Within Seattle’s food scene, the city is well known for its fresh ingredients, often coming from local farms, Puget Sound, and even the nearby forests. Not only is the surrounding nature full of beauty, it is teeming with delicious food. While you’ll often find these homegrown ingredients on restaurant tables and in farmers markets, you can also forage for them right at the source! Cue Savor the Wild Tours, a local company offering experiences centered around Pacific Northwest seafood, mushroom foraging, and culinary events.
With a recent love for mushrooms, I was very excited to have the opportunity to learn more about them on Savor the Wild’s Mushroom Foraging 101 tour. Set against the stunning backdrop of the Redmond Watershed Preserve, the day kicked off with an overview of different mushrooms common to the area, how to properly use a foraging knife to take samples, and a handy pocket-sized guide to help with identifying. Our small tour group sat around a picnic table that was dotted with mushrooms set out as examples of what possibilities were waiting for us just on the other side of the trees. As an artist, I delighted in the various colors, patterns, and unique organic shapes of each. I couldn’t wait to see what we would find for ourselves!
Armed with our foraging knives, guidebooks, and baskets to collect samples, our expert tour guide led us onto the trail to start our search. It didn’t take long before we started to find a variety of mushrooms along the edges of the path. Each time we paused and gathered around what was found while the guide helped us identify what we were looking at, often pointing us to where we could learn even more about it in the guidebook. While we all enjoyed finding mushrooms along the way, our guide also took us to special locations to show us examples we may not have found so easily on our own.
With fantastical names like Jelly Rot, Earth Star, and Witch’s Butter, each mushroom we found had unique textures and colors, and seemed to have their own personalities. We found miniature mushrooms, giant mushrooms, mushrooms that felt fuzzy, mushrooms that were hard as rocks, and everything in between. Some were right on the edge of the walking path, while others required a short walk off trail. Each time we saw something new, the guide gave us helpful information on its characteristics and if it was edible or not. If it was, she even gave us pro tips on her favorite ways to cook them.
Our baskets quickly filled up with an array of samples, but before we made our way back to the trailhead, the guide had a special plan for us. Throughout the tour, many of the mushrooms we came across were not edible, but she had one in mind that was okay to eat, and we were all going to do it together. “No big deal,” I thought. I like mushrooms and I was sure it was going to be just like any other mushroom I’ve had. A few moments later we were all looking at a log that appeared to have a bright yellow-orange gel oozing from it. Not exactly what I call appetizing. Our guide assured us it was edible and encouraged us to all take a sample of this mushroom—the aforementioned Witch’s Butter. I’m a big texture person when it comes to food, so inside, I was panicking a little! After going back and forth in my head, I decided to do it with the group. Experiences like this are all about trying new things, right? We ate it together on the count of three and all tried to guess what it tasted like. If you want to know…you’ll just have to do the tour yourself! Let’s just say I was pleasantly surprised and encourage you to do it on the tour if you have the chance.
As the two-hour tour started to wrap up, we all gathered around the picnic table at the trailhead to share what we had found. I was shocked and amazed at all the different types of mushrooms everyone had collected, many of which I had never seen before. I was fascinated by how unique each one was. The guide gave us one last round of helpful tips and tricks on identifying what we had found and answered questions. We each got a brown paper bag to pack up our samples and take home. I left the tour feeling in awe that all these incredible mushrooms are in the parks and forests right in Seattle and the surrounding area and was excited to have this new knowledge of foraging. It was a great way to get out in nature and connect with something so quintessential to Seattle. I can’t wait for my next Savor the Wild tour!
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