The weather was originally forecast to be dry and sunny on Saturday. So we planned a foray.
Last year, we were hunting into mid-November, when the weather finally turned cold and rainy (then snowy). We typically hunt at the 2,000-3,000 foot elevation on the southwestern slopes of Mt. Rainier, in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. We have a spot where we find a wide variety of nice fall mushrooms. Streams run through it, and the rainforest is typically quite damp. It's not always the easiest hiking, but it is beautiful, and we enjoy the hike regardless of what we find out there.
And we often find large quantities of mushrooms. Many edibles, and dozens and dozens of varieties of many others. We rarely leave disappointed.
And, we were disappointed on Saturday ... but we were cold and wet after a few hours of hunting! The nice thing about these conifer forests is that it typically has to snow quite awhile and heavily before the ground (and the mushrooms) will be covered. And as long as there haven't been a whole lot of evenings when the temp dipped below the low 30s, there may still be lots of hardy fall mushrooms out there. In fact, many shrooms prefer the cool temps.
On Saturday, we did find some decent Golden Chanterelles, and also nearly as any false Chanterelles. The edible Chanterelle quantities had declined quite a bit since the last time we were out, a few weeks ago. We found one good Lobster, but we were tripping over those a month ago. We started to see some Boletes (mostly Slippery Jacks, but also a few Admirables), though not near as many as last November. And a few small-ish coral fungi (Ramaria).
By the way, I don't recall whether I wrote about this here on this blog, or not, but I did recently try eating some Ramaria. There are lots of cautions you read about when it comes to eating Ramaria, which causes digestive distress (primarily diarrhea) in many people. Hence I was cautious, and started small, with about an ounce of a beige coral fungus which I pickled. Suffering no ill effects from that, I dry sauteed another ounce (in with some Chanterelles) the next day, and consumed that. Still no issues. So for me, I think Ramaria is fine, at least most of the varieties that grow around here. (And there are 500 different varieties of Ramaria, one of which is particularly toxic, but doesn't grow around here.
In general, I stay away from any Ramaria that is too gelatinous, especially if it's called "Ramaria gelatinosa."
Another first for me this season was giant puffball (Calvatia gigantea). I found a nice one in Pennsylvania. But out here we just get the small ones (Lycoperdon), which I prepared and ate last Fall. They were a lot of trouble and fairly tasteless, so I probably won't do that again anytime soon. The large one, however, was quite good!
Anyway, I digress. Nathan says he has Lycoperdon growing in his yard in Edgewood (south of Seattle) right now, but I haven't seen any either here in my yard (which is out in the forests on South Hill), or in our foray.
Equally notable was what I didn't find. Not much in the way of shelf mushrooms (saw a few Angel Wings, is all), and not a single hedgehog. Hedgehogs are my favorite, and prefer the cool wet climes of late fall. But this year, I didn't see any.
All in all, I don't think it was a great fall, here in the Pacific Northwest, for mushrooms, with the possible exception of Lobster mushrooms, which seemed plentiful. Chanterelles have been out there the past few weeks, but quite a bit thinner than other years. Boletes were thinner than last year. Coral fungus was smaller. I blame the long, dry summer, and the early onset of snow.
Well, we will occupy ourselves this winter with dreams of Morels, and then get out there in the spring to see what awaits! Happy shrooming!