Last year was great to go mushroom hunting. By far the most bountiful mushroom season I’ve ever seen. I am picking mushrooms for more than 10 years, in a lot of different places. I am going to share what worked for me and what didn’t, so you can have your own delicious mushroom season.
How to find more mushrooms in autumn? Choosing the right Forest is important, mixed forest (temperate broadleaved) works best in a cool temperate climate. Here, the best time to go mushroom hunting is between July and November. Mushrooms live in symbiosis with trees and can more commonly found under specific trees, learning which trees and mushrooms pair up is very helpful. Lastly, going off the beaten path can also be very rewarding.
Now let’s take it one step, the first step is to choose the right forest.
Choosing the right Forest
Choosing a forest to go mushroom hunting can be quite challenging. The most successful mushroom hunts for me were all in temperate broadleaved forests (Beech, Oak, Birch, Pine).
Mushrooms love warm, damp conditions. The best time to mushroom hunting is shortly after a few days of rain if temperatures are between 10-20°C (50-68°F).
Some forests dry out very fast, others are very good at keeping wet after rain. Generally, mushrooms will grow more abundant in the later. Wet topsoil (2-3 days after rain) and an earthy smell are great indicators for a good forest.
In the perfect forest, you are rarely alone, passionate mushroom hunters will start searching once the sun goes up. Sometimes a sub-optimal forest can yield more, simply because no one else goes there. Or in the best case, you discover a forest with perfect conditions, which is not known in the community yet.
After picking a good forest the next step is actually finding mushrooms.
Looking in the right Places
Keep Looking: Try to find the mushroom in the picture above. Mushrooms love to hide. It’s easy to walk past lots of them if you don’t look carefully. Picking mushrooms takes a lot of patients and stamina, it’s not uncommon to find almost nothing one day, and a week later -in the same forest- go home with enough for a weeks on end.
Going off the path: This one works wonders for me. My favorite forest is well known in the hunting community, but once you step off the path and walk straight through the forest Penny Buns start to pop up one after another. Watch out for signs of other hunters and once you spot them walk a completely different path.
Tree partners: Mushrooms and trees often live in symbiosis, knowing which tree to look for, can help you spot the jackpot much faster.
- Porcini: Love Beech trees and Oaks, they prefer warm spots (look out for holes in the forest canopy). Avoid Grassy areas and look for places with lots of deadwood.
- Bay bolete: They are mostly found close to spruce and Pine trees.
- Saffron milk cap: Grow close to conifers, they avoid full shade and very wet places.
- Rough-stemmed bolete: Can be found close to birch trees.
- Armillaria: Grow on living or dead trees, they can be found in huge quantities.
- Cauliflower fungus: Usually grow at the foot of pines.
- Chanterelle: Can be found close to Pines, Spruces, and Beeches. Sadly this one has gotten quite rare, please leave some behind when picking them.
- Suede bolete: Often grows close or next to wild blueberries.
- Red cracking bolete: A very common mushroom that can be found almost everywhere. I usually only take young ones with me, as they tend to spoil quickly.
Tricks to find more Mushrooms
Slopes: Usually the best place to look for mushrooms are upwind facing Slopes. Mushrooms use spores, which are distributed by the wind to spread. Most of the time, these Spores will settle down on Slopes and start growing into a new mushroom plant.
Neighbor Mushrooms: Mushrooms often grow in groups. Once you found one, look around some more, you will probably find another in close proximity.
Spring Rain: To bear fruits (the cap we eat) mushrooms need a lot of water. A warm and wet spring is a perfect Indicator for a good mushroom season.
Use a Knife: To reduce damage to the mushroom plant (which lives underground) cut off the fruits using a knife. I also tend to clean up the mushrooms a bit, before putting them into my basket, so preparing them will be easier.
Leave some behind: Try to leave some mushrooms behind, this will help them to spread even further and keep them alive during bad years. I tend to reintroduce any removed Tubes (after cleaning) and leave behind every 4. or 5. Mushroom (old ones will do).
Knowing your Mushrooms
The most important thing when going mushroom hunting is to know what you are picking. You should only take it home, once you verified the mushroom is definitively edible. Often there are mushrooms that look quite similar to edible ones, that might be poisonous. If you are not sure, better leave it behind! On a side note: Please don’t use any pictures from this article to identify your mushrooms, it’s better to go to a dedicated website, which will also show look-a-likes.
Sometimes Mushrooms like to grow in similar conditions, one such example is fly agaric and porcini. Fly agaric is easy to spot, because of its vibrant red color and can help you to look in the right places to see some better-hidden porcini.
The opposite can also be true, Sting Nettle and porcini seldom share the same place. It’s good to look up some indicator plants if you are looking for a specific mushroom.
Is there a rule of thumb to identify edible mushrooms? I tend to be more vary of mushrooms with gills. Tubes are more likely to be edible, but there are also some poisonous mushrooms with tubes. I wouldn’t rely on a rule of thumb to identify which ones are edible and which aren’t. If you are not sure, leave it behind!
Which poisonous mushrooms should I know? Besides knowing the best edible ones to pick, visualizing the ones you should avoid at all costs can be helpful too. Stay away from Death cap, Panther cap, Smith’s amanita, Fly amanita, Satan’s bolete, and Bitter bolete.