As the spiraling of our earth around a distant enormous ball of fiery hydrogen occurs, and the tilt of our orb’s axis reduces the angle of the lumination, and therefore heat,  temperature weather, and all of us organisms affected by it enter into a new phase that we call Autumn.

Recent School Harvest

This leads to a mystical shift in NW forests, where traipsing off-trail across verdant mossy hills,  leaves glistening with fresh rain and mist flowing through the trees on the wind like forest spirits, in search of fleshy fungi, is undertaken by those with a special connection and knowledge to the lesser-known kingdom of creatures, the fungi.

Our fungo-phobic culture is especially enchanted with the intoxicating attraction of the delicious, occasionally mind-expanding, mystical allure of the mushrooms.  Buried deeply in the mythos of most American’s subconscious is a deep quiet place filled with fear, awe, repulsion, attraction, and fascination with the kingdom of Fungi.

At Vital Ways Institute, we guide students to unlocking the secrets of nature, and very few are so enjoyably unlocked as occurs as we engage in Forest Bathing as the Japanese call it, as we learn to identify and harvest wild edible and medicinal mushrooms.

Of the thousands of mushrooms that one encounters in NW woods,

there are some, who through their beauty, unusualness, flavor, or medicine, call to us more than others.  Here is a list of the most common edibles that we harvest in our classes at Vital Ways Institute.

Agaricus augustus                       The Prince

Boletus edulis                                 King Bolete, Porcini, Cep

Boletus fibrillosis

Aureoboletus  mirabilis            Admirable bolete

Cantharellus spp.                         Chanterelle

Happy Student Mushroomer

Gomphus clavitus                        Pigs ears

Hericeum ssp.                                Lion’s mane

Hydnum repandum                    Hedgehog

Hypomyces lactifluorum         Lobster

Laetiporous sulphureus           Chicken of the Woods

Morchella esculenta                   Morels

Sparassis crispa                           Cauliflower

Tricholoma murrillianum      Matsutake

By far the most commonly harvested-Chanterelles

The easiest, and safest mushroom to identify and harvest is the Chanterelle. Here are the key features and most common lookalikes:

The most commonly harvested medicinal fungi are the Conks

Relatives of the famous Chinese Reishi, our NW specimens are relatively easy to identify and make medicine from.  Here is a list of the most common and their key identifying characteristics.

Remember that mushrooms, like all of nature, should be very well understood, prior to harvesting and consuming.

There are many fungi that are poisonous, some in our forests and fields are even deadly, so no wild mushrooms should ever be consumed, without expert identification.

The author with Chicken of the Woods

The list of mushrooms above is a wonderful starting place for those interested in expanding their nature awareness and possibly harvesting food or medicine from the forest.

At Vital Ways Institute, we teach mushroom foraging and medicine making as part of the curriculum in each class, and we offer several mushroom education classes for the public. If you want to join a class, please reach out, and/or sign up for our mailing list.

Wishing you many happy and safe days, forest bathing, and safe fungus gathering.

Christopher