by Terry Richard for The Oregonian
In search of a secret stash of boletes, edible mushrooms that grow beneath conifers in Oregon's coastal dunes, Nick Iadanza of Tigard fought his way deeper into the brush of Nehalem Bay State Park...
...Though the park had been picked over, attendees of the foray had met their personal quotas and most had been easy pickings alongside the road or trail.
Some of our group even ogled from a distance someone's paper grocery bag stuffed to the top with round shapes. When Nick added his congratulations, the picnickers didn't know what he was talking about.
"That must have been hamburger buns at the top of the bag," he said. "They look just like boletes."
Helping attendees identify mushrooms is the objective of the fall foray, scheduled this year Oct. 29-31.
Last years featured speaker at the foray was a noted mycologist who turned curiosity about mushrooms into a 351-page, full-color book. He admitted that someone would have to be foolish to trust even his book to identify edible mushrooms.
"A foray like this is important to serious collectors because you can only learn so much from a book," said Steve Trudell, author of "Mushrooms of the Pacific Northwest," published by Timber Press of Portland.
"Words alone make it difficult to describe mushrooms. As an example, if you call something brown, is it cigar brown, rusty brown or chocolate brown? Words don't always convey an accurate image.
"When you attend a foray, you can learn three to five new species each time from the people who are there. "
In a few hundred years, that means you may know them all.
Trudell said there are 5,000 types of fungus in the Pacific Northwest. Perhaps 300 varieties, collected from a number of habitats, will show up at the major mushroom shows held each fall around the Northwest. The count at the 2009 Fall Foray was 199 species from around Rockaway Beach.
Collectors who seek edible mushrooms usually concentrate efforts on select species.
"We gather about 15 or 16 species to eat," said Iadanza, who will lead outings again at this year's foray. "It seems like we add one new one to our repertoire each year. "
With 199 collected last year and only 16 for eating, that leaves a lot of mushrooms tossed back into the woods at a foray.
"We're just helping them distribute their spores," said Fred Shipley, president of the Oregon Mycological Society. They've done their thing. This is the fruit. It's the same as picking apples. We're not hurting the resource.''
Edible in Oregon
A brief description of the main edible fungi harvested in Oregon, with help from Dick Bishop, education director of the Oregon Mycological Society. All are harvested for commercial sale.
Check with a reliable individual who knows whether the species is safe to eat. Look-alikes may be deadly.
Boletes: Appear in August after mountain thunderstorms through November at the coast; October is peak season; stem and cap can grow big, up to a foot tall, in conifer forests; a nice texture but not taste (according to Bishop, who dries and grinds them to sprinkle on soups and casseroles).
Chanterelles: The golden variety is the official Oregon state mushroom; primarily grows in the Coast Range's conifer forests; appears late summer to fall, but needs rain to achieve size; a fluted funnel-shape cap makes it easy to identify; prized for peppery taste.
Matsutake: An autumn stem and cap mushroom that sees intense commercial harvesting, though recent cultivation in China and Korea has cut into the Oregon's export trade to Japan; famous around Chemult, in lodgepole pine forests, also at Old Maid Flat on Mount Hood in Western hemlocks; popular dried as addition to stews, soup, sauces.
Morels: Typically grow east of the mountains in conifer forests, but a variety grows along west side rivers; May is the big month; a pointed conical, honeycombed cap with ridges and pits aids identification; frequently eaten alone after sautéing in butter.
Truffles: Grow between the duff layer and soil at roots of trees, year-round in conifer forests; black and white varieties harvested in Oregon; they look like small potatoes, or tubers; trained eyes find them by noticing where rodents have been digging; limited commercial harvesting, but used in the best restaurants raw as a pasta topping.
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