Delicious Mushrooms are Plentiful in the Coastal Mountains of Oregon
Oregon’s beautiful coastal mountain range offers spectacular waterfalls and countless hiking trails. In the autumn, one can also find edible Golden chanterelles.
Mushrooms prosper in Oregon’s wet climate, especially along with the coastal mountain range, where annual rainfall can exceed 100 inches. Among the many species of mushrooms found here, one of the most delectable, and one of the easiest to identify safely, is the chanterelle (genus Cantharellus).
Where to Find Chanterelles in Oregon
Chanterelles are thought to be a mycorrhizal fungus, that is, one that maintains a symbiotic relationship with other plants, even to the extent of massing around or penetrating the roots of the associated plants. This complicates commercial cultivation, but it also provides clues to locating the mushrooms.
In Oregon, the Pacific golden chanterelle (Cantharellus formosus, Oregon’s designated state mushroom) has been recognized as a separate species from the best-known species of chanterelle, the Golden chanterelle (Cantharellus cibarius). This mushroom has a mycorrhizal relationship with Douglas fir trees, which are abundant along the Oregon coast. Consequently, chanterelle hunters should focus on Douglas fir forests.
When to Find Chanterelles in Oregon
Chanterelles are found from late summer through late fall, with October and November being the prime months to find them. Their presence depends upon rain, and the most productive time to look for chanterelles is the period following a solid and steady rainfall, a weather event common to the Oregon coast in the fall. Chanterelles will continue to show until temperatures drop to the freezing level.
What to Look for When Searching for Chanterelles in Oregon
Searching for chanterelles is a little like an Easter egg hunt. During the fall, alder trees, which are often found with Douglas fir, turn color and carpet the forest floor with bright yellow leaves. Pacific golden chanterelles are slightly more orange and gold-colored than these leaves, but distinguishing them in the midst of a heavy leaf fall can be problematic. At the same time, it can be exciting and rewarding to find a beautiful chanterelle among these leaves.
Chanterelles gradually force their way upward through thick moss and other forest detritus, sometimes pushing against thick downed branches and twigs. Occasionally, the hunter will spot a chanterelle standing alone and distinct, but typically one will have to scan the forest floor systematically, searching for a small flash of bright gold.
The mushroom hunter should concentrate on deep, spongy moss patches, areas close to the base of Douglas fir trees and at the base of low-growing salal bushes. Once found, the hunter should cut the stalk cleanly with a knife, close to the forest floor.
Identifying Golden Chanterelles
The mushroom hunter should familiarize himself with chanterelles using one of many field guides that are available, and new hunters should carry a field guide with them. That said, chanterelle hunting is generally much less risky than hunting for many other species since they are quite distinct and close to unmistakable.
Pacific golden chanterelles are bright golden to yellow-orange in color. The caps are smooth, uneven around the edges, and slightly funnel-shaped. Beneath the cap, there are gill-like ridges that continue down part of the stipe (the stalk or stem). These ridges, or veins, are distinct from true gills and help identify the chanterelle.
Probably the most common similar and inedible mushroom to be aware of in this same habitat is the Wooly chanterelle (Gomphus floccosus). The Wooly chanterelle looks much like a Golden chanterelle from a distance, but a closer examination reveals significant and identifiable differences. The Wooly chanterelle generally has a much more orange-colored cap, the cap is more funnel-like and sunken and the center of the cap is rough with reddish-orange scales. The stipe is much longer than that of Golden chanterelles (these mushrooms usually appear to stand tall), and the stipe is also lighter in color.
Eating Golden Chanterelles
Chanterelles can be prepared and eaten in many dishes, and recipes using chanterelles are plentiful. They combine well with eggs and meat dishes, as well as with potatoes, and cream provides a delicious enhancement. Sauteed chanterelles, in a hot pan of butter, olive oil, and garlic, make a wonderful topping for crackers or toast.
Are Permits Needed to Collect Mushrooms?
On the Oregon coast, in Tillamook State Forest, Bureau of Land Management property and Siuslaw National Forest (which runs from Tillamook to Coos Bay), no permits are required for personal, noncommercial, collection for up to one gallon of mushrooms per person per day. Regulations are similar throughout the state, although in some cases, permits are required (at no charge). To check the latest regulations for national forests in Oregon and Washington, the collector can link to specific areas through Nature of the Northwest.
Oregon’s coastal mountains are beautiful in autumn, with fall color, scenic hikes and spectacular views. Visitors can also find plentiful Pacific golden chanterelles, a deliciously edible mushroom.