Vancouver Island has always been a mushroom forager’s heaven, but this autumn’s harvest is even better than most. The random rains have kept the fungi popping and the wild crafters hopping.
Most who hunt the edible fungi keep their mushroom patch locations hush hush, but if you see vehicles parked along high-elevation logging roads at this time of year, it usually means a good patch is close by.
If you decide to venture into the most satisfying hobby of finding and harvesting wild mushrooms, a word of warning: This is not a pastime for the uneducated. With over 30 types of mushrooms growing on the island, only a few are edible. The rest are poisonous or hallucinogenic.
Until you are well-versed in mushroom identification, it’s most wise, at least initially, to be guided by an experienced wild-crafter. Numerous forest mushroom-foraging tours can be booked, and many courses are on offer.
Renowned chef, author and mycologist Bill Jones from Dearholme Farms is one such educator offering fun and interactive foraging workshops. Nestled inland from Duncan, Chef Jones also hosts farm/forest-to-table dinners and workshops throughout the year. http://www.deerholme.com/
The second annual Mid Island Mushroom Festival is happening Sunday, October 6, at the Northland Island Wildlife Recovery Centre in Errington. It promises to be a fun and informative family event. https://www.facebook.com/events/1067854686602159/ Organizer Jessica Wolf also teaches foraging. https://www.facebook.com/jessicawolfwildfoods/
Mushrooms accompanied by Pinot Noir wines are considered a classic food-and-wine pairing. It so happens the edible fungi on the island’s woodlands goes beautifully with Pinot Noir wines grown in the fields nearby. What grows together goes together. Our island Pinot Noirs are uniquely elegant and subtle. Drink these wines with local wild mushrooms sautéed in a good olive oil with a little garlic … you are in for a sublime taste experience.
At Lucky’s Liquor store in Nanaimo’s Country Club Centre you can find a perfect Pinot Noir to accompany your mushroom feast. Say you have a bounteous basket of chanterelle mushrooms, quite easy to find, especially at high elevations. Those mushrooms in a chanterelle risotto would be perfectly matched to a bottle of Averill Creek Pinot Noir – a heavenly combination as neither flavour is overwhelmed by the other. The earthy notes of the chanterelles come to life alongside the bright cherry and raspberry essence of the Pinot Noir. http://www.saveur.com/article/Recipes/Chanterelle-Risotto
The next time you find yourself soaking wet and cold at the end of your foraging adventure, keep that forthcoming dinner in mind!
Oh, one more thing. If you’re off to the woodlands to forage, it never hurts to take a little lesson in cougar and bear safety, as well as knowing what mushrooms to avoid. Happy foraging and bon appetite!