How many types of mushrooms can you name? Unfortunately, for most of us, our knowledge is limited to what the grocery store can offer – usually three or four commercial varieties. Yet, nature offers hundreds of species – many of them edible, and some of the best available in the Pacific Northwest.
So I went to a mushroom workshop outside Salem at the Opal Creek Ancient Forest Center to get schooled. The forest center itself provided a perfect learning environment, as the center is remotely located among the Cascade Mountains – a perfect region for mushrooms. The mountains trap the weather systems moving in from the West and cause large amounts of rainfall. Rain and moisture are essential for mushrooms to grow. Once you bring in other factors – such as elevation, flora and fauna – what you find on a mushroom hunt can be quite varied. The center itself prides itself as being a steward of the land – it not only uses its educational program to foster sustainability but also offers a rare low-impact energy use system.
On the hunt, it is good to have a knife, a brush, and a basket for placing the mushrooms into. The knife helps cut the dirty or undesirable part of the mushroom away, the brush helps further clean it before putting it into the basket. It is helpful to have them as clean as possible before they are placed together with other mushrooms they could possibly dirty.