Wild Autumnal Harvesting Workshop – Mushrooms, Acorns, Nettles & Rose Hips

Instructor Chris Chisholm gathers the tasty cattail rhizomes from a clean pond.

Saturday, October 6, 2018 from 10:30-5:30

Rose Hips: Start the morning with a crash course on the Top 10 Most Important Plants for food, medicine and crafts as we walk the “edges and margins” of forest and field to collect rose hips (the fruit of the rose) after what we hope will be our first frost, making the hips particularly sweet. But it’s the Vitamin C we are after in preparation for treating winter colds, and rose hips is our best natural source.

Acorns: You never know whether it will be a good year for acorns since they randomly produce a bumper crop about 1 in 3 years. Many of the greatest world societies before mass cultivation of grain were based around the oak tree. Whether or not we can collect our own acorns from local native Oregon “Garry” White Oaks, we have plenty from past years to crack open and toss into boiling water to extract their tannins. We will also dry and grind some with mortar and pestle in order to make pancakes and other treats for dinner. In addition to being a critical food source, White Oak Bark has been one of the most revered medicines throughout the ages. Just check out http://www.medhelp.org/posts/Hepatitis-B/White-Oak-Bark/show/926087 for a great description of its medicinal attributes.

Stinging Nettle is our strongest abundant dry plant fiber, and early autumn is the most ecological time to gather them. We will harvest and dry it, then spin it into cordage using various “reverse wrap” methods. You can take as much home as you make for use over the coming year so you never have to buy rope at the store again. Further, nettles are an incredibly good source for fire tinder in otherwise wet forest environments. You will put together your own tinder bundle of nettle, grass, cattail and cedar bark to practice blowing coals into flame. We will also test the strength of nettle rope, using it while demonstrating the bow-drill method of traditional fire by friction. You’ll also learn to properly dry and store it for continual use as a tea tonic for improved health during the cold and flu season.

Lorraine Olivas-Romey with Hericlum Abietis - Lion's Mane Mushrooms
Lorraine Olivas-Romey of the Snohomish County Mycological Society helps guide mushroom forays and a great Mushroom Show every October.

Top 5 Wild Edible Mushrooms of the Pacific Northwest: Foraging for mushrooms has recently become quite popular. Is it due to a “back to nature” movement, consuming food that is naturally grown, or the thrill of finding something totally organic? Whatever it is, be cautious about eating a mushroom without total identification that it is an edible. In fact, “a mushroom chooses its victim”. One can be allergic to them like being allergic to strawberries or seafood.

In the Pacific Northwest, most edible mushrooms are found under conifer trees: Douglas fir, Hemlock trees, Spruce and the Pine genus. They are said to be mycorrhizal, a mutually beneficial relationship between the trees’ roots and the fungi.

Interested in foraging for edible mushrooms? One way is to join a mushroom group. In the Seattle area, Puget Sound Mycological Society, the largest in the Pacific Northwest, and Snohomish County Mycological Society, north of Seattle are the closest. Both lead mushroom forays, or a field trip educating the public on edible, non-edible, or poisonous mushrooms. Another way would be to follow a seasoned forager who may have been a former member of a mushroom group, and hunts independently.

st2-HowToIdentifyMushroomsIn these groups, the most important lesson that one will come away with is how to identify key features of a mushroom. Learning to identify different parts of a mushrooms are crucial because these characteristics determine whether it is indeed the right mushroom for the table.

The unique key features mentioned here are for a typical mushroom that most people come across. Exceptional irregular mushrooms have only some of these characteristics.

Identification: Key Features of a Mushroom

The following key features are what to look for in identifying the genus and specie of a mushroom:

  • Size, • Shape, and • Color of the cap and stalk.
  • Underneath the caps, are there gills, a sponge layer (pores), or teeth?
  • Odor.
  • Spore color.
  • Other features like a veil or ring around the stalk, or a base with a volva.

Be aware that photographs from a mushroom text book may be unreliable.

Top 5 Northwest Mushrooms

Selected here are five CHOICE edibles which can be easily distinguished from gilled mushrooms. Each key features are unique and have no poisonous look-a-likes.

st4-BeletusEdulusKingBoleteMushroomCep, Porcini, or King Bolete

BOLETUS edulis are better known as “porcinis” by the Italians, and “cep” by the French. Foraged during the summer and fall, these prized and delicious edibles can look like a bread bun protruding through duff, the decayed organic matter on the forest floor under conifers. Features that announce this delectable mushroom are its bald cap of any of these colors: brown, yellow-brown, or red-brown, and underside it are pores, a sponge like layer, that when young it is whitish, and turns olive green as it matures; it does not turn blue when handled. Just below the stem, a net like design decorates it.

A most desirable mushroom when sliced and dried, it makes a tasty and flavorful soup.

st5-HypomycesLactifluorumLobsterMushroomLobster Mushroom, one of the Russulas

HYPOMYCES lactifluorum aka Lobster mushroom is a pretty thing. In reality the mushroom originally was a Russula brevipes, a commonly white russula found in the Pacific Northwest. Engulfed by a parasite in rich conifer humus, and the host mushroom may hold its shape or another odd shape, but it is the fresh steamed red or red orange lobster color that magnetizes a forager’s eyes.

Best sauteed in butter or pickled.


Hedgehog Mushroom instead of Chanterelles

HYDNUM repandum called Hedgehog, a teeth fungi, competes with the Cantharellus cibarius, or popular yellow chanterelle as an edible. Some foragers prefer it because it is tastier. Hedgehogs’ caps and stalks range in color: white, pale orange, orange brown.  But its best unmistakeable feature are delicate white or pale orange spines called “teeth” hanging under its cap. Usually in large numbers on the ground under fir, hemlock, and pine.

Prepare as you would a chanterelle, a little bit of butter, salt, and pepper.

Editor’s Note: I asked Lorraine why not Chanterelles? She reminded me that I requested the Top 5 mushrooms based on safety in northwest survival situations, and she didn’t include Chanterelles (and some other popular mushrooms) because of dangerous look-alikes. – Chris Chisholm


Lion’s Mane or Bear’s Head

HERICIUM abietes, a striking white ball growing on a dead log from afar while hiking in the woods, would be overlooked by everyone except a mushroom forager. This beauty whose other name is Bear’s head, also a “teeth fungi”; once handled, will never be forgotten. Adorned with pretty white like icicles on its branches, this mushroom is delicious when sauteed in olive oil, or add it in eggs, or to a vegetable stir fry, semi crisped.

A novice forager, may mistaken a HERICIUM erinaceus for a Hericium abietes. Don’t be fooled. The difference is how the “teeth” are set. Aka “Lion’s Mane”, depending on age, is a medium or large white clump-like ball of spines hanging all over it. Find these on both living trees and dead logs in a forest. If foraging is out of the question, it can be cultivated or purchased from mushroom growers. Culinary delight depends on the consumer. One believes it tastes like seafood, another says it tastes bland.

st14-SparassisCrispaCauliflowerMushroomCauliflower Mushroom

SPARASSIS crispa, looks more like a cluster of egg noodles rather than a cauliflower, but Cauliflower mushroom is its accepted common name. Growing on stumps or Douglas fir tree roots and other conifers, it can easily be identified; look closely to find firm flat curly edges. Young white or slightly tan specimens weighing less than 5 pounds are better sought out, though difficult to clean with fir needles caught between its branches. Cook thoroughly to tender it. Delicious in casseroles or in a frittata.

st16-WildMushroomEatingRulesCardinal Rules for Mushrooming

Before consuming any edible mushroom, be sure to follow these FIVE RULES:

  • Always be 100% sure of its identification.
  • Always cook mushrooms thoroughly.
  • Eat no more than one tablespoon when trying out a new mushroom; save a fresh sample in the refrigerator.
  • Eat only one mushroom at a time – wait 24 hours for any reaction.
  • Only eat mushrooms in good condition.

Finally, when unsure about any of a mushrooms’ key features, a CARDINAL RULE exists and that is:


MushroomsOfThePNWbyTrudellLonePineRecommended Northwest Mushroom Books

1.  All that the Rain Promises and More by David Arora
2.  Mushrooms of the Pacific Northwest by Steve Trudell and Joe Ammirati
3.  The New Savory Wild Mushroom by Margaret McKenny and Daniel E. Stuntz

Workshop Cost:

$75 general.
$65 for additional family members, or if you attended one of our herbal or artisan camps or workshops.

Registration: Who & How

Our weekend workshops are designed for adults, but youth are also welcome to register with an enrolled parent or guardian.

Credit/Debit Card Registration Option: Just call us at 425-248-0253 and we will run your card securely over the phone.

Check/Mail Registration Option: Send with a check donation payable to the Wolf College, 1026 14th St. SW, Puyallup WA 98371 with participant name(s), phone number, email address, age of any minors, and any allergies or health restrictions we should know about.

Or Use PayPal to register online securely with a credit/debit card or via direct withdrawal from your bank account. Just sign into paypal.com and “send money” to our email address.

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Refund Policy: Standard deposits ($75 for day programs, $175 for overnight programs) are not refundable unless we don’t accept your application. If you cancel for any reason, you may receive a full credit good through the following calendar year on appropriate and available programs listed on our schedule, although an additional deposit may be required to secure your spot in the future program. If a program you sign up for is canceled and not rescheduled at a time you can attend, you may receive a full refund except in case of natural (weather, geologic, etc) disasters, government shutdowns, conflicts or curfews, or other unforeseen emergencies making it impossible for staff and/or attendees to reach or use program locations, in which case all payments made will be held by us without expiration date for your future use in appropriate/available programs of your choice. No refund, nor credit, is given if a participant is asked to leave a program for inappropriateness as determined by our kids, youth and adult agreements for participation.

Preparatory Information for Introductory Workshop:

Upon registration, we will email you with a confirmation and some preparation information.  Otherwise, please prepare as you normally would for a hike, including lunch, water bottle, 10 essentials, etc. and dress for the weather! Join us today and at any of our Weekend Workshops on themes of survival, wildlife and ethnobotany, and please contact us for carpooling information.


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