Finding the Fun in Fungus

True story

True story

Yesterday was an anomaly. Here’s why: I was successful at something without having to try that hard. That can only lead me to believe that chanterelle mushroom picking is insanely easy.

My girlfriend had been talking up this field trip for a while and I was very hesitant for two reasons – 1) I was scared to death I would become poisoned and 2) I did not have nearly enough time to learn all that mushroom picking entails.

Typically my tales of success go something like this: Have the desire to accomplish something. Learn all about it over the course of weeks or even years. Try and fail – many, many times. Finally, after picking myself back up, I will taste a small piece of victory and feel as though life really isn’t so hard… If only my other efforts would always end up as magically successful as our forest fungus adventure.

He Helped

He helped

We packed up the dog, the mushroom guide circa 1969, rain jackets and a water bottle. The weather was unusually perfect – the clouds were puffy and separated – the sun sang through the sky and created epic rainbows against the picturesque farmland outside of Portland. However, I barely noticed what condition the world was in because I was frantically going through the mushroom guide, trying to study what the differences were between “fake chanterelles” and the real thing. Fake chanterelles shouldn’t be confused for the real thing, said the guide – they are poisonous and cause digestion distress. Please see reason number one why I didn’t want to take this risk in the first place…

Once we got to the desired mile marker, we pulled off the road and started meandering down the trail. My girlfriend is almost as clueless as I am in regards to mushroom picking, but had tried going a few weeks ago at this same spot. She came back empty handed and got additional tips from a coworker to go off the hiking trails.

“So, like, when do we start turning off the trail?” I ask.

“Whenever, I guess,” she responded. We kept repeating that, if nothing else, we’d enjoy an afternoon hike. I couldn’t imagine actually finding a wild chanterelle, so I was barely even looking. But then a little white-top mushroom showed itself through the soggy leave-covered ground. That’s all the motivation I needed.

“Look! There! Mushroom!” I exclaimed. That was the sign. “Here, let’s just start walking here!” The white mushroom certainly wasn’t a chanterelle – I didn’t need the guide to cross reference that, but surely where there’s fungus there’s fungi, right?

We squished through the soft forest floor – eyes suddenly acute to every leaf, stick, and pine cone. All of three minutes later we find it, our very first wild chanterelle all scalloped orange and perfect. It could have easily been mistaken for an oak leaf, but when examined closely, it was dinner.

“Look, the gills, do you think it’s really it?” my girlfriend asks. I couldn’t believe it – we needed a second opinion. The description in the book said to look for “gills going down the stem with adjoining veins.” Uhh, sure, I guess it fit that… Once we found one, the rest practically jumped into our hands. Every few minutes, we were gently adding more pounds of precious fungus to our canvas bag. The air felt fresh, kind and lucky.  The dog was romping around the forest just as excited as we were. A few hours later the rain came and we took that as our exit sign. We walked back to the car in disbelief that we had approximately 10 pounds of wild chanterelles.



My girlfriend took some into her coworker the next day, just to make sure they were the real thing.

“Oh yeah, they’re chanterelles,” she told me after their conversation.

“Was he so excited?! We found so many!” I said.

“Well, no – I mean, he’s gotten four times that amount lately,” she recalled.

Great for him. I’m still riding my mushroom high.

Comments 3

  1. Brian wrote:

    Nice looking dog! What did you two do with that ten pounds of mushrooms?

    Posted 08 Nov 2009 at 5:49 pm
  2. Catherine wrote:

    Pizza… Egg scrambles… Wild rice… They’re yummy!

    Posted 10 Nov 2009 at 11:17 pm
  3. martha wrote:

    wow- I’ve always been too chicken to go mushroom hunting- magic or otherwise! Good for you guys!

    Posted 20 Nov 2009 at 8:32 pm

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