Tag Archives: mushroom hunting

Morel Madness and Creamy Morel Pasta

Ever since I returned from New Zealand I’ve been hearing tales and seeing pictures of abundant morels popping up all over northern California. We had tons of wildfires in California in the last two years and are having a very rainy spring thanks to El Niño, which means a perfect storm for morels! Morels are known to pop up in recent burn scars, and since I just graduated with my PhD from UC Berkeley May 15, I finally had time to head to the mountains and poke around for these elusive earthen treats myself!


Burn scar from the King Fire

We headed up to the Sierra Nevada mountains in California to check out the burn scars from the giant King Fire that scorched over 97,000 acres of land two years ago. Spring in the Sierras is beautiful and we saw tons of dogwoods blooming.


Dogwoods blooming

We knew we were onto something when we began to see the burned ground carpeted with these cute little orange cups, Geopyxis carbonaria, which are associated with wildfires.


Cute orange cups of Geopyxis fruiting in the burned duff!

Morels are quite elusive, and it took us a while to find what we were looking for, but in the meantime we enjoyed our tromp through the beautiful Sierran conifer forests.


Posing with a giant Jeffrey pine

Before we could find any of the delicious elusive treats, we had to survive some infamous Sierran inclement weather first – it started to hail!


Hailing in the Sierran conifer forests

We were beginning to lose hope, and then finally Vince found the first morel of the day!


Vince grins with delight at the first morel of the day!

It cold and hailing, but that instantly melted away when I found my first morel – so much glee!


Me posing with my first ever California morel!

We were getting so much hail that we considered turning around and heading back to the car, but those thoughts quickly melted away after Brian found the mother lode!


Brian posing with his morel finds!

We were all infected with the morel fever which kept us warm despite the continued hail.


Hail in our hair and we don’t care! We got the crazy mushroom eyes!

At a certain point it began to hail so hard we decided it was indeed prudent to return to the car..


Shivering in the pouring hail

We still found some morels poking out from under the hail as we tromped back to the car!


Can you see the morel poking out from under the hail?

At the end of the day, it was totally worth it!


The morel catch of the day!

Flying high with the morel mushroom fever, we could not wait to prepare a feast to highlight our mushroom bounty. We made a quick stop at Berkeley Bowl on our way home from the mountains to gather ingredients. We decided to cook a creamy morel pasta served with salad, green beans, and fresh baked sourdough toasts (courtesy of Vince) topped with burrata cheese. After admiring our catch of the day, we set off to clean and cut the morels.


Morel bounty!

The first step was to cut and sauté the morels in butter.DSC07537


In the meanwhile, chef Vince prepared the green beans. I just love the morels on his t-shirt peeking out from behind the cupcake apron! It’s a good look, don’t you agree?


My sister and brother-in-law, who are big board game fans, gave me this Morel board game as a gift. The premise is that you are walking through the forest, hunting for morels. We thought it was a perfect activity for fellow hunters Brian and Alex to do while Vince and I prepared the pasta. Here they are deeply involved in the game sitting with the salad, green beans, toast with burrata, and cherries that we got to accompany the creamy morel pasta.


Can’t get enough of hunting for morels! Playing the Morel board game while the morels cook

The next step of the pasta after cooking the morels to golden brown perfection is to chop up two shallots and plenty of garlic and sauté them in butter until they also turn golden brown.


After the shallots and garlic are cooked, add in the heavy cream, then the mushrooms. The mushrooms permeate the cream with their flavor and it is sooo good!


While the mushrooms marinate in the cream, onions, and garlic, cook the pasta and grate the parmesan cheese. Once the pasta is cooked, mix it in with the creamy mushroom sauce.


Creamy morel pasta with shallots, garlic, cream, and morels

Next, add more parmesan to the pasta!


Adding way more parmesan to the pasta

Thanks to my fellow hunters for helping me find this awesome morel bounty!


Cheers to my fellow hunters – Brian, Alex, and Vince – about to enjoy the morel mushroom feast!

Cheers to morels and friends!DSC07562

The salad and green beans complemented the creamy morel pasta perfectly. It was definitely a meal to remember! Now let’s go hunt for some more morels!!!


Salad, green beans with slivered almonds, and creamy morel pasta!

Ingredients for creamy morel pasta:

  • Morels
  • fettucine pasta
  • heavy cream
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • two shallots
  • lots of garlic! to taste
  • parmesan cheese

Mushroom hunting in Point Reyes!

2015-12-16 14.21.11

Showing off the beautiful purple Laccaria amethysteo-occidentalis mushrooms! Photo by Akiko Carver.

In the last few weeks it has FINALLY started raining in California! Huzzah! That means I can start posting pictures of my local mushroom hunting adventures rather than having all my mushroom hunting pictures come from Oregon. My advisor, Tom, my lab mate, Akiko, and my co-GSI (graduate student instructor), Vince, and I went out mushroom hunting in Point Reyes National Seashore last week to collect mushrooms for the California Mushrooms final.

2015-12-16 10.53.35

The ground carpeted with Pholiota velaglutinosa

The ground was absolutely COVERED in mushrooms. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such an abundance of mushrooms in a single location before. There were huge swaths of ground covered in Pholiota velaglutinosa. This is what it looks like up close!

Pholiota velaglutinosa

Pholiota velaglutinosa. Photo courtest of Vince Wu.

This would have been a good spot to study fungal competition because there were huge areas of ground covered in Pholiota and then right next to it were mountains of Gymnopilus, another wood decay species, but there was very little intermixing between the species.

2015-12-16 10.54.34

Ground covered in Gymnopilus, another wood decay mushroom

These are all wood decay mushrooms competing with each other for the wood chips that were covering the ground next to where they had obviously done some recent tree felling and wood chipping. Interspersed with the Pholiota and Gymnopilus were huge swaths of Hygrophoropsis auriantiaca.

2015-12-16 10.53.05

Hygrophoropsis auriantiaca

These mushrooms can be super sneaky because they are known as the false chanterelle. From afar they can trick you and you get excited thinking they are chanterelles, but they you pick them and see that they have gills instead of dull ridges and are usually much brighter orange and have inrolled margins. What do you think, did it trick you?

2015-12-16 10.59.27 HDR

Hygrophoropsis auriantiaca, AKA the false chanterelle. Did it trick you? Photo by Vince Wu

After tromping through the wood chips and glorying in the masses of wood decay (and unfortunately unedible) mushrooms, we left to the oak forests in search of ectomycorrhizal fungi. We came across some beautiful Laccaria amethysteo-occidentalis which are in mutualistic relationships with the oak and pine trees in Point Reyes.

2015-12-16 14.14.03

Laccaria amethysteo-occidentalis Photo by Akiko Carver

While these mushrooms are technically edible I personally have never eaten them before. I just love to admire them for their beauty. Look how purple!!!

2015-12-16 14.17.52

We found tons of little mushroom treasures! Here is my tackle box that I use to protect the smaller and more delicate mushrooms while we are tromping around. Can you recognize any of these species in this box?

2015-12-16 12.14.03

Tackle box filled with dainty mushroom treasures

While hiking around we stumbled upon perhaps the most exciting find of the day – a veritable forest of Amanita muscaria!


Forest of Amanita muscarias! Photo by Akiko Carver

These are the typical fairy tale mushrooms famous from Mario Kart and for giving Alice her trippy experience in Wonderland. They are also stunningly beautiful.

2015-12-16 13.16.26

Amanita muscaria. Photo by Vince Wu

We pretty much couldn’t contain ourselves from the excitement of finding so many beautiful mushrooms. Here is my co-GSI vince doing his best Gollum impression.

Vince doing his best gollum impression

Vince doing his best gollum impression

Luckily my lab mate Akiko is also a talented artist and came up with some creative photography ideas. Thanks Akiko Carver  – this probably should be an ad for Berkeley mycology, no?

2015-12-16 13.22.21

Should I be the new face of Berkeley mycology? Photo by Akiko Carver

We really had fun with Amanita muscaria photography. I wouldn’t recommend eating them raw unless you want to vomit, hallucinate, and have terrible diarrhea and stomach pains, but aren’t they beautiful??? I did actually eat them at David Arora’s house, but there is a fancy detoxifying process that involves boiling them in water for 7 minutes, dumping the water, boiling again for 7 minutes, then dumping the water again, before you can cook and eat them.

2015-12-16 13.24.45

Amanita muscaria art courtesy of Akiko Carver

We were seriously so excited to find so many beautiful mushrooms that we were all pretty much buzzing from a mushroom high. Mushroom hunting is so fun! Bolstered by the exciting forest of Amanita muscaria find, Akiko and Vince were adventurous enough that they were willing to climb this steep hill in search of more mushrooms. See kids – we worked hard to collect mushrooms for your exam!

2015-12-16 13.52.10

My co-GSI Vince and my lab mate Akiko trampling up a steep ravine in search of mushrooms

While we did not find any prized edibles, we still had a lot of fun collecting mushrooms in Point Reyes, and we found a lot of interesting mushrooms for the California Mushrooms final. Hopefully the students agreed! Thanks to Akiko and Vince for help with the mushroom photography and for wonderful mushroom hunting companionship :)

Oyster mushrooms and porcinis in class

Despite the extensive drought in California, some prized edible mushrooms are sneaking their way into my classroom. As mentioned in a previous post, I’m teaching a class at UC Berkeley this semester called California Mushrooms. Students bring in mushrooms that they find hiking around the local forests or on campus, and we identify them in lab. Imagine my delight when this giant pile of oyster mushrooms walked into my classroom a few weeks ago!


Whenever we get a sizable collection of edible mushrooms in the classroom we cook them so that all of the students can try them. Oyster mushrooms, also known as Pleurotus ostreatusare not necessarily the most prized mushrooms because they are not that scarce. Unlike chanterelles and porcinis, which are ectomycorrhizal fungi and are mutualistically associated with trees, oyster mushrooms are saptrophic fungi that make a living by decaying dead material such as wood. This is an easy environment to reproduce in culture so oyster mushrooms are cultivated and thus readily abundant. You might have seen them in your local grocery store. Or you might be seeing them on downed logs while hiking around in the forest, which is where my student found them in the woods in Marin county. 

We cleaned and sliced up the mushrooms and prepped them on our handy wooden cutting board in lab. As you saw in the chicken of the woods post, we have a set up where we bring in a portable hot plate and cook mushrooms in the fume hood.


We like to cook the mushrooms simply in butter and add salt so the students can taste them in their purest element. I do enjoy oyster mushrooms but I will admit that they are not the most flavorful.  However, oyster mushrooms would add great texture and meaty flavor to a stir fry or an egg dish.

IMG_2484Chicken of the woods, which I wrote about in my last post, has been coming in a lot as well as it is a common parasite of Eucalyptus trees on campus and in Albany and Berkeley. Since they are so tasty and were such a hit in the previous class, we decided to cut those up and cook them as well.


Don’t they add a lovely color? Here are the oyster mushrooms all cooked up. You can see we use pretty fancy flatware in class…


Now of course the students love trying all new mushrooms but I was especially excited when we got our first porcini! Alas it was only a single mushroom that was found by one of the students hiking around in Mendocino, but I had to cut it up for students to try since it is such a prized edible.


Porcinis are ectomycorrhizal fungi, mutualistically associated with trees, so they must be foraged in order to find them because it is a really difficult environment to recreate in culture. Many mushrooms in the genus Boletus are lumped into the edible category of porcinis, but the one that we had in class was the queen bolete Boletus regineus known for the white bloom she has on her cap when young. Mushrooms in the genus Boletus are distinctive for having tubes instead of gills. Remember my post about hedgehog mushrooms where I mentioned that mushrooms in the genus Hydnum have spiny teeth instead of gills? Mushrooms have evolved all sorts of awesome mechanisms for dispersing their spores!


Porcinis are identifiable due to the brown bun shaped caps, the tubes, and the reticulation, or netting, on the top of the stem. Can you see it? As I mentioned previously, porcinis are a rare find and are super delectable so I was very excited to cook it in class.


As usual, we kept it simple cooking it in the frying pan with butter and salt. Porcinis are delicious in egg dishes, gravy, soups, many Italian dishes, and would likely add a rich buttery flavor to any dish. They were super buttery and delicious! Here’s my co-TA Vince enjoying mushrooms in our lab.


Here are the students gathering round to try the mushrooms! Bon apetit!


Mushroom hunting in Oregon!

Yay chanties!!

Yay chanties!! Photo credit: R. Vandegrift











As you know California has been experiencing an epic drought. I’m teaching a class in mushroom identification at Berkeley right now and it’s been super difficult to find good specimens for class. Luckily last weekend I went to visit my friend Roo in Oregon where there are mushrooms galore and I finally have some mushrooms to blog about!


Old growth Douglas fir forest in the Cascade mountains in Oregon









As we approached the trailhead of the old growth Douglas fir forest in the Cascades, I noticed  puffball mushrooms in the genus Lycoperdon carpeting the forest floor. I’ve never seen so many in one place! They have a common name wolf’s fart because if you tap on a mature one tons of brown spores puff out. It’s always a fun one to show to mushroom newbies!

2015-10-03 10.39.05

Lycoperdon puff balls AKA wolf’s fart Photo credit: R. Vandegrift

















It was so exciting to see mushrooms again I was even excited to see fungal diseases such as the brown cubical butt rott. The mushroom responsible for such a funny named disease is actually quite beautiful, and lots of people like to use it for dye.


Phaeolus schweinitzii AKA brown cubical butt rott Photo credit: R. Vandegrift









In addition to diseases I also saw lots of wood decay mushrooms. Can you believe these cute little mushrooms decay these giant Douglas fir logs?


Cute little Xeromphalina campanella decaying a log Photo credit: R. Vandegrift














Fungi also come in many amazing forms and colors. Did you know that mushrooms can also look like corals?


Beautiful coral shaped Ramaria species Photo credit: R. Vandegrift














I study ectomycorrhizal fungi, which are mutualistically associated with tree roots. These Suillus lakei are partners with all of the giant Douglas firs in the forest, and they were super abundant!

Suillus lakei

Suillus lakei ectomycorrhizal fungal partners with Douglas fir trees Photo credit: R. Vandegrift











To add more layers to the story, there are also fungi that parasitize other mushrooms! Gomphidius subroseus is a mycoparasite of Suillus lakei – how crazy is that?


Gomphidius subroseus

Gomphidius subroseus, a mycoparasite of Suillus lakei Photo credit: R. Vandegrift

















How cool is it that I even found a Gomphidius subroseus mushroom attached to a Suillus lakei?

Gomphidius subroseus and Suillus lakei

Gomphidius subroseus mushroom attached to Suillus lakei Photo credit: R. Vandegrift









And check it out, another species of ectomycorrhizal fungus, poking out of the soil.

What's this poking out of the soil?

What’s this poking out of the soil? Photo credit: R. Vandegrift











Check out how massive this mushroom is!

Giant Russula brevipes

Giant Russula brevipes, another ectomycorrhizal fungus Photo credit: R. Vandegrift











Of course all of these mushrooms were super fun and beautiful, but I know what you are all thinking, where are all of the edible mushrooms?


Bouquet of giant Armillaria mellea mushrooms AKA the honey mushroom Photo credit: R. Vandegrift











Unfortunately Armillaria mellea is not supposed to be super tasty, but it does make gorgeous designs on wood with giant black rhizomorphs.

2015-10-03 11.23.27

Is that art or is it a fungal pathogen?











Then finally we started finding some more tasty edible mushrooms. Here is a cute edible toothed mushroom commonly known as the lion’s mane called Hericium abietus.

2015-10-03 12.37.04

Check out the cute teeth on this lion’s mane Hericium abietus! Photo credit: R. Vandegrift

















Leccinum manzanitae is another edible ectomycorrhizal fungus. I haven’t tried it yet, but I’ve heard it’s delicious. Next time I find a larger collection of it I will have to try it!


Leccinum manzanitae, and edible ectomycorrhizal fungus Photo credit: R. Vandegrift











The most disappointing fungus by far that we found was the false chanterelle Hygrophoropsis auriantiaca. I kept getting excited seeing beautiful orange caps everywhere only to flip them over and see gills :(


Watch out for these false-chanterelles Hygrophoropsis auriantiaca Photo credit: R. Vandegrift











But finally, our patience was rewarded and we found these gorgeous and giant chanterelles!


Gorgeous and giant white chanterelles Cantharellus cascadensis! Photo credit: R. Vandegrift











Stay tuned to find out what we cooked with the gorgeous Oregon chanterelles!!!

So excited to find white chanterelles!

So excited to find white chanterelles! Photo credit: R. Vandegrift











Thanks to the OSU and UO crew for helping me find so many gorgeous mushrooms and showing me around the beautiful Oregon forests :)




The mushroom hunting team made mushroom art on this Ganoderma applanatum AKA artist’s conk! Photo credit: R. Vandegrift







The Fungi Forager! AKA my video premier!

Has reading my blog inspired an unknown interest in mushroom foraging? Do you yearn to uncover the secrets of the hunt? Well look no further, as some secrets are about to be revealed in my video premier!

A bit of explanation: I’m currently teaching a class to UC Berkeley undergrads called Environmental Issues, and one of the grad students that I teach with is a Journalism student. Courtney has to make news segments for one of her journalism classes, so when she heard about my blog she asked me if she could do a news segment featuring me, and of course, I gladly accepted :) Courtney visited me in my lab and then we foraged for mushrooms on UC Berkeley’s campus, which is where I found the porcinis that I blogged about in a previous post. Courtney is known for her quirky news segments on off the beaten path topics, so of course we were a natural pairing! Courtney had to cut a 3 minute news segment from the 3-4 hours that she spent with me – what she came up with is a pretty hilarious and dramatic rendition of my mushroom foraging adventure.  This is pretty embarrassing but luckily I’m very good at being made fun of (comes with years of practice from growing up as the youngest with 3 older sisters to tease me) so here you go, enjoy my video premier!

Check out the 3 minute news segment on the Fungi Forager:  http://vimeo.com/89270562

Picking porcinis on UC Berkeley's campus

Picking porcinis on UC Berkeley’s campus

mushroom hunting!!

So it rained tons in the bay area last week and as promised – I went mushroom hunting! There were mushrooms!! Tons of them!!!! Mushroom hunting is analagous to a treasure hunt – you are hiking along and then you spot one and it elicits a primordial joy that shoots adrenaline through your veins.  I took my friend Rachael, who I’ve been friends with since we met at sleepaway camp nearly 2 decades ago, to Point Reyes National Seashore for an epic hike and hunting adventure. Rachael is a line cook at Michael Mina in SF and has been getting more into foraging for greens for her garnishes and Pt Reyes is one of the only places in the bay area where foraging is legal. My advisor told me about a great hike down the bayview trail, which we expected to be about 6 miles, but we ended up going nearly 9 miles overall! We hiked down the bayview trail to the muddy hollow trail to the bucklin trail, which was about 6 miles, and then when we finally got to the top of the ridge we realized we still had 2.6 miles to hike down the inverness ridge trail to get back to our car! Luckily there were gorgeous expansive views of the bay from the ridge. While we didn’t find many choice edibles on the hike, we found tons of beautiful and diverse mushrooms, and Rachael really caught the mushroom hunting spirit :) She kept swearing at the deceptive rocks and leaves that faked her out for mushrooms – the sign of  a true mushroom fanatic :)

super cool Coprinus comatus that came up to my thigh!

super cool Coprinus comatus that came up to my thigh!

Saw a couple of newts crossing the trail on the hike – they are so cute! We also saw a bunny at one point.

Cute newt crossing the trail

Cute newt crossing the trail

First choice edible!

Finally an edible - Coprinus comatus - the shaggy mane!

Finally an edible – Coprinus comatus – the shaggy mane!

Wow there was a lot of uphill on this hike – definitely a good bun workout!

Tons of trekking up hill

Tons of trekking up hill

But the views from the top of the ridge were worth it :)

Gorgeous views on top of inverness ridge

Gorgeous views on top of inverness ridge

How beautiful is our state flower?

California poppies!

California poppies!

Amazing Amanita franchetii

Amazing Amanita franchetii

A man hiking the opposite direction as us was very concerned when he saw us stopping to take pictures of the Amanitas – he said don’t touch! poison! For the record, you cannot get hurt from touching mushrooms! Even poisonous ones!

Tons of Amanita franchetii were out!

Tons of Amanita franchetii were out!

The Lactarius were out in super abundance too!

Lactarius - these ones exude milky latex!

Lactarius – these ones exude milky latex!

These were everywhere!

Cool wavy cap of a Rhodocollybia

Cool wavy cap of a Rhodocollybia

More Amanitas!

More Amanitas!

Amanita pachylcolea

Amanita pachylcolea

There were giant Suillus pugens the size of Rachael's hand everywhere!

There were giant Suillus pugens the size of Rachael’s hand everywhere!




more Amanitas poking their heads out of the duff

more Amanitas poking their heads out of the duff

Most people don’t know that a lot of mycorrhizal mushrooms (mutualistically associated with tree roots) aren’t mushrooms at all – they are more like crusts – like these Thelephoras which are the most abundant symbionts of trees in Pt Reyes!

Bet you didn't know this was a mushroom! Thelephora terrestris - most common ectomycorrhizal fungus in Pt Reyes!

Bet you didn’t know this was a mushroom! Thelephora terrestris – most common ectomycorrhizal fungus in Pt Reyes!

They are easy to pass by without noticing but I think they are rather cute, don’t you?

Thelephora terrestris

Thelephora terrestris

These are actually edible too but I’ve never tried them – I just think they are super pretty to look at!

Gorgeous lilac Laccaria amethysteo-occidentalis

Gorgeous lilac Laccaria amethysteo-occidentalis


Bet you didn’t know that mushrooms came in this many colors!

Gorgeous red gills of a Dermocybe

Gorgeous red gills of a Dermocybe

How pretty are these?

How pretty are these?

Happy hunting!