Whether you’re in the Willamette Valley or Central Oregon, mushroom hunting season is here.
Fall in Eugene and Bend usually means the onset of rain and cold. If you’re a local, you’re used to it. Maybe you even welcome a bit of moisture after Oregon’s typically dry summers. In Bend, the crowds of summer tourists gradually thin out, making for some relative peace and quiet.
When it comes to the outdoors, the fall can feel like the off-season between summer’s glories and winter skiing, snowboarding, and perhaps dog-sledding. There’s still plenty to do: check out or our Fall guides to Eugene and Bend. But if you haven’t tried mushroom hunting in the Willamette Valley or Cascades, then you’re missing out.
Hunting for edible mushrooms is a way to experience the forest in a whole new way. It’s a chance to slow down and experience the woods from a ground-level perspective. There’s a whole new world waiting to be found. And then there’s the delicious mushrooms.
Chanterelles, matsutakes, morels, oyster mushrooms, and even truffles–these and more are available for the taking. Just avoid the Death Caps, Destroying Angels, and poisonous lookalikes. Read on as we outline the mushroom hunting scenes in both Eugene and Bend.
Head for the Hills: Eugene is a Mushroom Lover’s Paradise
The Willamette Valley’s lush, temperate forests make for a prime mushroom hunting environment.
Hop in your car and head east to the lush old-growth rain-forest of the McKenzie River corridor. Or, just walk up into the hills around town once the Fall rains have begun in earnest.
Matsutakes are a particular local treat. The name translates to “pine mushroom” in Japanese, where they’re a delicacy prized for their delicate aroma.
High quality matsutakes can sell for upwards of fifty dollars a pound. If you haven’t tried them, then you owe it to yourself. You can always head to the Lane County Farmer’s Market, where you’ll find these and many more varieties.
Finding them yourself takes persistence, a keen eye, and perhaps an experienced guide. They tend to hide under the soil, so finding them requires an insider’s knowledge of their preferred habitat. Consider connecting with the Cascade Mycological Society and joining one of their members’ forays. Forest Service permits are required.
Winter white truffles can be harvested from October through March, while black truffles thrive during the winter. Truffles, of course, grow underground. Black truffles are particularly elusive, usually requiring the keen nose of a dog or truffle pig.
White truffles, though, are easier. Look near the roots of trees for small holes dug by forest critters. Maples and cedars are the best candidates, but truffles also grow under Eugene’s plentiful Doug Firs.
Probe with your bare hand or lightly rake the duff. You may see or feel the truffle’s telltale hard, ball-shaped bump. Give your dog a whiff, play a few rounds of “hide the truffle,” and you’re on your way to training a truffle dog.
Springtime is prime time for morels–read more below. But chanterelles are probably the easiest find in the fall months, particularly right after fresh rains. They grow in clusters near trees, and their easy-to-spot orange color makes them a perfect target for beginning enthusiasts.
Just beware of another orange mushroom, Jack o Lanterns, which are extremely poisonous. Learn the difference at Mushroom Appreciation. It’s not to hard to spot, but as always, be careful.
If you want to know way, way more about mushrooms in the Willamette Valley and lay your eyes on these and 300 other varieties, definitely check out the annual Mount Pisgah Arboretum Mushroom Festival.
Hunting for Mushrooms in Bend
Central Oregon is dry. That means a less-than-ideal climate for most mushroom species, but don’t despair. In less than an hour’s drive, you’ll arrive at the old growth Douglas fir forests of the West side of the Cascades. Try the Sahalie Falls area, 50 miles outside of town.
What the high desert of Central Oregon does have is morels, which is great news for local mushroom aficionados.
Start your hunt in mid-April and continue through the spring. Areas of recent burns are prime territory. Fire agitates the soil and shocks them into fruiting 2 or 3 years later. Look around fallen-down trees, piles of forest debris, and underneath manzanita shrubs. Don’t go too high in elevation: there’s a limit to how much cold they can tolerate.
Bend mushroom lovers would do well to head to the annual Fungi Fest and Mushroom Show. Happy exploring, and bon appetit! Share your tips and recipes in the comments section below.