Mushroom foraging in the spring

As Spring dawns upon us, so do mushrooms! Known as the season of new beginnings and growth, it’s that time of year again when flowers, herbs and mushrooms bloom and sprout. While there are a variety of mushrooms that appear during the spring season, some of the most common edible mushrooms to look for are morels, oysters, and boletes.

Morels (Morchella spp.) is perhaps one of North America’s most revered and famous mushrooms. Not only are they delicious, but they are extremely difficult to grow and are therefore only found in the wild due to the complex and symbiotic relationship they have with trees. Morels grow from late April to about mid-June and are usually found in temperate areas under hardwoods and conifers or nestled around garden edges, along wood chips or compost. Their spongy, honeycomb-like appearance attracts mushroom lovers, foraging chefs and nature lovers of all kinds. Morels are so popular because of their meaty texture and earthy, toasted flavor. They have a distinct taste and are usually served either sautéed or fried and accompanied by chicken, fish, cheese and a glass of wine. Morels are full of nutrition as they grow in rich soils that are full of vitamins and minerals. In general, morels contain a significant amount of copper, vitamin D, zinc, among other vitamins and minerals.

Unlike morels, oysters (Pleurotus ostreatus) is one of the most commonly cultivated mushrooms, but like morels, they also grow naturally on and near trees in temperate and subtropical forests around the world, especially during spring. Oyster mushrooms are soft-textured, have wide, fan-shaped caps with gills covering the underside, and can be found in clumps of small mushrooms. Like other mushrooms, oyster mushrooms can be sautéed, fried, baked or grilled and are often found in a variety of cuisines, especially in oriental recipes. When foraging for oyster mushrooms, look for mushrooms that are bright and springy in texture and avoid those that are wilted and have dark spots, as this can be a clear indication that they are beginning to spoil. Oyster mushrooms grow in huge numbers if conditions are favorable, and once you spot one cluster, you’ll likely find several more in the same area.

Last, but not least, the Spring King (Boletus rex-veris) is also an edible mushroom found in Western North America from May to June. Spring Kings also known as spring porcini tend to grow near firs or pines and in areas that have a moderate amount of moisture such as the Cascade Range or the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Morphologically, Spring Kings are robust and have thick fleshy covers with a sponge-like surface underneath instead of gills. The cap is usually pink and brown and begins to darken as the mushroom matures. The stems are thick and creamy in color. These mushrooms are the chef’s favorite! They have a delicate taste, a meaty texture, a wonderful aroma and excellent nutritional properties.

As with most mushrooms, there are a variety of oyster, morel, and poisonous-looking, such as Jack o’ Lantern, Deadly False Morel, and Satan’s Bolete. Caution is strongly advised when foraging regardless of experience!

Leave a comment