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Finally Chanterelles!

A September mushrooming outing somewhere near Skykomish. Maybe.

Mushroom hunters have a reputation for obfuscating their picking spots. It's not that I'm protective of my mushrooming spots -- just ask to come along and I'll gladly show you the way, no blindfolding required! It's just that when I get out in the woods chasing mushrooms I tend to wander rather purposefully, eyes on the ground, in search of edible mushrooms. So if someone asks "Where did you find these?" my honest answer has to be "Somewhere near...". So I can tell you without reservation that somewhere near Skykomish I got into the first chanterelles of my picking season.

I loooove finding mushrooms. Chanterelles, the (oft) golden trumpets of the mushroom world, usually present in the most beautifully contrasting settings, too. Their pale yellow-gold bodies appear like spotlights of sunshine on deep mossy forest beds, peeking out from under large-bladed sword ferns or waxy leafed salal. They are impossibly clean after fighting their way up through the duff and debris of the forest floor.

I made a good haul that morning, which began a season of feasting on fresh mushrooms. Chanterelles can be preserved -- I saute them with shallots, wine and butter then freeze for later use, typically -- but I'm increasingly a believer in the "eat 'em if you got 'em" approach to wild foods. Or maybe "gorge on 'em if you got 'em." It feels incredibly decadent to through a mound of fresh chanterelles in a frying pan for breakfast, topped with a fried egg. Then to cook up another pile for dinner, maybe on a bed of spaetzle. Where others must treat them as seasonal rarities of fine dining, for a short time I treat them as an overabundant pantry staple. I think maybe this is what eating seasonally probably meant before the age of easy refrigeration and freezing.

If you want to get started with mushrooming in the Pacific Northwest there are lots of great resources. Langdon Cook's book The Mushroom Hunters is part instructional, mostly adventurous romp through the underworld of commercial harvesting. Becky Selengut's wonderful cookbook, Shroom, also performs double duty as an instructional guide. My favorite guidebooks are the pocket-friendly All That the Rain Promises and More, by David Arora, and Mushrooms of the Pacific Northwest, by Steve Trudell and Joe Ammirati. For a more guided experience, consider joining the Puget Sound Mycological Society, which offers classes, field trips, and mushroom identification.

Of course there are other mushrooms out in the forest, not all of them for eating but beautiful nonetheless. Here are a few I found while wandering the mossy western slopes of the Cascades.

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