The Lower Mainland is a mycophile, or mushroom lover’s, dream. It boasts a variety of edible mushrooms that entice foragers from all walks of life to head out into the wild to find them. Some of the most commonly sought-after fungi in the region and the Malcolm Knapp Research Forest include lion’s mane, morel, oyster, puffball, turkey tail, chanterelle, and lobster mushrooms. Each species has its own unique flavour profile, making the foraging experience a delightful exploration of taste and texture.
Best Places to Forage
Mushrooms can be found in a variety of environments – from damp forests to open meadows. The Malcolm Knapp Research Forest is a particularly rich foraging ground, offering a diverse range of habitats for various mushroom species. Mushrooms can most commonly be found near decaying wood, in mossy areas, or around the bases of trees. Remember to respect the environment by only harvesting mushrooms where permitted and try to not take more than you need. Leave some for other mushroom hunters so everyone can get to experience this rewarding hobby.
Best Time of Year for Foraging
While mushrooms can be found throughout the year, the best time for foraging in the Greater Vancouver Area is typically from late summer to early fall. This is when the soil is moist, and the temperature is conducive to mushroom growth. Different species may have specific fruiting seasons, so keeping an eye on local conditions and patterns is essential.
Identifying Edible Mushrooms: The Importance of Guides
As a responsible forager, it’s crucial to distinguish between edible and toxic mushrooms. It’s not something to play around with if you’re not sure. Using reliable field guides or apps, combined with knowledge from experienced foragers or mycologists, ensures a safe and enjoyable foraging experience. Never consume a mushroom unless you are certain of its edibility.
In the age of technology, several resources and apps can enhance your mushroom foraging experience. iNaturalist allows you to upload photos for identification by a community of experts, while Mushroom Observer provides a platform for sharing observations with fellow enthusiasts. These tools can serve as valuable companions, especially for those new to the world of mycology.
Foraging Basics: Getting Started
For those new to the world of mushroom foraging, getting started is surprisingly simple. Armed with a few essential tools, sharp eyes, and a keen sense of curiosity, you can embark on your own mushroom-hunting expedition.
Here’s what you’ll need:
- Basket or Bag: A breathable basket or bag is ideal for collecting mushrooms, allowing spores to disperse as you move.
- Knife: A sharp knife for cleanly cutting mushrooms at the base without disturbing the mycelium.
- Field Guide or App: A reliable field guide or smartphone app can help you identify mushrooms accurately. Popular apps include iNaturalist and ShroomID.
Prepping and Cooking Edible Mushrooms
Once you’ve successfully foraged a basket full of mushrooms, the next step is turning them into a culinary masterpiece. Cleaning and preparing mushrooms is crucial for a delectable dining experience.
Cleaning: Gently brush off dirt or debris with a soft brush or cloth. Avoid washing mushrooms as they can absorb excess moisture.
Slicing: Depending on the recipe, slice the mushrooms to your desired thickness.
Cooking: Saute, roast, or grill mushrooms to enhance their natural flavours.
Try out some of our favourite recipes with your foraged mushrooms:
- Fresh and Wild Mushroom Stew: This New York Times recipe is good because it combines wild mushrooms with ones that you can find at the store so even if you don’t find a lot of mushrooms on your own, you can easily substitute.
- Mushroom Perogies: You can never go wrong with small pillows of delicious mushrooms wrapped in dough, right? This recipe is easy to follow, and from a site dedicated to cooking with food that has been foraged, hunted, and fished.
- Wild Mushroom Sunchoke Soup: This rich vegan soup is the perfect cozy addition for fall and is easy to make.
Preserving your Mushrooms for Later
The most common and best way to preserve most mushrooms is by drying them. The only ones we wouldn’t dry are Chanterelles and Chicken of the Woods. These two lose too much by drying, and should be sautéed, then vacuum sealed and frozen instead.
According to many mushroom connoisseurs, the ideal temperature to dry mushrooms in a dehydrator is about 110-120°F. If you don’t have a dehydrator, you can put them on a rack in a hot garage, the back of your car in summer, or in an oven on low. Just be careful with the oven because you want them to dry out, not cook.
If you don’t want to dry out your mushrooms, the next most common way to preserve them is to sauté them in butter or oil, with onions and garlic as an option. We recommend either in large pieces or as a duxelle, which is a garnish or stuffing made of finely chopped sautéed mushrooms. Then let it cool and put it in a vacuum bag, seal it, and freeze. When done right, they should last up to 9 months in your freezer.
Finally, you can also pickle your mushrooms. There’s a great recipe for that over on the Forager Chef here.
Come Forage with Us
From the thrill of discovery to the joy of preparing and savouring your harvest, mushroom foraging offers a unique and immersive experience for nature enthusiasts and food lovers alike.
For those eager to take their foraging skills to the next level, Wild & Immersive offers guided experiences in the Malcolm Knapp Research Forest and nearby areas such as mushroom hunting and foraged dinners. These programs provide hands-on learning opportunities, allowing participants to deepen their understanding of mushrooms, their ecosystems, and sustainable foraging practices.