Visiting a Norwegian gingerbread village
was a delightful way to end the year.
You may not have heard, but 2016 - the fall mushrooming part - was cancelled on the south coast. At least, that's how it seems. After a far-from-red-hot 2015, we thought that the year just ended had considerable promise, with timely rains in late summer and other signs we viewed as favorable and auspicious.
But apparently, no one told the mushroom gods. The lobster mushrooms were scarce. The chanterelles - whites, goldens, pig's ears and black trumpets - were few and far between any place we sought them and where we'd found them many times before. Boletes and Cauliflowers were even scarcer. Our killer spots for Matsutakes in the Mt. Hood area yielded only a few. We've yet to see any significant fruitings of hedgehogs or winter chanterelles (yellow feet), and our traditional Super Bowl foray for these last of the mushroom season gems looks like it could be a bust this year.
This wasn't just us; we heard many such comments. Commercial mushroom buyers are scarcer than in previous years. Typically, we’ll encounter commercial operations in our travels from Brookings through Bandon and up into Coos Bay, where it’s not unusual to count at least five locations for the pickers to choose from. But not this year.
Nonetheless, it hasn’t all been horrible. We found some specimens we'd rarely - or never! - found before, including the colorful Agaricus californicus.
Unexpected weather brought
But overall, it was, quite simply, a less than memorable mushroom season.
For hobbyists like us - people who gather mushrooms for their own pleasures and tables - a down year or two is mostly just disappointing. However, for those who harvest forest products for a living, and for those who depend on supplementing their income by gathering and selling wild mushrooms, a lean year has a much greater impact. One friend, for example, has always counted on the income from fall mushrooming to pay for gifts for his kids at Christmas. This holiday season was less cheerful than normal.
I could offer reasons and explanations galore, but this "expert" - and as time goes on, I don't think there really are any true experts - is going to blame it on the capricious mushroom gods and just express hope that next year, things turn around and we get a bumper crop. The climatologists offer hope for a more normal year - the strong El Nino oceanic phenomenon is over, and the La Nina to follow has never really materialized - so hopefully we can expect something more like normal in 2017.
On the other hand, what we are seeing in the opening days of 2017 suggests anything but: Portland is just now starting to dig out from over a week of frigid cold, with up to a foot of snow in places, followed by an ice storm. This was the worst winter storm in more than twenty years, and Mary and I got caught right in the middle of it and can certainly vouch for its severity. So much for global warming, eh?
Now, what to do when the mushroom season is a bust?
A second flush of Blue Oysters is
just beginning to show.
- One possibility is to get into cultivation. Although Mary and I have never reaped bountiful crops from our cultivation efforts, there are lots of kits available that seem to work pretty well and are fun to experiment with. We recently inoculated a bag of straw with Blue Oyster Mushrooms, with help from Ron Bossi of the Wild Rivers Mycological Club, and they fruited beautifully. These lovely Blue Oysters were the highlight of our New Year’s Eve dinner.
- Another possibility is to use this time to hone one’s mushroom identification skills. We believe that this is particularly important in a season with so many reports of mushroom poisonings. Frankly, we’re quite perplexed by the number of amatoxin incidents that keep cropping up in the news. For example, there were a cluster of death cap cases (seven individuals) in one small area in California over a three day period! What’s happening to cause all these poisoning cases? Perhaps the relative scarcity of edible mushrooms could have prompted some people to take chances they otherwise would not. Perhaps the poisonous mushrooms looked similar to the edibles these individuals had foraged and consumed in their native land. Perhaps the collectors did not have the knowledge to distinguish a particular edible mushroom from a look-alike. Did they understand, for example, that if you set out to collect Matsutake, you must be able to differentiate this choice edible mushroom from the look-alike Amanita smithiana, which is highly poisonous?
- Yet another possibility in a slow season is to rededicate oneself to giving back to the hobby. There are lots of ways to do this. If you aren't yet a member of a mycological society convenient to you, join one now and become active: volunteer for different jobs, help with identification, lead a foray, mentor new members, participate in the annual exhibit, serve as an officer. In your community, make sure the public library knows you and has your contact information so that they can refer patrons to you who have found mushrooms and want help identifying them (assuming, of course, that you are qualified to do so). And ensure that others understand the personal responsibility they bear in gathering wild mushrooms, properly identifying them, consuming them, and sharing them with others.
With this message of “giving back.” we thank you for your loyal readership of our website, and wish you good health, happiness and a bounteous harvest in 2017!
Meeting "popcorn" and his lovely
daughter gave us reason to celebrate
in 2016 even if the mushrooming didn't.