Summer Mushroom Hunting In The Ozarks

The two-months-long deluge we’ve been experiencing here has been unfriendly to Missourians’ gardens. The tomatoes are blighted, the soil is soggy, and everybody has an easy culprit for this year’s gardening woes.

But while the rain has ruined gardens, it’s brought an abundance of fruit to the forest floor. Saylor and I took a hike through the woods this afternoon and collected a bag full of gems.

The skies finally cleared yesterday, so today’s warmth meant mushrooms were popping up all over the woods. In particularly abundant supply were chanterelles!

We’ve never actually cooked with chanterelles, but we’ll be needing to Google some recipes, because we brought home more than two pounds of mushrooms.

This wasn't even all of them... We brought home about 2 pounds!

This wasn’t even all of them… We brought home about 2 pounds!

The stems are removed, and the first batch is already in the dehydrator (chanterelles spoil quickly, so it’s best to use them right away, or preserve them).

Chanterelles In The Dehydrator

The eating will be divine, but the finding is, frankly, the most fun. Our eyes scan the forest floor, as we stumble over rocks and dodge fox holes. A sprinkling of pale orange suddenly appears, and Saylor rushes to the mushrooms, while I, sputtering, tell him to be careful not to trod on others unseen.

Once you learn the look of a chanterelle, it’s hard to mistake them. But when in doubt (or just for fun), I take a sniff. The aroma is sweet and earthy, like an apricot with a little dirt on it. I’ve never smelled another mushroom like this. And I can’t wait to cook them. Most of the chanterelles we found were the smooth variety, which have tiny ridges on the underside or nothing at all — there’s no doubt about their edibility. We also found some with ridges on the underside, which I was a little nervous might be the poisonous jack-o-lantern mushrooms. But one whiff and I knew we were good to go. Seriously, if you only go chanterelle-hunting so you can smell them, it’s worth the trouble.

Chanterelles

Chanterelles On The Forest FloorA Fresh Chanterelle

We also plucked a couple of pallid boletes, too. I can’t wait to cook them up! They’re related to one of the most prized mushrooms in Europe, the king bolete. I don’t know if they taste quite as good as that much-cherished royal fungus, but it’s the closest we’ve got in Missouri!

Pallid Bolete Pallid Boletes

And Saylor made the find of the day, with an indigo milky! I had found one of these in the woods a week ago, but didn’t imagine it could be edible, with its bright-blue bleeding and less-than-impressive cap coloration. So I had tossed that one, but then later learned they are a choice mushroom! As we were walking along today, Saylor said, “Dad, here’s one!” And there it was. A little past its prime, but not much. They’re unmistakable, and produce a crazy bright-blue ink. Apparently they’re marvelous in scrambled eggs, and turn the huevos a Suess-like verdant hue. Tomorrow morning, I’ll have green eggs and bacon!

Indigo Milky

We trudged back up our mountain, to the house; I had to carry Saylor for the last grueling stretch. Then we finished the evening with pool time in the backyard, a brief tractor ride, and some weed-pulling in the just-barely-making-it rows of bush beans in the garden.

If only every day were so productive.

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6 Responses to Summer Mushroom Hunting In The Ozarks

  1. mark says:

    I found a few chanterlles last week and Nancy sautéed them with olive oil butter and garlic toped them on a steak.
    so good.

  2. I’ve never found chanterelles but my husband did find some of the Jack-o-Lanterns before. We brought them home to identify and put them in the dark to see if they’d glow. Took a while, but they did! We did find some indigo milkies and I did try one. Wasn’t too crazy about it, though it could just have been flavored by my own uncertainty about eating it. Now I want to go see about smelling some chanterelles. Hope you don’t mind if I include your link to this page/post in my next newsletter. I’m always looking for interesting nature-related blogs to promote, and especially if they’re Ozark centered!

    • Please do include it in your newsletter. I’m always looking for more readers 🙂
      Chanterelles are my favorite-smelling mushroom thus far — start sniffing!
      I’ve never brought home a Jack-o-Lantern, but the glowing-in-the-dark might just be worth it.
      And I cooked up some indigo milky in my eggs this morning. Really quite nice. Though I think this mushroom was a bit past its prime — it wasn’t very “milky”

  3. Texan says:

    How fun to go mushroom hunting! I would have to get a education on that before I would feel comfortable eating them :O).

    • I’ve spent quite a bit of time on the Missouri Department of Conservation’s “Edible Mushrooms” page, and also have a friend who’s survived mushrooming and to whom I often text photos of questionable varieties.
      As the saying goes: There are old mushroom hunters, and bold mushroom hunters, but no old bold mushroom hunters. 🙂

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