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How to Hunt for Chanterelle Mushrooms in Oregon

The Pacific golden chanterelle (Cantharelleus formosus) was designated Oregon's official state mushroom in 1999 and remains one of the state's more famous culinary exports. As of September 2010, approximately 500,000 pounds of chanterelles were shipped out of the state where they can cost up to $34 a pound. These mushrooms are bountiful in the latter part of October when the Pacific Northwest rains begin to fall.

Things You'll Need

  • Collecting basket or bag
  • Permit (in some locations)
  • Mushroom field guide
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    • 1

      Know where you are going and do not hunt mushrooms by yourself. In the fall, Oregon weather can turn from light rain to snow quickly, especially in the forest region. Since you will be spending time searching the ground, you can easily begin heading off trail and possibly lose your way. Always hike with at least one other person, let people at home know where you are going and head into the woods prepared with all-weather clothing and emergency supplies.

    • 2

      Check to make sure mushroom hunting is legal where you are heading. Check with the landholder if you are on private property or contact the local Forest Service office to ask about permits for gathering. Hunting chanterelles for either personal or commercial use requires a permit on many state properties, including the Deschutes, Willamette, Umpqua, Fremont and Winema National Forests, though a personal use permit is generally free. Ask about gathering limits and follow the letter of the law to avoid hefty fines.

    • 3

      Know exactly what you are looking for. For best results, sign up for a field trip with an instructor or take someone with you that knows mushrooms at a highly experienced level. Never eat wild mushrooms if you are not 100 percent sure of their edibility. The Cascade Mycological Society warns, "Many edible species have toxic look-alikes; learn what these are and don't rely on photographs and drawings." Eating poisonous mushrooms can result in severe illness or death.

    • 4

      Look for the bright, golden color of the chanterelle on the forest floor. These mushrooms are often found near the base of trees. A fully-grown chanterelle is about the size of a fist with an upwards taper like a vase and a flat, spreading cap. It also has distinctive ridges, called "false gills," running underneath a jagged, spreading cap. Lars Norgren, a commercial mushroom hunte,r suggests looking for the mushrooms on "north-facing slopes in second-growth fir forests...particularly those with vine maple." He also teaches new pickers to "look under ferns, salal and Oregon grape."

    • 5

      Pull out the mushroom with your hand; do not use a knife to cut the stem. When harvesting chanterelles, do not take every mushroom in sight. Leave a few small ones to mature later and provide mushrooms throughout the season for other gatherers.

    • 6

      Place the mushrooms in a paper bag lined with paper towels to keep them at their best. Devon Winter of Backwoods Home Magazine suggests carrying chanterelles in a woven basket, "As it helps keep them from getting mushy. But it's even better for future mushroom harvests. With each step you take, your basket sheds spores that might turn into future chanterelle patches."

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