There are about 10,000 fungal species from all of North America that have been identified and described. Roughly 10 to 20% of the mushroom species are edible, 5% have medicinal properties, 20% can make you sick, and about 1% are known as deadly.
Before heading out to collect mushrooms, take a moment to learn some important details that will make your experience enjoyable and risk-free. The best advice you can get during wild edible mushroom foraging is to approach with absolute caution. There are very many species in the world. This means it is easy to confuse edible with poisonous ones.
The golden rule of thumb for mushroom collecting is to avoid anything suspicious and to have an expert on hand to confirm that your basket isn’t full of deadly look-alike. It is wise to use a few field guides to cross-reference.
Check Mushroom Safety Guide for more information.
Popular Wild Edible Mushrooms in Oregon
Mushroom Associations with Trees
Most wild edible mushrooms are mycorrhizal that means they build symbiotic associations with the roots of ectomycorrhizal trees and shrubs. Due to the mushrooms lack the chlorophyll, they are not able to obtain energy from the sun and synthesize carbohydrates (sugars). Instead of this, fungi use their underground networks of hyphae to receive sugar and other nutrition from the trees. In return, plants obtain minerals and water from the soil through these networks.
Different mushrooms grow under certain types of trees and prefer a specific climate and soil. Finding the right forest that is suitable for particular species of the fungi is key to a successful search and proper identification.
Douglas-fir supports boletes and chanterelles.
Pine is associated with boletes including King boletes, hedgehog mushroom, matsutake, chanterelles, slippery jack, and other suillus.
Under Oak, you can find boletes, chanterelles, blewits, black trumpets, honey mushrooms, and oysters.
Western hemlock host of a number of fungi such as boletes, matsutake, chanterelles.
Sitka spruce is associated with boletes and slippery jack.
Aspen is a common host for oyster mushroom, honey mushrooms, and aspen boletes.
Willow is associated with oyster and honey mushrooms.
Birch supports chanterelles, hedgehogs, and boletes.
Boletes are the safest wild edible mushrooms for the novices. These mushrooms are easy to identify by their appearance and spongy-like surface underside of the cap. Bolete is a broad species of mushrooms that contain many edible species and only a few poisonous or bitter.
It is estimated that over 100,000 metric tons King Bolete mushrooms are consumed worldwide annually. The cost of boletes is high because these fungi are restricted to wild foraging and tend to be the most difficult to cultivate.
Cantharellus in Latin means "little drinking cup". One of the most popular species of edible mushrooms all over the world, chanterelle tends to be the most difficult fungi to cultivate. Highly-prized wild-picked chanterelles are exported worldwide. This delicious but expensive mushrooms can be found in supermarkets and farm-stores as well as in the forests. The beautifully colored funnel-shaped fungi are abundant in the Pacific Northwest.
They are excellent for pickling, preserving, stir-frying, drying, or sautéing.
Several species of Suillus genus are edible when throughout prepared. The term Slippery Jack is often applied to a few members of Suillus. It called "Slippery" because a cap of the mushroom is slimy and sticky when wet. The genus name means "swine" in Latin, a term was used to define a type of mushrooms.
There are approximately 70 Suillus species in the US. Some of the species are edible. One of them is Slippery Jack (Suillus Luteus). Slippery Jack is abundant and widely distributed throughout the state of Oregon. These mushrooms can be found on the ground under pine and spruce trees. In some countries, Slippery Jack is considered as one of low-quality mushroom, but not everywhere. Often used in Europe to prepare gourmet meals, these fungi are great for sautéing, frying, preserving, and drying.
Hedgehog (Dentinum Repandum), also known as the sweet tooth is a small family of popular edible fungi. Typically, the mushroom is medium-sized, sometimes large, the color of the cap could be yellow, orange, or brown. The species are easily recognized by light-brown or orange tooth-like spines instead of gills or tubes and appear to be one of the safest species for the beginners. Hedgehog could not be confused with any poisonous mushrooms and is considered as good as chanterelle. These species are abundant in many regions and typically free of maggots. They are great for sautéing, frying, or drying.
Cap: Irregular, often depressed, yellow, orange, or brown, 2-6 inches (5-15 cm) wide.
Cap's Underside: Tooth-like spines up to 6 mm long, cream or orange colored.
Steam: Solid, irregular, short, thick.
Flesh: Firm, white to yellow.
Habitat: Coniferous, deciduous forests.
White Matsutake (Tricholoma magnivelare) or Pine Mushroom is highly prized for its spicy cinnamon aroma and unique flavor. In Japan, Armillaria matsutake is the most valuable and expensive fungi and costs up to $500 per pound. The Pacific Northwest matsutake resembles Japanese species though they tend to have a bit different color and texture. In North America, the matsutake (Armillaria ponderosa) is harvested commercially for the local market and for export to Japan.
The white matsutake is widespread in British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, and Northern California, growing on the ground, in sandy soil under pine, hemlock, Douglas fir, madrone, tanoak, and manzanita. In Oregon, matsutake is most abundant in coastal woods and the southern Cascade Range. Also, these mushrooms are found in the Willamette, Umpqua, Deschutes, and Fremont-Winema National Forests.
Before heading into the woods to harvest the matsutake, check rules and regulations for this particular area. Obtain commercial or personal use permits. Non-commercial permits are required in some areas including the national forests.
Cap: Firm, wide, convex, become flat with age, white to yellowish, 2-8 inches (5-20 cm) wide.
Cap's Underside: White gills when fresh, stains brownish with age.
Steam: Thick, fibrous, shape of the base (without bulb or volva). 2-6 inches (5-15 cm) long. White veil, breaks and can disappear when mature.
Habitat: On the ground under conifer trees.
Features: Distinctive spicy cinnamon odor.
Caution. Do not confuse matsutake with white Amanita that has a bulb or volva at the steam's base.
Lobster is not a real mushroom, but a parasitic mold Hypomyces Lactifluorum that attacks and grows on short-stemmed Russula Brevipes and Lactarius Piperatus. The mold makes the mushrooms malformed and totally changes their appearance. The surface of the mushrooms becomes bright orange or reddish purple. Lobster mushroom has firm meaty texture and fish odor. The mushrooms are excellent for sautéing.
Technically Hypomyces Lactifluorum only parasitizes Russulas and Lactarius species, improving the taste and aroma of the mushrooms. According to some sources, the mold could potentially parasitize a poisonous species. If you cannot confirm the host, avoid the mushroom harvesting.
Cap: Covered by bright orange to reddish mold.
Cap's Underside: Gills are reduced or not visible.
Steam: Solid, covered by bright orange to reddish mold.
Flesh: White and crisp.
Habitat: Widespread in coniferous forests.
Season: Summer through fall.
Caution. Some guidebooks state that the host mushroom can be poisonous, making Lobster mushrooms toxic. But other sources assert that a chance that Hypomyces Lactifluorum attacks any other species is tiny.
Black and White Truffle
Oregon black and white truffles (Tuber Melanosporum and Tuber Gibbosum) are similar to the edible and extremely costly European truffles. This most expensive food in the world spurs interest in Northwest America for truffles hunting. Approximately, truffles in Oregon cost $300-500 per pound.
A fruiting body of the truffle is shaped like a small potato, has an excellent aroma and rich taste. Truffles hunters use trained dogs to sniff out underground treasures.
Oregon Black Truffle
Fruiting Body: Irregularly round, potato-shaped, 1/4-2 inches (0.5-5 cm), firm, dark brown to black.
Flesh: Whitish to grayish marbled flesh with pineapple aroma.
Habitat: Underground under Douglas fir, northwest America.
Oregon White Truffle
Fruiting Body: Irregularly round, potato-shaped, 1/2-2 inches (1.5-5 cm), firm, whitish to brown.
Flesh: Whitish to grayish marbled flesh with white veins and canals. Strong garlic-like aroma.
Habitat: Underground under Douglas fir, west of Cascades, Oregon Coast.
Morels (Morchella Esculenta) are among the most highly prized mushrooms. There are varieties of forms and colors of the edible morels. However, all of them are spongy, have a conical appearance, and are completely hollow inside. Morels are great when dried and sautéed.
Cap: Cone-shaped, rounded top, covered with dip pits, edges between pits running irregularly, pale brown to grayish brown, 1-2 inches (2- 5 cm) wide.
Steam: Strong, hollow, pale, enlarged at base, 2-4 inches (5-10 cm) long.
Habitat: Open deciduous forests, orchards, gardens, and burned areas.
Season: April - May.
Caution. Do not confuse with toxic False Morels.
Delicious Milky Cap
Milky Cap belongs to mushrooms of the Lactarius, Lactifluus, and Multifurca genera. Some of the milky caps are excellent edibles and a few are mildly poisonous. The mushroom common name is a reference to the milk-like fluid (latex) that is exuded when the fresh fungus is broken or cut.
One of the popular Lactarius species is Safron Milky Cap or Delicious Milky Cap (Lactarius Deliciosus). This mushroom has been eaten for many hundreds of years and is very popular in China, Japan, West, and East Europe. Can be salted or pickling. Before preserving, milky caps need to be blanched into the salted water. Changing the water twice decreases the possible fungi toxic properties.
Cap: Depressed in the center, orange, zoned with darker orange, 2-6 inches (5-15 cm) wide, staining green when mature.
Gills: Orange, regular, exuding white to yellow milk when cut, staining green with age.
Steam: Orange, short, stout, 2-4 inches (5-10 cm) long.
Flesh: Cream-yellowish, staining greenish.
Habitat: Open grassy areas in coniferous and deciduous forests.
Season: Late summer to fall.
Feature: Green-staining is an indicator of the Safron Milky Cap species.
Caution. May be confused with poisonous Red-Hot Milky Cap (brick red color) or Wooly Lactarius (white to pale cap with darker center). Avoid species staining purple or yellow where bruise, some of them are poisonous.
Wild edible mushroom hunting is a great hobby that provides great satisfaction. If you know what to pick, mushrooms can be an excellent source of nutrition for the whole family. If it’s your first time eating them, take it slow so you are sure that the delicacy is good for you. You should also follow the rules of mushroom harvesting in Oregon not only for your safety but so as not to deplete the important resource.
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Disclaimer: This is not an official guide to wild mushroom foraging. Please do your own research, be sure to practice with a mushroom's expert before you pick up and consume any wild mushrooms.