California hosts many varieties of wild mushrooms that are ready to be harvested by those who can identify them. It’s no simple thing, mushroom identification, but if you are interested in wild edibles then gaining a basic knowledge is a must. There are dozens of edible mushrooms in the hills, fields, and mountains of the golden state. Three of the more popular varieties are morel, chanterelle, and porcini.
Morels are sought out for their unique, smoky flavor and delicate structure. Folks tramp the woods for days and weeks seeking out these hidden morsels. The best way to find morels is to seek out conifer forests that have recently experienced a fire. These aptly named burn-morels proliferate for 1-4 years after the area has burned. Morels fruit in the Spring.
Chanterelles grow around oak trees in the late summer and fall. They can be found at other times but not as reliably. These golden-orange beauties stand out in the forest and their sweet apricot-like scent can perfume a whole area. Chanterelles are dense and meaty with a nutty flavor.
Porcini, also known as the King Bolete, is a large, dense, heavy mushroom with a nutty flavor. It is a prized find and not an easy one to discover, to say the least. They grow under pine trees and covered by needles. To find them, you have to seek out the tell-tale bumps on the ground surface and hope there is a big, brown mushroom underneath.
Never, ever, consume a mushroom without a 100% accurate identification. If you are new to foraging, find local groups that host walks and learn from the experts. There are loads of edible mushrooms out there and there are bunches of not-so-great and possibly poisonous ones too. You need to know the difference!