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Thursday, July 7, 2011

Spring Porcini Hunt with Dan!

tI know I know, I promised a mushroom hunting post like two weeks ago, sorry.  Petunia and I made some weak attempts to hunt mushrooms while on a recent vacation to Southern Oregon, but came up empty.  Although she had "hunted" mushrooms for fun as a small girl with her father Phil, it was always purely for fun and they never harvested them for fear of accidental ingestion of something toxic. I have never even tried to pick a wild mushroom before so this was all new to me. We didn't look long enough, or in the right places.  I think we may have been way too high in elevation at 4000+ feet, at least at this time of year, and where we were looking.  Dan was sad to hear we had failed to find any choice mushrooms while on our trip, despite having given us some pointers ahead of time.  He decided to share some knowledge with us, and invited me to come hunting with him that weekend. Dan and I headed out last Saturday morning to redress our failure and learn how to hunt for them a bit more advisedly.  

Dan tells us a little about Lookalikes.

Scary scary "Puffbal" Fungus.  Not edible.

Spore cake inside  (Yikes!)

The porcini proved elusive, with Dan and I searching for quite some time (over an hour)  before finding our first real specimen.  Once we found it, there was no longer any doubt in my mind as to what I was looking for.  What a mushroom these are!  Large, stout, firm things, they look like just the sort of mushroom you'd like to make your home out of, if you were two inches tall and blue from head to toe..  We found one huge rotten mushroom, which was an encouraging sign, but had to bumble around for another half an hour or so before finding the specimen you see below:
These mushrooms can be well hidden.  Specimens like this that are just breaking through the crust of moss and dead pine needles are often fresh and worm free.  Often, but not always..
Boletus rex veris in the flesh

We used walkie talkies to keep in communication, (really helpful!) and spread out our search pattern a bit wider.  I decided to return to the area where we first discovered the porcini pictured above.  I figured that where there's one, there should be more nearby.  Eventually I met with success, finding two mushrooms all on my own, not far from the first site!  These mushrooms had "Primordia" on them, which are actually baby mushrooms getting ready to grow! Had we left them in place, perhaps there would have been more mushrooms in that spot in another few days or weeks.  

A fat specimen, these are few and far between in the spring.

Encouraged, we redoubled the search, taking the car a mile or two further into the area we were exploring, and continued to seek the prized edibles.

The haul.  These would prove to be an even more modest harvest than anticipated.

The growth on the bottom of the stem is called a Primordia, and it's a baby mushroom getting ready to grow.

Dan and I spent several hours in the forest that afternoon, but only came away with a handful of mushrooms for our efforts.  We were not disappointed though, as Porcini have be an elusive prize this the spring. According to Dan the season has been poor overall due to weird weather patterns and late snow in the mountains.  Worms are also a constant possibility when dealing with mature Porcini mushrooms, and sadly you may find you have to discard what you thought was a prime specimen upon discovering these little guys on board. We eventually came to find out that quite a few of the mushrooms had indeed been corrupted by worms already, and had to be discarded.  The remaining few mushrooms (All of which Dan was kind enough to leave with us!) provided just enough material to be the star attraction in a homemade pesto pasta dish I prepared with Petunia.  It was delicious, and I look forward to hunting for these wonderful mushrooms again in the fall, when I hear they are far more plentiful.

 This terrible pic, was supposed to illustrate the evil worms that had infested so many of our precious mushrooms.  Obviously, it didn't work very well.  I'd delete it but the blog editing interface is bugging so badly today, that I can't delete it without losing half my post.  Command-Z to the rescue.

 What was left of the mushrooms after the "wormectomies"

Petunia's homemade Pesto made a wonderful base for the Porcinis, no leftovers were to be had.

Heading out of the wilderness on our way home, Dan and I paused to admire the view:

 We were rewarded  with one of the best Mt. Rainier views I've ever seen on our way out of the forest.
One of the prettiest mountains in North America, in my opinion.

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