Field Notes: a Northwest nature blog
One of the reasons many of us live in the Pacific Northwest is the natural wonders that amaze us all. On this blog Seattle Times writers and photographers will share their explorations of the natural world from snowcaps to whitecaps. Write us at firstname.lastname@example.org with your own sightings, questions and wonders to share.
Fall mushroom hunting goes the way of the weather
Posted by Matt Ironside
Information in this article, originally published October 7, 2011, was corrected October 10, 2011. A previous version of this story incorrectly named the yellow chanterelle by a former classification Cantharellus cibarius. It is now commonly recognized as two separate species, Cantharellus formosus and Cantharellus cascadensis.
If you've been following the weather through the spring and summer, the news on the fall mushroom hunting season is going to be no surprise to you. The spring was cool, wet and stretched into the summer. Our celebrated cherry harvest got pushed past the 4th of July, and spring mushrooms followed suit.
Fall reports on the apple harvest and the grape harvest are suggesting not much has changed. What I'm hearing from other hunters and seeing myself says that the wild mushrooms in the first week of October seem to still think it is the middle of September.
The main edible find in my latest trip into the forest was lobster mushrooms, Hypomyces lactifluorum, in some pretty good quantities. On any hunt, it's good to bring home dinner, but one doesn't typically expect to bring home a bundle of lobsters this late.
Typically, by October the woods are filled with mushrooms, edible and not. Unlike spring hunting, fall hunting in the Pacific Northwest is more mushroom identifying than actually trying to find mushrooms growing. But this weekend, the lobsters I found accounted for the majority of mushrooms I saw. Bottom line: This is not going to be your typical fall hunting season.
For chanterelle hunters and shoppers wondering where the typical abundance is, I saw signs of hope. I picked a small meal's worth of yellow chanterelles,
Cantharellus cibarius Cantharellus formosus or Cantharellus cascadensis, but saw many more that I deemed too small to pick. I also found a meal's worth of pig's ears, Gomphus clavatus. Again though, the size and conditions of these were suggesting a season that's about three weeks late.
The question that raises for hunters is what do the current conditions mean for the rest of the season. I think a lot depends on temperature. If the cold comes early it means the window for fruiting mushrooms is going to be short. If winter weather is late, you might be able to have chanterelle stuffing for your Thanksgiving turkey.
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