Chanterelles are a popular edible mushroom sought by amateur and commercial fungi hunters throughout the Northwest. (Photo by Dan Clements)

Chanterelles are a popular edible mushroom sought by amateur and commercial fungi hunters throughout the Northwest. (Photo by Dan Clements)

Washington state is ‘a mushroom hunter’s paradise’

All the state and national forests, plus the rain, make this an ideal place for mushrooms to grow.

By Mike Benbow / Special to The Herald

Here’s another reason to like Washington state’s drizzly climate in fall.

“The Northwest is one of the prime spots in the world for mushroom hunting,” said Diann Mize of Tulalip, a member of the Snohomish County Mycological Society. “It’s a mushroom hunter’s paradise.”

Melanie Swails, acting president of the society, agreed.

She said mushroom season has started early this year based on the recent rains.

“Because of the amount of rain we get (in the spring and fall) we get lots of mushrooms,” Swails said. “We’ve recently had a lot of rain and the mushrooms are happy about it and they came up to say, ‘Hi.’”

Swails, a three-year member of the society, said she became interested in the group because she was spending a lot of time in the wilderness. “I saw a lot of mushrooms, but I couldn’t identify what I was seeing,” she said.

Now she can.

For Mize and her husband, Bob, club members for a decade, hunting for mushrooms is a good way to get some exercise. “It’s a wonderful excuse to get out in the woods,” Diann Mize said.

All the state and national forests in Washington make it an ideal place for mushrooms.

Bob Mize noted that pickers are better off getting their mushrooms in the forest, rather than along the roadside, to help prevent gathering mushrooms loaded with pollutants.

He said many mushrooms have relationships with certain plants, providing and receiving nutrients and minerals.

“Many types of mushrooms have a symbiotic relationship with a lot of trees,” he said. “There are pickers who can just look at the trees in a bit of woods and they know exactly where the mushrooms are.”

The Mizes enjoy the many edible mushrooms, noting that there are only a few that are poisonous and that they are easily identifiable.

While only a few are poisonous, some others can make you sick. “There’s a whole group called the ‘lose-your-lunch bunch,’” Bob Mize said.

The bottom line is that nobody should eat mushrooms they can’t identify.

Helping people learn about mushrooms and be able to identify them is a main purpose of the society. In addition to monthly meetings with programs about mushrooms, the group also sponsors forest outings in the fall and spring mushroom seasons so that members can seek mushrooms and get them identified.

“Nothing beats having somebody with you who knows what they’re doing,” Diann Mize said.

In addition to personal help, there also are a number of mushroom guidebooks, including a popular one with the club by David Arora entitled, “All that the Rain Promises and More.”

Bob Mize said there is more to learn about mushrooms than just which ones to eat. He noted that mushrooms are important to the forest ecology. And he added that many have important medicinal properties.

He noted that he takes a mushroom supplement under a doctor’s supervision that helps him with memory issues.

“It’s a fascinating topic and I don’t think you can ever reach the bottom of it,” Diann Mize said.

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