It’s that magical time of year when a plethora of mushroom species start poking their saucy little heads out from under the duff. Mushrooming turns a hike into an adventure, whether you hunt for food or simply for the satisfaction of learning. I personally fall into both categories but admit to being a fairly fearful forager. I can safely identify two edible species and then stick to eating only those two. A recent adventure helped reinforce this rule.
I was hiking with a friend who knows her fungi, and we spied a bright shelf fungus that she excitedly told me was a prized edible species. She gallantly gave me half of her find, and I went home and grilled it up for a mushroom taco. It didn’t take long for my stomach to send me warning signals, so I went to my mushroom identification book (All That the Rain Promises and More, by David Arora) and found that it was edible only for some. Because it can cause gastrointestinal distress for some, the book advised not feeding it to "lawyers ... policemen, pit bull owners or others whose good will you cherish." Luckily for her, my pit bull, like most that are treated well, is actually a pussy cat.
Though books are a wonderful source of information, you can get even more valuable learning experiences by joining a group. The Lincoln County Mycological Society (LCMS) is an active one that goes on monthly hiking forays in the fall and early winter. The LCMS also hosts two annual events during the height of the season.
An example of edible mushrooms at a past culinary center mushroom demo day
Mushroom Madness Demo Class, October 5
This fun event at the Lincoln City Culinary Center includes tips and tricks for finding and identifying edible mushrooms and also how to get the best flavor and consistency out of them when using them in cooking. If you're interested in practicing these foraging techniques at home, identification books and tools will be available to purchase. Following the presentation, attendees will enjoy the plated mushroom-inspired meal and wine.
Yachats Village Mushroom Festival, October 18-20
Yachats businesses join with the LCMS to celebrate all the ways mushrooms can be enjoyed at this Friday-through-Sunday festival that's entering its 20th year. Friday evening's programs are dedicated to food with local eateries debuting their best mushroom-driven dishes. Saturday and Sunday focus on speakers' presentations, foraging demonstrations, cultivation workshops and identification lessons. Mixed in with the scheduled events are collections of indoor and outdoor markets with both fresh and dried wild/exotic mushrooms. Some events are free, and others have a small admission fee. Find more details about the schedule of events and prices here.
This edible king bolete was found during a LCMS foray near Newport
The weather this year has created an early season mushrooms' peaks and chances to forage, which might end early too, so if you want to make this the year you finally get to know mushrooms, don't hesitate. Making a meal with freshly foraged fungi is very satisfying.
Do you have any fun stories about fungi? Clue me in with your thoughts and stories in the comments section. For other things to do on the Central Coast, check out our Daytime Events calendar. For evening entertainment our Nightlife page steers you to the top happenings on the Central Coast.