Where to Find Mushrooms: From Foraging to Grocery Store Aisles
Where to find mushrooms: From foraging to spores and specialty markets, there is an abundance of fungi to be found that we are sharing
Mushrooms are an amazing food to go out foraging for. Depending on the species there are many different places to look where to find mushrooms. The general idea it to look at places decomposition is happening. Mushrooms are growing out of a mycelial network that is decomposing the material it is growing on. So typically when you are looking to find mushrooms, you want to find places where trees have died or are dying, leaf matter is decomposing, or wood chip beds. Some of my favorite mushrooms to look for are maitake, chaga, chicken of the woods, and black trumpets. Let's walk through each of these so you can familiarize yourself with ways of finding mushrooms. When foraging for mushrooms it is important to think both about when they fruit and in what kind of environment they fruit in.
Where to find mushrooms: By species
Let's start with maitake! This amazing mushroom fruits abundantly in the northeast US and is delicious to eat. It can be found in large quantities and has a short fruiting window. Typically maitake fruits between September and November. Usually the largest quantities are found in correlation with heavy rain events. This mushroom grows almost exclusively at the base of oak trees. I have found maitake on maple once but this is extremely rare. The best place to find maitakes is an old oak forest that has both living and dead trees. The maitake will fruit from a wide range of oak trees from seemingly very healthy, all the way to trees that have fallen and left a stump behind. To find these mushrooms I particularly like to look for oaks that have lost one leader, as that leaves a large site for the spores to enter.
How about chaga?! This mushroom grows exclusively on birch trees. It is a perennial mushroom so is present year round. I have found the best time to look for it is after leaves drop but before the first snowfall. It is easy to see long distances in the woods and easy to travel around. Some people that snowmobile love to look for chaga on snowmobiles as you can cover vast areas, go places people rarely visit and easily carry plenty of weight. When I am looking for chaga I tend to follow a stream that is located in a birch forest. Chaga seems to love the increased humidity the stream provides, and it makes for an extremely pleasant walk!
Finding black trumpet mushrooms
Black trumpets are one of the most potent smelling mushrooms. To me they have a very fruity smell that intensifies when dried. This mushroom is great to add to alcohol to improve the flavor or dry and use in soups or stir fries to improve both flavor and smell. It is a fragile mushroom that has a very soft texture but adds a great amount of flavor to any dish. I particularly love this mushroom in omelets in the summer. Remember, timing is important when considering where to find mushrooms. These mushrooms are typically found between late June and early September after heavy rain storms. They come out most abundantly after heavy rain in July and August. There are a couple of different ecosystems I typically find black trumpets. One is leaf litter and mossy areas. They certainly love water and are stimulated to fruit in areas that have a little bit of water travel and water retention. Sides of trails that are covered with moss or leaf litter areas are good spots to keep your eyes out. There also seems to be a correlation between beech saplings and hemlock that this mushroom loves. I wonder if this mushroom is part saprophytic and part mycorrhizal with beech trees.
Morel mushrooms are also very popular targets for mushroom farmers, especially because cultivating morels has not been done well consistently. Check out this article on where to find morel mushrooms if you have interest in this highly-sought-after choice edible. I particularly recommend reading this article if you are venturing to the west coast or the midwest anytime soon, because those locations experience greater abundances of morels than here in the northeast.