The Pacific Northwest is well known for many things, one of which is the abundance of its choice edible mushrooms. Walk along any trail here on Vancouver Island, and you are likely to find an infinite number of colourful mushrooms sprouting from the earth!
However, if you are inclined to go out foraging for wild mushrooms for the first time, this fall or in early spring, be sure to go out with somebody experienced in mycology, that is, someone familiar with the study of fungi. Or join one of the many local foraging expeditions. As the adage goes: “All mushrooms are edible—but some of them only once.” You get the idea!
Here is a list of some of the top favourite edible mushrooms you can find in our neighbourhood.
Pacific Golden Chanterelle
This beautifully coloured mushroom can be found growing on the ground in autumn. You can use this mushroom as a meat substitute in soups and pastas or cook them in white wine and garlic as a satisfying side dish! Surprisingly, a chanterelle’s identifying feature isn’t their colour. Look for a funnel-shaped body that has ridges rather than gills running just under the funnel.
This ‘mushroom’ is a parasitic fungus that grows on certain mushrooms, turning them lobster red. They are really easy to identify for beginner foragers. Walk through a coniferous forest, and you’ll find them growing on the ground from August to late October. They have a distinctive seafood-like flavour. A perfect addition to a seafood fettucine!
Oyster mushrooms pop up in early spring, when the air is still quite moist. The size of these mushrooms can vary a lot from looniesized to massive head-sized fans. Look for these mushrooms on decaying conifers or hardwoods. Oysters are especially tasty in stir-fries, pastas, or soups. They add a delicate, subtle flavour to any dish.
Several species of these ultra-tasty, brainy-looking mushrooms grow right here on the island. You can find them sprouting from the forest floor or along the base of fruit trees. Unfortunately, you’ll have to wait till early spring to pick what is probably North America’s most sought-after wild mushroom. A rare delicacy, well worth pursuing when the time is right!
These mushrooms are the kings of the forest, growing as big as 61/2 lbs! A distinguishing feature of these mushrooms is their porous underside with its many tiny pore tubes, used to release spores. Good for soups, pastas, and especially tasty in risotto. They dehydrate and freeze well, too. You can find these mushrooms throughout the fall season and in early spring.
Resources for Wild Mushroom Foraging in B.C.
1. Check out the AdventureSmart website for trip planning tips
2. Harvesting Edible Forest Mushrooms in B.C. – B.C. Government Publication
3. Mushrooms Demystified by David Arora