I love learning about and harvesting wild food. Harvesting wild food is so satisfying. It makes me feel connected with what I’m eating and to the environment that I’m in. It is also rewarding in that it takes some knowledge, skill, and effort so when you do find something it can be really exciting. I’ve been meaning to go out to gather Oyster Mushrooms for a long time. I gathered them once a few years ago with a friend. I love their woody musky smell and taste. Whenever I’m out hiking or running in the spring I usually keep an eye out for them. At the Vashon Island 50k last year I saw saw a tree full of them as I was running and I got excited. I tried to remember where they were but by the time I was done running I had no idea where I had seen them.
Photo by onenjen via Flickr.
My friends, Rebecca and Conner, were just starting their sailing adventure. They are sailing from Olympia, WA to Alaska. They stopped in Seattle and anchored at Discovery Park to hang out for the weekend. Discovery Park is my favorite park in Seattle and has a lot of forested trails. I met up with them and we decided to hunt for Oyster Mushrooms in the park. I’m no mushroom expert but I’ll tell you what I know. Though, be sure to do your own research and make sure to be 100% confident in your identification of mushrooms before harvesting. In the Pacific Northwest Oyster mushrooms like to grow on dead Alder trees. Either on standing snags or fallen logs. Alders are very common in the northwest. They are often the first trees to come up after an area has been logged or cleared and they like moist areas like near creeks and rivers.
Here’s an Alder:
Photo by La.Catholique via Flickr.
Look for areas where Alders are growing, especially big Alders, and start looking for dead logs.
The good thing about Oyster mushrooms is that they are pretty easy to identify and they have no poisonous look-alikes in North America. Check out this link for more info: Oyster ID Guide.
We were walking along a trail and looked up to see a big dead Alder leaning over the trail and it had Oysters growing all the way up it. But unfortunately the lowest ones were 12 feet off the ground.
So this is what we did:
Rebecca looks scared wielding a big knife and standing on my shoulders. She was able to cut off the lowest small cluster but the rest were far out of reach.
We kept moving and about half an hour later we found this incredible stand about 50 feet off of a trail.
That’s a lot of mushrooms!
I was so excited. We gathered as much as we thought we could reasonably eat before they go bad. It is best to cut them at the stem with a knife so that they will grow back later rather than just trying to pull them off. We gathered several pounds and didn’t even put a dent in this stand of mushrooms.
Later that evening I fried some up with kale and garlic. Delicious!