Collecting & Preserving Mushrooms from the Wild
Sautéing to Frying
If you cook on low to medium heat you can use butter or extra-virgin olive oil. When cooking on medium to high heat use coconut oil (unless you don’t want the flavor), avocado oil, or ghee (clarified butter). For high heat or deep frying use peanut oil or rice bran oil.
If your mushrooms are wet, sauté them using high heat and lots of elbow room around each mushroom. For each 8 ounces of mushrooms, melt 1 tablespoon butter or oil in a skillet, add mushrooms; cook and stir until golden brown and the released juices have evaporated. This is about 5 minutes. Don’t overcrowd the skillet with mushrooms or they will steam rather than brown.
Agaricus silvicolae-similis (Woodland Agaric): These mushrooms do not store well; use them as soon as possible after picking. The young mushrooms are particularly tasty. Coat the caps in seasoned flour, dip them in a beer batter, and then deep fry them. Yum!
Albatrellus ellisii (Greening Goat’s Foot): Some mushrooms require special preparation in order to taste their best. Edible Albatrellus mushrooms need low heat, and a longer cooking time than mushrooms with less fleshy content. When I cook Albatrellus ellisii it can take 20-30 minutes before it is tender and tasty. Tougher mushrooms are more desirable for stewing since they hold their shape well. Slice thinly and use the tender portions.
Cantharellus (Chanterelles): One of the great things about Chanterelles is that they are usually bug-free. Gather in paper bags, cut off the ends of the stalks and remove any dirt or forest debris with a brush. Once home wash thoroughly under running cold water, if needed. Spread one layer thick on paper towels and let them dry for a few hours. When ready to cook your Chanterelles, cut in bite sized chunks. It’s even better to strip them vertically.
In a large skillet heat butter and olive oil. Add chopped white onions and garlic. Stir them for a while over high heat. Add mushrooms, salt and pepper. Cover skillet and cook on medium heat, stirring periodically. Cook until pieces are tender.
Cool down completely and pack into bags or containers for vacuum-sealing. You may need to freeze them in the bags first so the liquid isn’t drawn into the vacuum-sealing machine. Once they are frozen you can then remove all the air and seal them with your machine. Return them to the freezer. When it is time for their use, cut open and thaw a package, and add to your favorite recipe. If you want less liquid, cook in a large skillet on high heat until most of the fluid evaporates, and then use.
The Chanterelles commonly found in the PNW are the golden or yellow Cantharellus formosus, C. cascadensis, C. roseocanus, and the white C. subalbidus. If dried, they tend to be rubbery, but dry sautéing them first (without oil or butter) and then freezing them works very well. If your mushrooms are already very dry, you might need to add some oil or butter. To dry sauté put the mushrooms in a dry frying pan over medium-high heat, stir until the mushrooms release their liquid, and cook until the liquid is evaporated. The flavor is enhanced if the mushroom isn’t cut, but gently pull apart vertically and cooked. Put in the refrigerator once they have been cooked. Now they can be frozen if you want to preserve them for later use.
Chlorophyllum rachodes (White Shaggy Parasol Mushroom): This mushroom has an excellent flavor and texture. You can use the button stage to the large, fully expanded caps in many ways. One way is to use the inverted large caps stuffed and then baked. They taste great simply sautéed in butter, and seasoned with some salt and pepper. Once they are cooked they can be vacuum-sealed and frozen. You will need to freeze them first in their bags before using your vacuum-seal machine so liquid isn’t drawn into your machine. Lay the bags as flat as you can in the freezer until they freeze, then seal.
Clavariadelphus truncates (Club Mushrooms): This is probably one of the few club mushrooms worth eating. It has a flat top and a sweet flavor. It’s not that common so you probably won’t get many chances to try it. They are good sautéed in butter as well as in potato dishes.
Coprinus comatus (Shaggy Mane): This mild, nutty-flavored mushroom has a good texture and taste best when sautéed. It can be added to mild-tasting dishes or with eggs. It also makes a good Alfredo sauce to be used on pasta, in a quiche, or in chowders. It does well in a stir-fry with veggies. Because Shaggy Manes are so fragile and turn to ink so quickly, they need to be used soon after picking. They can last a few day in the refrigerator once they have been cooked. After being cooked they can be frozen, but drying is not a good method for preserving them.
Gomphus clavatus (Pig’s Ear): This distinctive mushrooms is often riddled with insects, but if you do find some good ones, drying is the best way to preserve them. The flavor is good when young, but becomes less flavorful and insipid as it ages. If you want to use them fresh, sauté in some butter. Smoking or marinating works well too, especially when used fresh or after being frozen.
Hericium abietis (Goat’s Beard): The flavor of this mushroom is very mild and the texture is meaty-chewy. Individual branchlets are good when dipped in tempura batter and deep-fried. When finely chopped it can be added to soups and gravies. It would probably freeze well, but I never have enough left over to try. Any bitterness can be removed by par-boiling and draining before using in a recipe.
Lactarius deliciosus (Delicious Milkcap), Lactarius rubrilacteus (Bleeding Milkcap): The flavor is often described as mild and nutty, but it’s usually the texture that turns many people off. If I am plan to use them fresh, then I sauté them in some butter and season with some salt and pepper, then chop in a food processor. That way you get the good taste without the gritty/chalky texture. sauté the younger ones that haven’t turned green yet when you only want a short amount of time for cooking; use the older one in soups or stews that require longer cooking times. These mushrooms can be preserved by freezing or pickling. They are also good when baked.
Laetiporus conifericola (Chicken of the Woods): Use to make an excellent soup. This species requires long, slow cooking at low temperatures. These beautiful mushrooms have orange shelves with yellow margins and pores. Be sure you only cut the young and tender margins of the mushroom or they can be too woody to eat. Use caution since some people are sensitive to this mushroom or find it hard to digest. Par-boiling can improve its digestibility. Tougher mushrooms are more desirable for stewing since they hold their shape well. Slice thinly and use only the tender portions.
Leccinum manzanitae (Manzanita Bolete): This mushroom is rarely infested with insect larvae. Some people have an intolerance to it so use caution the first time you eat it, especially if you had symptoms after eating boletes. It is best to dry them if they are large, whereas you could sauté them if they are very young and still in the button stage. This is good advice for all edible mushrooms in the genera Leccinum and Boletus.
Since Leccinum tend to turn black when sautéed you can par-boil them first. Heat the water to boiling, add ½ teaspoon salt per quart, throw in sliced or chopped mushrooms for a couple of minutes, drain, and then sauté them. This mushrooms is excellent in casseroles and gravies and pairs well with meat. The taste and texture improves with drying. In older mushrooms the sponge-like pores/tubes should be removed from the caps and discarded before cooking.
Lepista nuda (Blewits): This mild flavored, purple mushroom has a hint of citrus. They can be dried, frozen, or pickled. You can also sauté them by themselves or use in mild flavored dishes such as soups, quiches, or with eggs or potatoes. Be sure they are dry after collecting, since Blewits water-log easily.
Lycoperdon, Bovista, Calvaria (Puffballs): These mushrooms are worth collecting as long as they are still white inside. They are good sliced ¼ inch, breaded or dipped in batter, and fried. They need seasoning, or served with something like a sauce or gravy, since they don’t have much flavor themselves.
Morchella (Morels): Drying is the easiest technique for preserving morels, but morels also freeze well. Dry in a dehydrator or simply string them on a line. Clean morels well, cutting them in half length-wise to check for bugs. After drying, seal in a container marked with the name and date. Then freeze for a week to ensure that any insects that escaped the cleaning and drying process have been killed.
Finally, store the container in a cool, dry place for as long as you can resist the temptation to cook with them. Reconstitute the morels before using in a recipe that requires cooking. Remember, morels are poisonous raw and can still cause toxic symptoms if undercooked. They are excellent dipped in batter and deep-fried. They pair well with meat dishes, poultry, and in sauces.
Pleurotus (Oyster Mushrooms): Pleurotus populinus and P. pulmonarius were both previously called Pleurotus ostreatus. Pleurotus eryngii is a cultivated mushroom that may be available in your local grocery store. They get their name from a resemblance to fresh-shucked oysters. These mushrooms taste good sautéed in butter and used in stir-fries. They can develop a slight flavor of anise or of seafood, while cultivated varieties are milder. Use recipes that don’t overpower them. They have a somewhat chewy texture. If you are going to preserve them freezing is best. Oyster Mushrooms are desirable for stewing since they hold their shape well. Slice thinly and use only the tender portions.
Ramaria (Coral Mushrooms): This mushroom is often wormy and/or dirty. Cut through it in the field to check for bugs and try to cut those parts away. Use your mushroom brush to clean it the best you can. The best one to sauté is the pink-tipped coral, Ramaria botrytis, when it is young. It loses its color as it ages and becomes hard to ID. It also loses its flavor. Some people like to marinate it instead. The yellow coral (Ramaria rasilispora) is another good coral if you can identify it. I like to sauté them with salami or sausage grease to give them some flavor. Coral mushrooms can be pickled, but also cooked, then frozen. They are excellent in gravies served over rice.
Russula xerampolina (Shrimp Mushroom): It is probably the most often eaten and best tasting of the Russula mushrooms, except maybe for the Lobster Mushroom. The strong shrimp flavor usually doesn’t develop until the mushroom is too old to eat, but it does have a good flavor when young. You can use them in soups and chowders. They are best preserved when frozen or pickled. Drying toughens their texture and produces a strong flavor. The texture is “crunchy” so if that is not to your liking you can chop them finely before putting in a recipe. Try dipping it in tempura batter and deep-frying. They are also good when baked.
Sparassis radicata (Cauliflower Mushroom): This mushroom resembles a pile of pasta or a large cauliflower. It is best when treated as if it was pasta or used in casseroles or stir-fries. If it taste bitter par-boil it first. Then it can be cooked and frozen for use later. Sparassis is excellent separated into sections, dipped in batter and deep-fried. Also use it in sauces and soups when finely chopped. The texture can be chewy.
Suillus (Slippery Jack): Most people do not eat Slippery Jacks because they are usually slimy, but they can be prepared and dried with success. They can be slimy when cooked fresh, if you don’t peel the cap first. After drying they are not as slimy. There are a couple of species that you have to watch out for so 100% identification is important. Of course, that is important in any mushroom that you plan to eat.
The species with the best flavors are: Short-stalk Slippery Jack (Suillus brevipes), Dotted-stalk Suillus (S. granulatus), Matte Jack (S. lakei), and Heavy Bolete (S. ponderosus). After drying and rehydrating, they are excellent in soups or sauces. If used fresh, cook them in gravies or casseroles to hide any detectable slimy texture. Older mushrooms need to have their tubes/pores removed and discarded before cooking or drying.