Seattle has a diverse mycota – or fungi community – linked to its mild climate and biologically diverse plant community. Of the many hundreds of species of fungi in Seattle, there are at least 40 known mushrooms with edible and medicinal properties and another handful used for fiber dying, artistic purposes, and ecological restoration. Safe harvesting and consumption of mushrooms requires expert knowledge and when done with care can be a rewarding and sustainable way to find foods and materials in our local urban environment.
Turkey Tail Necklace photo by Joyce
The foraging that takes place within Seattle is primarily for personal use. Most of the folks who forage wild mushrooms have spent years learning the art of identification. Anyone interested in getting started should get involved with the Puget Sound Mycological Society (PSMS). PSMS offers identification classes and organizes mushroom forays for learning more about fungi ecology, identification, and related soil issues (which may render an otherwise edible mushroom unsafe for human consumption – a concern in urban areas with industrial land-uses). Knowing your mushrooms is essential and some edibles have poisonous look-a-likes. Among the choice edibles found in Seattle are: Leccinum scabrum (“birch bolete”); Agaricus agustus (“the prince”), Pleurotus ostreatus (“oyster mushroom”), and the occasional Morel.
While there are valuable mushrooms to be found in the urban ecosystems of Seattle, many mycophiles set their eyes towards the mountains where the abundance and variety may be greater. Prized edible mushrooms that can be found in the Cascade and Olympic Mountains (within a couple of hours from Seattle) include: Boletus edulis “King bolete”, a variety of morels and chanterelles, Tricholoma magnivelare “matsutake”, and Sparassis crispa “cauliflower mushroom” among many other edible species. Check with local jurisdictions about harvesting permits and regulations. The usual cautions around identification apply here as well.
With the proper skill set, mushrooming can be a safe, rewarding, and sustainable way to interact with our environment.