Lovers of wild edibles are heading for the hills following the first autumn rains, as a new and exciting mushroom season unfolds on Vancouver Island.
Spurred on by dreams of creamed chanterelles on toast, foragers search the ground under spruce, hemlock or Douglas firs, in old or second-growth hardwood forests.
Serious mushroom hunters must keep their footing on wet, moss-covered rocks and roots, while bush-whacking, shoulder-deep through salal and huckleberry shrubs.
World-famous, and plentiful in some Island woodlands, the highly desirable yellow chanterelle is a favourite of North American and European mushroom hunters.
Chanterelles (yellow and white) have blunt ridges below the cap instead of sharp gills, and the mild, fruity fragrance has been likened to apricots or pumpkin.
The golden, egg-yellow, upturned cap is funnel-shaped, with ruffled edges, and solid white flesh and stalk.
Much like the apple on an apple tree, the mushrooms we see are the fruiting body of the fungus organism. The vegetative state of these fungi are thread-like structures called mycelia, hidden deep within soil, bark or moss. In a good year, fungi represent a significant source of revenue among non-timber forest products, with chanterelles and pine species pouring millions of dollars into the B.C. economy. Mushrooms grow year after year in the same locale, representing a renewable resource and one that does no harm to the forest ecosystem if conducted properly.
Good places to forage include: Loveland Bay, Beaverlodge Lands and Snowden Demonstration Forest. Safety hints: use a compass; carry a lighter (to make fire) and a knife.
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