When rain falls on the soft forest floor, it stimulates the growth of some tasty treats. Springing up out of seemingly everywhere overnight, mushrooms can be found from tree roots to tree trunks, branches and even in town amongst the grass in your yard. Go out for a walk in the earthy, moist forest and hunt for your dinner. Fall is mushroom season and if you know which ones to look for, it can be an entertaining and rewarding new hobby for the whole family.

Finding mushrooms growing in unexpected places is thrilling, like finding a vein of gold in a cave.

Except for the few bright-colored varieties, most mushrooms blend into the forest floor or hide on tree trunks – sometimes right in front of your eyes. Some days the mushrooms win, and you might come back empty-handed. But even so, you’ll still feel happy, lighthearted and grateful after getting out in the woods, listening to the birds, smelling the earthy moss and enjoying the cool canopy of evergreens. It’s an incredible way to spend an afternoon.

Bring your yard mushrooms to the Wild Mushroom Show October 21. Photo courtesy: Jessica Hamilton.

Often mushrooms are underestimated. They have powerful properties for the environment as the edible ones do for nutrition.

Mushrooms are packed with nutrients. They contain protein, fiber, potassium, niacin, thiamine, riboflavin, selenium, calcium and vitamins A, C and D. An astounding 700 species have medicinal properties lowering cancer risk, strengthening immune systems, helping with heart health and lowering inflammation.

Mushrooms play a crucial role in the environment by helping woodlands to regenerate. They break down fallen logs and help to decompose plant matter, releasing nutrients back into the forest to be reused. They help nourish trees while simultaneously taking what they need, creating a symbiotic relationship.

A Mushroom Foray is an entertaining way to enjoy nature with your children. Photo courtesy: Jessica Hamilton.

It’s important to have a solid knowledge before you eat anything you’ve harvested and don’t make any guesses. There are several look-alike varieties that can be misidentified, and many are toxic causing everything from mild digestive issues to death.

*It’s very important not to over-harvest. Take only what you need and leave the rest to do their work for the forest, while spreading spores for later hunting.

*Be sure to always check the rules before collecting on public land and ask the land owner on private land. Foraging is not allowed on National Park property.

Come dip your feet in the pine needles and see if mycology is for you. Take a class or join a local group to meet new friends and learn more about fascinating fungus.

Wild Mushrooms are found next to stream beds in Lake Terrell Park wildlife area. Photo courtesy: Jessica Hamilton.

The Northwest Mushroomers Association is a group of dedicated mycologists based in Bellingham. They meet the second Thursday of each month during the mushroom season in the spring and fall, and go foraging together in various locations as a group. They host banquets and potluck dinners for members to bring their wild mushroom harvest dishes and share recipes and cooking tips.

Every year, the Mushroomers Association hosts a very popular Wild Mushroom Show, open to the public with hundreds of identified species. Experts will be on hand to answer questions and identify species you can bring in. The event will take place on Sunday, October 21, 2018, from 12:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. at Bloedel Donovan Park in the Community Building.

The North Cascades Institute is offering two mushrooming classes coming up in October. Both will take place at the beautiful North Cascades Environmental Learning Center located on Diablo Lake.

Little meadow mushrooms can be edible, but extreme caution must be used in identification. Photo courtesy: Jessica Hamilton.

Wild Whatcom has a number of mushroom forays coming up.

  • Wild Things: Designed for parents, toddlers and preschoolers, this event is not for foraging, only to look and appreciate the varieties of mushrooms found in the forest. The group will meet every Friday in October at the Stimpson Family Nature Preserve from 9:30 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.
  • Nature Outing Fungus Among Us: Two experts from the NW Mushroomers Association will teach the basics and how to explore and identify the most common mushrooms. Bring your yard mushrooms for identification. Open to participants age four and up with a suggested donation of $12 for adults and $8 for children. Reservations are required at holly@wildwhatcom.org. The group is meeting at Lake Padden West Entrance on Sunday October 28 from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
Wild mushrooms pop up in yards all over Whatcom County. Photo courtesy: Jessica Hamilton.

There are several Facebook groups with communities of people that will look at your photos and help to identify mushrooms found in the Pacific Northwest. These include PNW mushroom foraging and identification, Pacific Northwest Mushroom identification and information forum and Washington State Mushroom Hunters.

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