    Your beautiful post brought tears to my eyes. I was cutting wood in my forest on Saturday, my friend and I stopping now & then to look around at the ferns and the dozens of different mushrooms popping out now that the surface is a little wet (after 10 inches of rain here in the coast range, the understory is beginning to get damp for the winter). We’re both southern boys & don’t know mushrooms, but I’m going to learn. I KNOW there are chanterelles and truffles in my oak savannah/fir forest. I just have to tune in like you do. I’ll get there.

  11. November 8, 2010 2:03 pm

    We have one kind of mushroom here that I KNOW that’s safe and pick them every chance we get. It’s a tradition here too but doesn’t hold the memories that yours does 😉

    • November 8, 2010 2:49 pm

      Linda, I’m a chicken too! I made my brother eat them in front of me before I trusted him – he was full of tricks, plus his wife foraged with a crazy lady that would eat anything! She got sick a couple of times but I think her “self-pickling” habits kept her safe. Anyway I was pretty skeptical!

      Some don’t taste bad, but are too slimy, I like these and they are plentiful, so I’m sticking to that!

  12. November 9, 2010 5:36 am

    This has been a good year for shrooms in our forest. But, alas, I need someone to show me which ones are safe to eat. I think the morels are identifiable easy enough. I do remember reading the Omnivores Dilemma and got a pretty mind picture about how guarded and secretive mushroom hunters can be .. and yes, seeing only that one color or shape. Here’s a little saying I wrote that relates to how a single picture, sound, or scent can bring back the memories of yesterday .. it’s a description of the content on one of my (too) many blogs 😉

    “A “potpourri” of photo memories sprinkled with today’s events. Nostalgia connects the present with the past. Scents can evoke memories of by-gone loved ones and take you to some long ago place.” Enjoy the day. Mrs. Mac

    • November 9, 2010 6:02 am

      Mrs. Mac, yes definitely find someone to show you what is safe, books are good, but a good teacher is much better.

      Your words are lovely and so true. Thank you!

  13. November 9, 2010 5:43 am

    I must start.:) I know I have seen those mushrooms around in the fall but have yet to positively identify them….but you sure make me want to. With any luck I will get them figured out and be able to feast on a few of our own next year, we need a wild edible to hunt for in October and November. This was a good year for spring morels for us and after years of picking them, bringing them home, and inadvertently spreading spores we have a few that even grew in our own back woods. You have inspired us (especially my wife) to broaden our mushroom picking horizons.:)

    • November 9, 2010 6:08 am

      Mike, I wouldn’t be surprised that you might have the white chanterelle, it grows on the eastern (drier) slopes here. But maybe not. I have friends who are adventurous, they bring me different things to try. Some are good, some are so-so, none have compared to the taste of the chanterelle though… . I’m a meat and potatoes kind of gal 😉 So common mushrooms suit me just fine!

  14. November 9, 2010 6:59 pm

    Enjoyed your post. Reminded me of the simple pleasures of fiddleheading….A new found foraging expedition I love!

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