Our hearts are with the people of Ukraine as they are being displaced from their homes in this war. Read about a mushroom hunting trip to Ukraine, our own Willamette Valley spring mushroom season as it starts and an update on our community scientists. There are some great events coming up like our spring foray schedule, the book club discussion, mushroom ID sessions and art.
Photo by Autumn Anglin, Pyronema omphalodes, Metolius Basin, May 2020.
My First Mushroom Hunt, Ukraine 2007
by Joe Harchanko
My mother had for decades run a free class dedicated to teaching ESL to people with a wide variety of backgrounds from refugees to families of military liaison officers. In her home in Huntsville, Alabama, she had hosted guests from around the world in conjunction with U.S. State Department programs. She had been invited to visit friends she had made in the Ukrainian community and my wife and I decided to go along to visit the country my paternal grandparents had fled nearly a century earlier.
After a stay in Kyiv we boarded an old Soviet era jet (which featured only a few functioning seat belts) and flew to the western town of Ivano Frankivsk. From there our host, Misha, picked us up and drove us to his village, a trip which involved driving through a river because the only bridge to the town was washed out. The next morning Misha invited us to go mushroom hunting. We drove out to a grassy field on the side of a hill with beautiful panoramas of the surrounding area. It was not long before we were gathering huge mushrooms every few steps. I knew nothing of mushrooms but I quickly learned of the shape of the desired species and Misha pointed out the spongy underside of the cap. When I joined WVMS years later I went back to look at the photos and it was quite clear that this was a field brimming with prized King Boletes, or Porcini as they are more often called in Europe. We returned with buckets of them after only a few hours.
There were several other species we would pick up. Misha spoke Ukrainian and I knew very little Russian and only a few phrases of Ukrainian that approximated Russian words. When I was unsure of a mushroom, I would point it out and ask “Dobre?” (good?). Misha would either smile and answer “Dobre” or shake his head and say “Nye dobre.” The grass was soaked in a heavy dew and it wasn’t long before I was, too. As I shook the water from my pants legs I asked Misha “Kak budet…?” He said, “Ah! Mokryy!”. Wet. We were very wet.
I found one particularly striking red mushroom that looked like an extraterrestrial clawing its way from the ground. I pointed it out and asked. Misha laughed and said “Nye dobre” while gesturing towards his nose that I should lean over and smell it. I nearly passed out with the overwhelming stench of poo. That one, as it turns out was a Clathrus archeri, commonly referred to as an Octopus Stinkhorn. And while a few species seem misnamed [“Delicious milkcap”, I’m looking at you], I can truly say this one earned its name with its stinky terrestrial tentacles clawing its way from the ground.
I looked around this field and asked Lilia, our host and translator, who owned this field? She gave me a funny look and conferred with Misha who gave her a funny look and a shrug and said something to her. She turned back to us and shrugged and said, “We do. We all own this.” I think of this whenever I’m on public land in the U.S. or I see “No Trespassing” posted every few feet along country roads. The idea that some places should just belong to a community for everyone to use was one I treasured.
That evening Misha’s wife, Nadia, prepared the most incredible soup made from our bounty. As the smell of King Boletes drying in the oven wafted through the house, Misha pulled out his accordion and sang us his songs. Gathering mushrooms for these people in the Transcarpathian mountains was not a hobby. It was life. Misha’s house was the only house in his village that had running water and the plumbing was simply a pipe that ran into the ground. As they have for generations, they relied on what they could grow, gather, and store for the winter. I listened to their stories of how the last time some of them saw their grandfathers was when soldiers came to the house to take them off to war. They said everyone had a story like this. Their national anthem “Ukraine Has not Yet Fallen” speaks to their resilience in a life of hardships that they have endured and transcended for their entire history.
We drove out from the village though the iconic Ukrainian fields of sunflowers. I had recently seen the movie “Everything Is Illuminated” in which I was struck by the visual brilliance of the small Ukrainian house surrounded by endless sunflowers. What struck me now was that this image was not an exaggeration of visual cinematic storytelling. This image was Ukraine as is and has been throughout time.
We headed to the train station in Lviv, the smell of Misha’s drying mushrooms still in my nose and the warmth of Nadia’s soup still in my heart. I think about that first mushroom hunt particularly today as friends in Ukraine endure yet another assault. I think about the importance that mushrooms play in their very survival, as over a million of them line up at the Polish border fleeing the violence that no one asked for or deserves. What will they do if they are able to return? So many in the countryside will need access to their gardens and to their fields of mushrooms this spring and summer to be able to put away enough for the winter. Charities like World Central Kitchen (wck.org) are feeding hundreds of thousands of refugees at the border and Razom (Together) for Ukraine (razomforukraine.org) and United Help Ukraine (unitedhelpukraine.org) try to get food and supplies to those left behind bearing the brunt of the invasion.
My first mushroom hunt in Ukraine inspired me to get in touch with my own land in Oregon, to accept the bounty it offered me. Today, as I chip wood for my vegetable and mushroom gardens, I think of those who took me into their culture, steeped in mycophilia, shared my own heritage with me, and live so close to the land. I hope and pray their land becomes peaceful and free again soon and that they receive the help and support they need from those of us abroad until it does.
Joe Harchanko is a third generation Ukrainian-American and treasurer of the WVMS. He is a composer and principal cellist of the Salem Orchestra and his performance of “Ukraine Has Not Fallen” can be seen at www.youtube.com/cellotopia. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
WVMS Member’s Event Calendar
Bookmark this page for WVMS Member Events! This calendar shows all of our planned virtual and in-person events for the year. You can see our updated foray schedule and virtual events. https://www.wvmssalem.org/member-s-only-events
The event calendar for the general public is on the main page of our website. We hope to add more educational events through the year as the pandemic surges allow https://www.wvmssalem.org/events
Foray to Cultus Lake, from Spring 2019, photo by Jim Scheppke
Spring Foray Calendar 2022
Members can find more detailed information and how to sign up on our website: https://www.wvmssalem.org/account/foray-schedule
Our spring foray schedule has been released! Members mark your calendars and join us for some group gatherings to look for mushrooms.
If you would like to lead a foray, please contact us at email@example.com and we will put you in touch with our Foray Director, Jordan.
Remember, you must be a member in good standinghttps://www.wvmssalem.org/terms-conditions , take the Foray Safety Class https://www.wvmssalem.org/account/safety-class .
Mushroom Hunting Permits
If you plan on foraging in the Deschutes, Fremont-Winema, Umpqua or Willamette national forests you will need to have a 2022 mushroom hunting permit. Personal use permits are good for up to a gallon per day (not including Matsutake, you need a separate permit for those). No permits are required for BLM, Siuslaw, or Tillamook state forests. In addition, Willamette National Forest does not require a permit if collecting up to a gallon of mushrooms per day. If you want to collect more than that amount you will need a personal use permit. This year mushroom permits can be obtained over the phone and either emailed or snail mailed to you. Although these phone numbers are for the Willamette National Forest the permit covers Deschutes, Fremont-Winema, Umpqua and Willamette:
Detroit Ranger District (503)854-3366
McKenzie River Ranger District (541)822-3381
Middle Fork Ranger District (541)782-2283
Springfield Supervisor’s Office (541)225-6300
Sweet Home Ranger District (541)367-5168
Incredible Edible Spring Mushrooms!
by Jordan Dodge
Morchella elata (Real Morel)-Jordan Dodge
After the snow melts when the flora and fauna spring back to life in a cacophony of colors signals the beginning of my favorite time of year, Morel season! Morels and Porcinis are my favorite mushrooms and happen to fruit gregariously in the spring when the soil temperature reaches 50 degrees Fahrenheit. These mushrooms can be hard to find unless you know what habitats to focus your search on, which will increase your odds at being successful when you go out to pick the amazing Morel mushroom. Morels can be found fruiting in various habitats and environments all over Oregon, but are more abundantly found in areas where the ground freezes and is covered in a blanket of snow during the winter.
Verpa bohemica (false Morel)- Jordan Dodge
The best locations to look for Morels in our area are forests that burned the year before, old apple orchards with an annual flush, mixed Oak forests, Maples, Ash, Alder, Willow and Cottonwood trees. Morels also fruit from disturbed soil like logged areas, heavy equipment track imprints, landslides and along railroads. Natural Morels fruit in greater abundance along forested riparian zones, which are areas that have woodland and moving water like a creek, river, brook or stream. Morels are genetically diverse and differ widely in appearance due to their polymorphism. There is still much to learn about morels with species that have yet to be scientifically described and named. This family of mushrooms has been around for millions of years and we are just beginning to scratch the surface in regards to figuring out this complex species of fungi.
Sarcosphaeria coronaria (Indicator)- Jordan Dodge
Besides soil temperature there are other ways to determine when Morels are fruiting. There are a few things I look for that indicate to me that the conditions are perfect for Morels. There is an indicator species of large cup-like fungi called Sarcosphaeria coronaria. It has a whitish exterior (Peridium) with a purple interior (hymenium surface) and is about the size of a baseball. Sarcosphaeria coronaria fruits when conditions are perfect for Morels. Gyromitra esculenta and Discina perlata tend to fruit just before and during Morel season indicating that you are looking in the right area. Morels will start fruiting at lower elevations mid April and move up in elevation as the weather gets warmer until around mid June sometimes into July. Start searching south facing slopes at the beginning of the season and then focus on North facing slopes as the weather warms later in the season.
I tend to find Porcinis growing when Morels are fruiting and I typically find them under conifers from eastern Oregon all the way to the coast. East of the Cascade Range I find them mostly growing under the canopy of Ponderosa Pine trees. West of the Cascade Range I find them growing under Fir, Shore Pine, Madrone and Oak trees. Porcinis patches will often fruit twice in a season with the second flush fruiting in greater numbers than the first. The second flush usually occurs two weeks to a month after the first, depending on weather conditions. Porcinis tend to grow in troops or rows and are often camouflaged under a layer of duff appearing as mushrumps (cap shaped lumps of duff). In my experience spring Porcinis fruit in greater numbers east of the Cascade Range and in the fall I focus west of the Cascade Range.
Boletus edulis (Porcini munched on by a deer)- Jordan Dodge
Check back next month when I will cover identifying features of Morel, Porcini and look-a-like mushrooms!
Jordan is Chief Foray Officer, Study Group Mentor and Mycologist for the Willamette Valley Mushroom Society. Jordan owns and operates Lone Oak Micro Farms LLC where he cultivates mushrooms, grows salad greens and microgreens.
Discovering an Appetite for Mushrooms
by Jordan Dodge
Spring is my favorite time of year, because my two favorite mushrooms can be found fruiting gregariously if you know where to look! The first time I considered that mushrooms were edible was on a backpacking trip on the Continental Divide Trail or CDT. I made friends with a group of wonderful people who became my trail family as we hiked along the beautiful Rocky Mountain Range. Poppy and her partner Macaroni (trail names) loved to eat mushrooms and knew about all different types of wild grown edible mushrooms. Every day they kept an eye out for any tasty mushroom growing near the trail that they could add to their dinner that night. The third week on the trail during a break for lunch I found a patch of mushrooms growing next to a creek under the canopy of some conifers. I called my friends over and told them I found some interesting red capped mushrooms with big stems shaped like a lava lamp.
Excited by my description they hurried over to verify what I had found. They let out a cheer and gave me a big hug while explaining that I had found Porcini mushrooms aka the King Bolete or Boletus edulis. We picked about a dozen Porcinis growing under those conifer trees and Poppy cooked some up to accompany that evening's dinner. She sliced the Porcini thin and fried them in some oil and seasoning until crispy. That was the first time I had a positive experience eating mushrooms that actually tasted really good. I love the savory, slightly meaty and nutty flavor that is reminiscent of a perfectly dry aged steak. It unlocked a desire in me to learn more about the mushrooms that grow in our forests and to