The name of the park/trail we went to is Larus Park here in Richmond. This is one of our favorite parks to take Basil since it's still sort of unknown and less of an open park feel — it's more like a bunch of trails and a big creek across several acres of wooded forest.
Meet Adam and Lindsay:
These are our friends who were in from Durham, North Carolina for a wedding in Richmond that weekend, so we were excited to meet up with them on Sunday to catch up and try something new to us. They are both experienced in foraging for mushrooms and Linsday is trained in spotting edible plants and even creates herbal extracts for her business, Full Flower Herbs. If you're in the Durham area, she sells at the dtownMARKET at Motorco and at Carrboro's monthly Wild Food + Herb Market. Online, check out her Etsy shop and Facebook page.
We recently found out the good news that they are expecting their first child — it's going to be one cool little dude if you ask us!
They brought a basket for collecting mushrooms, special knives and we brought the camera, eager to learn. Once in the woods, we unleashed Basil and started the hunt:
It's been a rainy summer here in Richmond and had even rained pretty well the night before, so we were hopeful this would make for good mushroom hunting. We actually found lots of them right away, all different varieties, and all equally intriguing in shape and color:
Mary and Lindsay joked about how so many of them looked like those classic woodland mushrooms that fairies live under and both of us kept asking Lindsay and Adam if each one was edible.
We also came across some ripening blackberry bushes along the beginning of trail — these guys should be in their prime right around now that it's been a couple weeks:
We might just have to make another trip out to this park to see if they're still there!
As we kept walking and finding various mushrooms here and there, all of a sudden out of the corner of Mary's eyes, she spotted a little hint of yellow popping out of the forest floor:
Adam and Lindsay had told us to keep a particular eye out for the colors yellow and orange, since they might be indicators of the prized and edible chanterelle mushroom variety.
Lindsay and Adam were visibly excited and took the opportunity to give Mary and I a lesson in identifying true chanterelle mushrooms:
You can usually spot them first by their yellow color and somewhat crinkled or wrinkled cap. Once flipping over the mushroom, if the gills on the underside are tapered in a funnel shape, connecting the stem and cap, it's almost a sure bet:
Lindsay explained to us that chanterelles are also known to have a faint smell to them, similar to apricots — pretty interesting, right?. They brushed off the dirt, sliced off the bottom of our newly found chanterelles and added them to our basket of edible varieties:
Adam and Lindsay both had these cool folding knives with them for cutting into mushrooms — Adam's even had a little brush attached to his for knocking off dirt and debris without harming the mushroom (we found them online, here). Every time we'd find a new mushroom they thought might be edible, they'd lean down and gently cut into it to determine further. They even cut into a few just to show us the differences and oddities among different varieties — or how you could tell if a mushroom is probably not edible.
This one, filled with black spores, was our favorite mushroom Adam cut open from the day. He evidently knew this variety and pulled us over to take a look — kind of like when you get to see the inside of a rock geode for the first time:
Mary and I were so surprised by just how many different types of mushrooms there were in the forest. We both laughed more than a few times at how true it is that you don't really notice certain things until you begin looking for them. We've been down this trail walking Basil so many times and never noticed so many mushrooms — and now we'll never be able to walk it again without noticing them. Funny how things work that way, right?
Every so often we'd come across another small patch of chanterelles here and there, which was always very exciting:
Note the yellow color, crinkled cap edges and funnel like gills. Mary said it was a lot like hunting for shark's teeth on the James River, in that there are so many fun things to see along the way, but once you spot one of what you're looking for, there's a sort of rush that comes over you.
We also came across lots of different and interesting funguses. Lindsay and Adam explained that you can also tell if a mushroom is edible by what it's been growing on. They said steering clear of fungus growing on branches is a good practice. We loved the look of that "purple coral" fungus popping up from the dreary leaves that day:
Basil joined right in on the fun and had his own big adventure too. He ran all over the woods, pausing the check out the creek and play with some other dogs in need of a good romp:
He was also taken aback by one of the many mysterious creatures in the woods — this boxing turtle:
However, the turtle wasn't as thrilled to meet Basil, so we kept moving.
We stopped at the base of a tree that had a huge white mushroom growing near the bottom of the trunk to see if we could identify it in our book:
We ended up taking a portion of it with us:
And saw these black trumpet mushrooms nearby:
There was one particular variety of edible mushroom that became a quick favorite of Mary's. It's called the "Old Man of the Woods:"
Lindsay said they resemble a grey and wrinkling old man and that's how they get their name. She explained how the first one we found above wasn't in great shape (very dark and dry looking), so when we came across the few below that were fresh and newer looking Mary joked that she'd found her "Silver Foxes of the Woods:"
Some of the caps resemble pancakes, but Adam showed us exactly where they get their name after he cut into a couple and showed us how a milky substance would immediately begin to leak out of the mushroom:
It was kind of like the sap from a pine or milk from an osage orange ball. Pretty fascinating! These were also Basil's favorite variety:
It wasn't long before we started seeing very tiny but very bright shots of neon orange poking up from the ground:
Adam and Lindsay explained how these were called cinnabar chanterelles, and were equally as excited to find them as the first ones we came across. They were in a much smaller scale than the yellow ones we found, but were quality nonetheless:
We quickly learned how their identifying crinkle caps and funnel gills on the underside gave them away as chanterelles:
It seems we weren't the only ones on the hunt for and excited to find these diamonds in the rough:
As we headed back up trail, we scoured the ground for mushrooms we hadn't spotted on the way down and even stopped a couple times while Lindsay pointed out edible varieties of different leafy green plants:
We did end up finding one more pretty big patch of yellow chanterelles on the way back up:
At the end of the day, this was the haul we brought back home for cooking with:
We both certainly gained a new appreciation for serious mushroom foragers and even the beautiful ones we come across at the weekly market. Just look at those bright and fresh chanterelles:
We divided up the mushrooms we each took home for storing and cooking. After looking up chanterelle recipes for cooking inspiration, we are dying to try some variation of the following mushroom and polenta dishes:
Image source: creamy polenta and chanterelle mushroom recipe
Image source: polenta and mushroom recipe
Have you ever foraged for mushrooms? This was certainly a new experience for us! Do you have a favorite variety of mushroom or go-to mushroom recipe?
Disclaimer: We wouldn't feel safe making a post about our foraging adventure without a few words of warning! Mary and I are no experts in foraging for mushrooms. We went with two of our friends who know what they are doing and led the way. We don't recommend eating any mushroom you find in the wild unless you are a trained expert in edible mushrooms. When finding edible varieties, we learned it's even a best practice to taste a very small portion before eating an entire mushroom to make sure your body doesn't have any negative reactions.