HEAVY RAINS THAT came with the storm that blew in last weekend served a two-fold purpose: bringing up the levels on depleted rivers, notably out on the West End, and providing a moisture boost to fungi production.
Fall is here, and that means mushroom season for fungi foragers here on the North Olympic Peninsula.
Quilcene’s Ward Norden has been scrounging pretty far afield for the tasty forest treats. Quilcene “only” received 0.4 inches of rain during the storm, while other locales saw rain totals more than an inch.
“On Monday we visited the Satsop River bottoms north of Montesano and a few chanterelles were already beginning to show,” Norden said. “That area got over 3 inches of rain.
“Mushroom hunters this weekend should be aware that Saturday marks the opening of muzzleloading deer season so be prepared to share the woods occasionally for the next week.”
I don’t advise mushroom hunting solo on your first outing. Find an experienced picker or reach out to experts to walk you through edible species.
Chanterelles rank among the most popular edible wild mushrooms. They are usually vase or trumpet-shaped with wavy gills.
This mushroom has a fruity, apricot-like aroma and a mild, peppery taste. Don’t harvest them if they are mushy or gooey.
Lobster mushrooms are good sized and orange or red in color, pretty easy to identify. And they taste delicious by themselves or when prepared as part of a pasta dish.
More than 20 different typs of Bolete mushrooms grow in Western Washington. These resemble traditional toadstool mushrooms, are spongy, and the King variety is medium to large in size with yellow-brown, red-brown or dark red caps.
Oyster mushrooms make a delicious addition to Thanksgiving stuffing recipes, and morels also are around but are more common in the spring.
Norden always keeps a close watch on the weather and potential patterns in the water of the Pacific Ocean.
“This fall may be interesting for storms,” Norden said. “That big red ‘blob’ of warm water is back across most of the North Pacific north of California. The red color signifies the warmer-than-normal water shown on NOAA satellite charts of ocean surface temperatures.
“While not significant biologically this season, the ‘blob’ could be significant for fall storms driven by temperature differences between winds coming off Siberia meeting that warmer-than-normal water.”
Farther south along the Equator, a La Nina pattern of colder-than-normal water has returned suddenly.
“That usually means the powerful drought in the U.S. Southwest will continue when their rainy season begins in November,” Norden said. “Hopefully, this La Nina will disappear as quickly as it re-emerged only a few weeks ago.”