Fall in the Pacific Northwest means the beginning of the rainy season and the first appearance of savory chanterelle mushrooms. I can’t think of a better way to spend a Saturday in November than being outdoors in cool, fresh mountain air, while gathering a fresh and tasty addition to my dinner. chanterelles are a versatile mushroom and I love that I can add them to spice up virtually any meal. My personal favorite is a yummy breakfast of chanterelles sautéed in butter and added to eggs with a dash of freshly chopped parsley from the garden. They also work well on top of meat dishes, like steak or pasta, and also make a mouth-watering soup.
When to look
Chanterelle growth is very weather dependent, but I usually start looking at the end of October and continue until around mid-November. I find the best time to start my search is after three inches of rain has fallen before the chanterelles begin to appear. It is best to wait at least a week or two after the first storms have passed. The most favorable conditions are a large storm with a few weeks of cloudy and light rain fall. With too much rain the chanterelles become mushy and inedible, while conditions that are too dry shorten the harvest season.
Where to look
I enjoy taking the relaxing, scenic drive from Portland to Tillamook State Forest to start my search. Chanterelles like to grow on a forest floor predominantly composed of fir needles and ground that is undisturbed. They can be found in forests that have predominantly one type of tree, like the Doug fir. I experience beautiful hikes while searching since chanterelles grow on slopes which means lots of climbing (and a good workout). The search is like a treasure hunt, and I love the moment when I spot the very first one and start daydreaming of the wonderful meals I can make with them.
What to bring
I bring a knife for cutting the mushrooms, a bag (preferably mesh so the mushroom can breathe), and good hiking shoes. Chanterelles are found in forests during the rainy season and it is best to wear warm, rain-resistant gear to stay dry and comfortable during your hunt! I store them in paper bags until I am ready to cook them so they don’t become soggy.
What to watch out for
Lookalikes. There are many types of mushrooms, such as Jack-O-Lanterns, that appear very similar to chanterelle mushrooms. It is recommended that you are able to 100% identify the mushroom you are picking before you eat it. If you aren’t sure, don’t pick it! I recommend going with an experienced local expert or friend who can help you, especially on the first try. And remember, don’t give up if you don’t find them the first time! Scout other locations or try again when weather conditions are more ideal. The hunt for chanterelles can be as satisfying as the delicious meal you make when you finally find them.