Foraging for Mushrooms: Bring a Blindfold

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in search of Chanterelle mushrooms

in search of Chanterelle mushrooms

I love Chanterelle mushrooms, the golden little fungi that appear this time of year on forest floors and grocery shelves around the Pacific Northwest. In the stores they cost about $12.99 per pound. In the forests they’re free, but you better know what you’re looking for. Being a mushroom foraging rookie, I knew I had to appeal to the sympathies of my favorite experienced mushroom hunter, Tamara.

expert chanterelle hunter Tamara

Asking someone where they forage for mushrooms is like asking someone where their favorite fishing hole is or the location of their buried treasure. I’ve been whining to Tamara for several years about my desire to join her on a Chanterelle foraging expedition. This year she took pity on me and agreed to let me tag along, that is provided  I swore to secrecy, made a blood pact, donned a blindfold and offered up Boz and Gracie as collateral. (She drives a hard bargain, but Chanterelles are worth it.)

mushroom hunting in the woods

After driving a bit, we pulled over to the shoulder of the road. Blindfold now a snappy kerchief, I was ready for a lengthy hike into the arboreal forests of Vashon Island, ready to machete my way through brambles and thickets, prepared to ford streams and fight back bears, determined deer and disagreeable hikers. As I strode northward into the woods, she called out, “Where are you going?” I replied, “To find our mushroom goldmine.” She just shook her head and said, “We’re here. This is where I find Chanterelles.”

close up of chanterelle mushroom

There we stood on the shoulder of one of the busiest roads on the island with mushroom bags and knives in hand, a country road about as secret of a location as the island’s ferry dock or movie theatre.

“Tamara, won’t passersby figure out we’re picking mushrooms?

“No Tom, not if you put on this orange vest and pick up a garbage bag.”

Let’s see what should my story be, work release or adopt a highway?

Related links: Puget Sound Mycological Society, The Mushroom Forager, Chanterelle Recipes

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23 COMMENTS

  1. I loved your story and could picture the scene, with you blindfolded (haha) and dressed up with an orange vest and holding a huge black plastic bag. What a treasure hunt! It reminded me of these beauties and how I need to find some as well, soon!

  2. I love your blog…In between project managing work for the ‘evil empire’ east of the city of Seattle; I find your blog my ray of sunshine during the day.
    You also have inspired me to…1. Started my own orchards this year, and 2. Prepare beds for my vegetables for summer ’11. Though if we encounter the dreary summer like we did this year, I might resign myself to the local Farmers market.

  3. I’m so jealous, kinda reminds me of back home, driving along the back country roads looking for stands of wild asparagus…only the long-time residents knew where the secret spots were!

  4. You forgot to mention that your dear and generous friend Tamara gave you ALL the Chanterelles that we found! Now THAT is some friend!!!! ha ha

  5. Joumana and Anupa, thanks for those kind words, and Anupa, when you’re ready to plant fruit trees, check out my reviews on the blog of the best varieties for your cool NW climate. Good luck. And Scott, your place looks mighty fine, too.

  6. Tamara, So true… you generous forager you. And if I continue with full disclosure and additional thank yous, Tamara made an awesome Chanterelle pie from the week’s earlier pickings. I had seconds and thirds. Next time I’ll bring some tupperware.

  7. Tom
    So far my orchard has, 1. A pair of Kiwi’s, 2. A Mulberry, 3. Grapes 4. Two Paw Paws….and not but least 3 varieties of figs. More to come…. 🙂
    I’m so inspired by you. Your blog is my guide to edible gardening in the PNW.

  8. I vote for work release, if only to raise the occasional eyebrow or two 😛 I’m envious of your Chanterelles. We had some last season on the property, both beautiful golden ones, and black trumpets. However, ours don’t show up until around February when we get our heavy rains…so I’ll have to be patient, and hope the deer leave us a few.

  9. Anupa, impressive orchard list! Paw Paws and a mulberry–good for you. And figs, you know how I feel about figs.

    CVF–work release it is 😉 and good luck on those Feb. chanterelles.

  10. You are lucky to have such a good friend like Tamara to call upon!!

    These Chanterelle mushrooms are also quite expensive here in the mushroom shops in Brussels but we can’t pick them in forests because it is forbidden by the Belgian law!

  11. speaking of public safety… you’ve got knives all over the place while wearing a blindfold… collecting possbily dangerous fungi on the side of a busy highway…next thing you know you’ll want to make ketchup again.

  12. brion, are you sure you didn’t have an earlier stint with OSHA? Your safety concerns have been address; future foraging will include fluorescent street cones and barricades, and blindfolds shall have peep holes to promote safe slicing. And as for ketchup making, I now chain myself to the stove during the reduction stage.

  13. Oh, I wish you could forage in our woods, Tom. We have the most beautiful little villages of chanterelles deep in the woods under towering stands of hemlocks. I can no longer eat them, though I love the memory of them so much and still relish the search.

    Did you use the sniff test to confirm chanterelles? They smell like apricots. Happy foraging…

  14. June, thanks for the tip — never heard of that, but will check it out the next time I forage for ‘rooms. Love the image of chanterelle villages.

  15. Just a reply to Thomas’ comment…”not that I haven’t thought about it.” After all he did mention the island where we picked and kind of gave it all away-I think it’s kind of justified! I gave him specific instructions not to even mention the state!!! Lucky thing I think he’s a peach of a friend.

    • Tamara, spoken like a die-hard forager — trust me, at 37 sq. miles Vashon Island is one and half times the size of Manhattan Island. Burning cigarettes and bright lights aside, you’re secret is safe with me.

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