I’m going to veer a little off the tracks with this post. Although this is primarily a Pacific Northwest fishing site, I want to key you all into one of my favorite fall pass times, foraging for Chanterelle Mushrooms! During late summer and throughout the fall, Chanterelle Mushrooms really start popping in Washington’s woodlands. If you find yourself fishing in a remote area, spending a couple extra hours in the deep woods can yield a delicious harvest of Chanterelles. Use this post as motivation to enjoy a little foraging in our Washington woods, but go to an authority site for mushroom identification.
How to identify Chanterelle Mushrooms
Chanterelle Mushrooms have a large droopy cap. The underside of the cap has gills that run down into a thick stem. They can have anywhere from a light orange to almost creamy coloring.
False Chanterelles are a lookalike that should be avoided. They have a very dark orange coloration, gills that do not run past the cap, and a very thin stalk. Jack-O-Lantern Mushrooms are another look alike, but they pretty much exclusively grow off downed wood… Chanterelles only grow out of the forest floor substrate.
I’m simply a hobbyist and enjoy hunting for Chanterelles in my local Western Washington woodlands. You can use photos on this post for positive Chanterelle identification, and do a thorough web search to learn more about look a likes. I am always cautious when identifying mushrooms, and an authority website is always a great place to start, but also critical to avoid the real danger of mis-identifying mushrooms, as many of the ones in the woods are not edible and some potentially harmful if consumed.
- Northwest Mushroomers Association
- INaturalist – A Field Guide to the Mushrooms of the Pacific Northwest
Where to find Chanterelle Mushrooms in Washington
Chanterelle Mushrooms thrive in established conifer forests. If you live in Western Washington, there is most likely a healthy stand of second growth Douglas Fir forestland close to your home.
When I am looking for a new spot to pick Chanterelle Mushrooms, I look for deep dark woods. We are surrounded by working forestland, and a large swath of second growth Douglas Fir is my go to area. If you go into your woods and find heavy brush that is difficult to hike through, you haven’t found a good Chanterelle spot. If the firs are tall, and the ground is covered with a mix of Sword Fern, Moss, Sallal, and decaying fir needles… you’ve got potential.
When is the best time to find Chanterelle Mushrooms in Washington?
To drill it down to a general timeline, late September to early November is the Chanterelle season for Washington. Each species of mushroom has an optimal growing season, based on many factors. For Chanterelles, moisture, light, daytime temperature and nighttime temperature all factor into when they will “pop” in good numbers. In the Pacific Northwest, late summer through fall is usually peak season. Super hot and dry summers means a later season. If late summer is warm and muggy, with the occasional rain, it’s gonna be good earlier!
Mushroom Hunting in Washington’s Forestlands
It shouldn’t be too tough to find some great public forestlands in Washington to hunt for Chanterelles and other edible mushrooms. Be very aware that some forests are private and not open to public access.
Always make safety your primary focus when heading into the woods. Search maps to educate yourself on where you are at, the area you are exploring, and create a plan for how you are going to find your way back to your vehicle. I always forage in areas where I know I can easily find a road or trail that takes me back to my vehicle. A compass and handheld GPS devise is a great asset!
Cooking with Chanterelle Mushrooms
There are many ways use Chanterelle Mushrooms and create a great meal. Here are a few of my favorites:
- Northwest Razor Clam and Chanterelle Mushroom Chowder
- Sautee Chanterelle Mushrooms and Sweet Onions over rice as a side dish
- Chanterelle Mushroom Omelettes
- Sautee Chanterelle Mushrooms as a Steak or Seafood garnish