Oregon’s landscape is rich with dense wooded areas. As the seasons change, so do the mushrooms. Spring heralds rising temperatures, so you’ll probably want to spend more time outside. Mushroom foraging is a great way to get out, commune with nature and bring home a tasty treat. This guide is an introduction to mushroom hunting, and should not be treated as a complete resource. For more information please see the additional resources at the bottom of this article.
Do not eat it unless you’re confident. If you have any uncertainties it’s best to consult an expert.
Know your trees (most choice edible mushrooms grow along with specific trees).
Don’t get discouraged when you don’t get lucky right away. Spending more time in the field and practicing IDs will yield greater success with each expedition.
Make a spore print. Especially with gilled mushrooms (like oyster mushrooms), spore color can be a useful aspect for identification. It’s best to cut the stem as close to the cap as possible, place it on a piece of paper and cover it with a glass, bowl or jar. Leave the cap for a couple hours up to a day. It’s best to use checkered black and white paper in case the spores are light in color.
Know the foraging laws
The Siuslaw National Forest, which surrounds Florence, does not require a permit. Personal foraging is limited to one gallon. For any larger amount, you would need a permit.
A free permit can be obtained from the Forest Service for the Deschutes, Fremont-Winema, Willamette and Umpqua national forests. Permits are valid through the end of each calendar year, and clearly state what is and is not allowed.
Privately owned forests each have their own regulations. Some sell permits, some do not. It is illegal to forage in any state park.
There are laws restricting the harvest of certain mushrooms such as matsutake, due to their rarity and/or commercial value. For more clarity on harvest laws, research the specific area you want to pick, and find out who manages the land.
Areas to forage
The most promising foraging spots for a sizable find of edible mushrooms are located in the national forests.
From Eugene/Springfield Area try Willamette National Forest or Siuslaw National Forest. For ease, use trailheads off of Hwy 56 or 126 in Willamette N. F., and trailheads off of Hwy 126 for the Siuslaw National Forest.
From Florence, most of the Siuslaw N. F. is easily accessible. Depending on whether you are looking for coastal species, you may want to consider accessing the Siuslaw along U.S. 101 or further inland along Hwy 126.
What to bring
Every mushroomer needs something to carry their loot. A woven basket is the most commonly suggested item to carry your spoils.
Why not just use a plastic bag? It’s important to keep your mushrooms protected while still able to disperse spores. Putting mushrooms in a permeable container allows the spores to be carried off in the wind as you move throughout the forest. Having a sturdy container is also nice, because it can protect your mushrooms better than a flimsy container.
A pair of gloves can be useful too when trying to soften up the soil around a mushroom. A knife is a must-have. Sometimes you can’t pluck a mushroom, like ones growing on trees, and you need to cut them from away from their substrate.
Rain pants are great, even when it isn’t raining. Whether it’s mud, water or thorns, protect your pants from foliage near the ground.
A compass and a whistle are useful, especially for those who keep their eyes on the ground and tend to forget where they’re going.
Chanterelles are most common in the fall, but can be found during Spring as well. The most signifying characteristic of chanterelles is the ridges underneath the cap. Sometimes distinguishing between gills and ridges can be difficult. Be aware of poisonous look-alikes such as the false chanterelle and woolly chanterelle. To see comparisons of chanterelles and their look-a-likes, visit lcctorch.com
Spring King Bolete is a relatively large mushroom. The cap is matte, not slimy. The underside of the cap has pores for spore disbursement. The pores create a sponge-like surface. Pores will be white when young and turn cream-yellow as they mature. The stem is typically thick and bulbous. Look for these mid to late spring.
Oyster Mushrooms grow on trees, typically on hardwoods, but you can find them growing on conifers as well. They are typically found decomposing logs or dead trees, but they can be found on live trees. The cap of the mushroom is typically convex to flat. The gills are typically closely packed, and run along most of the underside of the mushroom and down the stem. Gills are pale/gray, sometimes turning yellowish with age.
Mushroom hunting is very community driven. There’s lots of great resources available for free and to purchase.
Mushroomexpert.com and mushroomobserver.org are great online resources.
Mushroomexpert.com has a detailed description of most fungi, as well as useful information and classification.
Mushroomobserver.org is a community operated site, so it can be a great resource for learning about mushrooms by locale.
Identification books are probably the most useful resource when trying to identify common or interesting mushrooms.
“Mushrooms Demystified” and “All That the Rain Promises and More” by David Arora are a must-have for mushroom lovers. “MD” has detailed descriptions and keys to help with a confident identification. “All That the Rain Promises” is the companion book to “MD” that is much smaller and works great as a field guide.
“Mushrooms of the Pacific Northwest” by Joe Ammirati and Steve Trudell has wonderful pictures of mushrooms native to the Pacific Northwest. It’s local focus is its most useful attribute.
“Mushrooms of the Redwood Coast” by Christian Schwarz and Noah Siegel details mushrooms along a large portion of California’s coastal regions. Many of the sought after species detailed in the guide are also found in Oregon.
In addition, the Cascade Mycological Society in Eugene is a great place to bring any questions you may have. The local group provides a place for collective knowledge. CMS meets at Amazon Park and has events for both the public and for members.