My first mushroom gathering expedition for the fall was a bus/bike combo trip out to Cape Lookout. Eric had gone on a group Cycle Wild trip the weekend before and came home with pounds of yellow chanterelles. He wanted to take me out to see the beautiful coastline and enjoy the plentiful fungi. While Eric and the crew had biked all the way from Portland to Cape Lookout, Eric and I took the bus from Portland to Tillamook and biked to Cape Lookout from there. I’m still working my muscles up for long cycling days and my crummy knees can’t handle the Coast Range yet. (Even though a New Zealander cyclist once referred to the Coast Range as “a couple of hills.”) I recommend checking out the bus to Tillamook if you’re living carless in Portland. It’s only $15 one way or $20 round trip. Once you get to Tillamook there are a series of other cheap buses that can take you up and down the coast. Buses have a rack for two bikes on the front and can accommodate at least one or two more in the storage area if there isn’t too much luggage.
At Cape Lookout we stayed in the hiker/biker camping area. Both nights we ate gorgeous fresh chanterelles harvested from the roadsides and cooked over a camp stove with coconut oil. (Protip: take coconut oil for cooking when you go camping. It’s solid at cooler temperatures and so can’t spill all over your gear.) Eric would see a hint of yellow peeking out of a hill and scramble up to investigate. I’d follow behind if he successfully found a bed of them, and he frequently did.
We also had our first introduction to lobster mushrooms. They’re crunchy! Like a water chestnut. Not fleshy or fatty like other mushrooms. Lobster mushrooms have the color of cooked lobster and smell quite a bit like shellfish when they decay. A lot of mushrooms poke out of the ground starting small and grow bigger. Lobster mushrooms are more solid and more bold. They punch out of the ground like a fist. But we found them fairly bland. As Eric says, if I want to cook with something with the texture of a vegetable, I’ll just use a vegetable.
Last weekend, with the help of a friend who has a car, we headed out to the Collowash (a Clackamas tributary) area in hopes of finding boletes as well as chanterelles. We’d heard that the chanterelle season is so good this year that you pretty much just have to get to an elevation where the forest changes to conifers and look down. While Eric and I had learned the signs of chanterelle habitat for the coast, we weren’t totally sure what to look for in the east. The first few places we tried had some shrimp mushrooms and an old maggoty bolete, but no chanterelles.
When we finally gained enough altitude to reach perfect chanterelle territory, the forest ground was covered in thick moss. In the heavy rain, the mushrooms were waterlogged and fragile. I shattered some as I dug them out of the moss. The moss also made it more difficult to cut the mushrooms away from the mycelium without interrupting the underground organism. The rain soaked through my “waterproof” jacket and pants. My boots have long since lost their waterproofness and in each step my feet sloshed around cold water.
Finally warm and at home, Eric and I cooked down the chanterelles in my cast iron pan, pouring off the extra rain water that bubbled up from the mushrooms as a broth, which we turned into cream sauce. Chanterelles, cream sauce, rotini pasta.