Washington Wild Chanterelle Mushrooms

It's mushroom season in Washington, and I'm beginning to see the first ads from people with chanterelles for sale. Late September and early October are peak wild-mushroom season, especially in Western Washington around the Olympic Peninsula. There are several varieties of wild mushrooms that "fruit" in the fall—including boletus and the somewhat rare matsutake—but in this area the chanterelles, in both the yellow and the white variety, rule. The yellow variety is especially common on the west side of the Cascades, particularly under the cover of second growth forests rich with Douglas fir and hemlock. The chanterelles look similar to other mushrooms when they first push up from the conifir's roots; small "buttons" of fungi. But later the button widens and spreads, creating the familiar trumpet-like chanterelle fan, with thick ridges along their underside and down the stalk. You do need to be careful if you're hunting wild mushrooms; there are a few poisonous mushrooms that a beginner might confuse for a chanterelle. Go with an expert the first time, at least, and remember that there are legal restrictions about when, where, and how many mushrooms you harvest. If you attempt a wild chanterelle harvest, make sure you keep to the legal limit. Note, too, that chanterelles are also abundant in Oregon.

The chanterelle is delicately flavored and this time time of year cooks are eagerly seeking them to use at some of the better gourmet restaurants. Nowadays, they're competing with a lot of other mushroom fans. There are all sorts of recipes and ways to enjoy chanterelles. Despite their delicate flavor, you can do amazing things with just a few chanterelles. There's a good chance that your local farmer's market, produce stand, or co-op sells locally harvested chanterelles. I've started seeing ads for chanterelles locally in the alternative papers and on Craig's List, and have seen them at two local farm stands, as well

This year Long Beach, Washington on the Peninsula is hosting a Wild Mushroom Celebration, from October 15 through November 15. It includes several dinners featuring local wild mushrooms prepared by regional chefs (and accompanied by regional wines). Another way to learn about Washington wild mushrooms is to attend the classes and events hosted by the Puget Sound Mycological Society. There's a wild mushroom identification class starting in October. They have a lot of information about identifying and using wild mushrooms on the Web site, as well.