Communion

The mushrooming this season has been excellent.

Perhaps it has something to do with record-breaking October rainfall across western Washington, combined with warmer-than-average temperatures.

Whatever the cause, we’ve spent the fall eating from the forest.

The season kicked off with Hericium abietus, although our finds of that species were paltry in comparison to chanterelles and winter chanterelles (Cantherellus tubaeformis). We’ve found some pig’s ears (Gomphus clavatus) and hedgehogs (Hydnum repandum) along the way, but Cantherellus has been our staple.

We’ve also explored farther afield this year, down side roads and game trails near known haunts. With each foray, we’ve added to our mental schema for what makes a site mushroom-y.

Some notes on finding chanterelles:

  • Second growth is OK, as are seemingly ugly logging roads, as long as other conditions are right.
  • “Other conditions being right” includes the condition of forest duff.
  • The duff’s condition gives you clues about the age of the forest, the soil type, moisture levels, and conditions related to microclimates that favor chanterelles.
  • These clues lead you to your indicator species, more precisely, hemlocks.
  • The fallen leaves of trees such as alder and cottonwood will trick your eye with their colors, but very rarely have I found chanterelles in areas with these species.
  • Neither should you waste much time in grassy areas, although the edges of forests can be just fine.
  • Smell and feel: The area must smell right, and usually looks just so, according to the above conditions.
  • In short, you must spend time in the woods.


During the last big hunt, I scrambled up-slope from a nondescript logging road and found myself transported. The outside world hushed by the forest’s thick carpet of moss, the primary sound was of rain drops filtering down through a canopy of conifer needles.

I paused, and listened, as Grandfather Raven croaked in the distance. The forest exhaled, and I received the gift.

We receive something more than physical sustenance when we eat from the wild.

 

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