How to Find Late Season Winter Mushrooms
Last December, just before the new year, a big storm absolutely hammered our house with record-breaking snowfall. Our touristy ski town gets flooded with people when it snows. But when it gets really, really snowy, people panic and instead of sticking around and riding it out, they hit the road; the worst place to be.
We were stuck at home and couldn’t work or go anywhere – not because of the weather but because what usually is a 15 minute drive was 9 hours. But we could only stay home so long. After several days of cabin fever, the traffic finally cleared and we decided to dig ourselves out and make a run for the coast.
Most people wouldn’t think of mushroom hunting when they have 6 feet of snow around their house, but coastal forests on the west coast offer some of the best mushroom hunting in winter months. We really enjoy it because we just walk around anywhere near the coast in the winter and without worrying too much about tree species, habitat, or location, we usually run into several desirable edible species.
We aren’t going to go into any detail about mushroom ID in this post; make sure you make educated and responsible decisions about what you choose to pick. We just want to share some excitement about getting outdoors during the dreary winter months. Fresh wild mushrooms are full of nutrition and they’re a great excuse to get the rain gear on and get outside!
The Black Trumpet
These delicious, though ominous-looking mushrooms are very aptly named. They’re our favorite mushroom to dehydrate and store for the rest of the year. Some say that they taste similar to truffles and we’ve also heard them compared to fancy cheese. We think they just have their own, delicious flavor and they’re full of umami. We’ve also heard that after they’re dehydrated they get even better with age, but ours never last long enough to know!
They can blend in with the leaves be very difficult to spot at first. The photo below is absolutely full of them. I will post another picture after to circle where some of them are.
Walking right past a small clump of Black Trumpets is easy to do. The nice thing, though, is that when you find a few there are usually many more. And once you find a few and get the right search image going, you’re likely to bring home a considerable amount of mushrooms.
We typically find Black Trumpets in mixed coastal forests that have oak. We look for slopes with some erosion and rockiness to them. And we don’t really look for them until there have been some truly colder, ideally freezing temperatures. January is our month of choice for Black Trumpets
Another one of our favorite winter mushrooms is the Hedgehog. Also aptly named, they’re easy to identify by their toothy underside.
Hedgehogs are delicious fresh – similar to a chantrelle. We dehydrate them sometimes but they don’t reconstitute as well as a black trumpet or morel.
We find hedgehogs in what seems like every coastal habitat in the winter. Redwoods, pygmy forests, oaks, anything near the coast seems to have some hedgehogs in the winter. There are several species of hedgehogs which perhaps is why they seem to occupy so many different habitats. Sometimes we find hedgehogs that are like icebergs; only a small amount of the top is exposed but a massive mushroom is just beneath the soil.
AKA yellowfoot chantrelles or just “tubies”. We really like these, too.
We find these in big numbers on the coast throughout the winter – it seems like they last through rain longer than some of the other winter mushrooms. We don’t like them as much as trumpets or hedgehogs, but they’re still nice to eat. They dehydrate fairly well and we like to add them to soups throughout the rest of the year. They’re usually very clean and small enough that they usually don’t need to be cut up to be dried or consumed, which makes them very quick and easy to process.
There are many, many more species of edible and inedible mushrooms species that flush during the winter on the coast. It’s a really fun time to get out just to see how many species you can find. Grab a good ID book like All That the Rain Promises and More and some rain gear and get out there – you’ll surely find some cool mushrooms! We’ll end this post with photos of a few interesting species that we observed on our last winter mushroom hunt: