Foraging for Fungi
Five wild mushrooms to hunt for in Montana this fall
Fall colors aren't the only thing Montanans are looking for while hiking public lands across the state — autumn is also prime time to find wild mushrooms.
The Montana Wilderness Association’s Shining Mountains Chapter hosted a mushroom hunting workshop on October 15th in Missoula, led by photographer and mycologist Tim Wheeler. In addition to introducing fungi fanatics to the world of mushroom foraging, Tim outlined the most fruitful months for finding wild mushrooms in Montana and discussed some of Montana's most delicious mushrooms. It turns out that while spring is perhaps the most popular time for mushroom hunting, September and October are the most prolific months for foraging in western Montana.
If you weren’t able to make it to the presentation, you can watch it in full below, or read on to learn about five of Montana's most prized fall fungi.
Here are a handful of mushrooms you can find in Montana this fall.
Find these mushrooms in hard-packed soil after a rain storm, growing among wood chips or rocks. Hunting for shaggy manes can be tricky for those new to foraging, because their spores quickly turn into an inky liquid after picking them. Prepare them within a few hours after harvest for the best results.
Gold chanterelles are slightly sweet and smell a bit like apricots when sliced open. They can be found in western Montana, nestled underneath forest cover where the soil is moist. Chanterelles grow year-round, but are most abundant in the fall.
These mushrooms don’t grow in soil like many of their relatives — they grow on the bark of dead or dying trees. Their texture and flavor are comparable to crab meat, offering a tasty alternative to shell fish for vegetarians.
Perhaps the most coveted and sought out wild mushroom in the Pacific Northwest, the matsutake mushroom can be found where pine forests transition to spruce and fir. In the westernmost part of the state, matsutakes can be found among hemlock and white pines. Wheeler says you’ll smell the mushrooms before you see them — they have a unique spicy scent.
Not only are these mushrooms bright red, like lobsters, but they smell and taste like them too. Lobster mushrooms are at home in humid and warm weather, and can be found on mossy forest floors in western Montana.
Tim also offered a few parting tips for preparing wild mushrooms, including this important reminder: "Treat your fungi like raw meat!" Most poisonings, he says, are a result of mishandled mushrooms and not from naturally occurring toxins in the fungi. That means washing them well, cooking them at the appropriate temperature and length, and educating yourself on the shelf life and proper storage of the mushrooms you’re working with.
- Keely Damara, MWA communications coordinator