Tag Archives: mushrooms

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

New Zealand Mushrooms! Part 2

Thanks for your enthusiasm about my southern hemisphere posts! My last post was about New Zealand north island mushrooms, but now we are going to embark onto the south island! As some of you may know, my PhD speciality is on fungi symbiotically associated with pine tree roots. Introduced pine trees make up a big proportion of New Zealand forests, and foresters were not able to get the pine trees to grow until they co-introduced the obligately mutualistic fungi along with the trees. Thus, much to my surprise, I recognized a lot of the mushrooms that I saw in NZ because they were northern hemisphere mushrooms that were co-introduced along with the pine trees. So you might start to see some photos that look awfully similar to my California mushroom hunting in Point Reyes National Seashore.


Posing with some beautiful Amanita muscarias. Am I in California or am I in New Zealand?

Amanita muscaria is probably the most recognizable mushroom species of all time. It is the fly agaric, or as my Swedish friends taught me, flugsvamp, recognizable from Mario Brothers, Alice in Wanderland, or the amazing manicure I got for the Ecology of Soil Microorganisms conference in Prague. It is a very photogenic mushroom and I had a lot of fun posing with it as I happened upon them in a hike in Arrowtown near Queenstown, New Zealand.


Having fun posing with these beautiful Amanita muscaria

Amanita muscaria is interesting because it is very invasive in the southern hemisphere and grows in huge abundances like I have never seen in the northern hemisphere. It would be really interesting to study its invasion ecology! But that’s a little too esoteric for this blog…for now I will just mention that they get really really big in the southern hemisphere, and they are everywhere, but don’t let their beauty trick you into eating them. They may look very appealing, but without proper detoxification they will make you really ill.


Big, beautiful New Zealand Amanita muscaria

The most fun part about mushroom hunting in New Zealand was watching my new traveler friends that I met from across the globe get psyched about mushrooms. Check out my Dutch friend Julia taking pictures of mushrooms. I got everyone into the mushroom fever!


My Dutch friend Julia can’t help but get sucked in to the mushroom fever!

My Spanish friend Claudia, who I met while traveling in Peru, moved to New Zealand several months ago. She now lives in Queenstown, and when I got there she took me and Julia on this amazing hike called the Sawpit Gully Loop in a cute little town near Queenstown called Arrowtown. It truly is a small world, after all!


Julia and Claudia hiking the Sawpit Gully Loop in Arrowtown

It had been raining a lot in the south island, which was a bummer for my friends who were hoping to partake in the adrenaline activities New Zealand is famous for, but it was great for mushrooms! We found so many species on this hike and I recognized all of the genera because they were all associated with the introduced northern hemisphere pine trees.


Julia, Claudia, and I, pumped on the mushroom fever :)

Here is a fun New Zealand species of Agaricus that I found hiking around the grasslands section of the trail.


New Zealand Agaricus


Hiking through the pine forest section, of course I found lots of Suillus because they are specialized to associate with trees only in the Pinaceae. Suillus are recognizable by their very slimy caps which is why they are commonly known as slippery jacks.


Slimy Suillus commonly known as slippery jacks

Suillus is a good genus to be able to recognize if you are lost in the woods because it is highly abundant (I literally saw thousands in New Zealand) and edible, although not particularly delicious. It has tubes instead of gills, often has an annulus (ring around the stem), always grows near pine trees, and often has a very slimy cap.


Underside of the Suillus

Mushroom identification requires you to utilize all of your senses. To that end, smells and tastes are very important forms of mushroom ID. I had all sorts of fun introducing my new friends to smelling and tasting different genera of mushrooms to learn their diagnostic features. For instance, Hebeloma is distinctive for its radish like smell.


Hebeloma smells like radish

Inocybe on the other hand is described as smelling spermatic. Can you guess what that smells like?



Another genus that was very common in the pine forests in New Zealand was Lactarius. Lactarius is known for it’s milky lactates that can often taste spicy or make your tongue burn. It’s ok to lick a small amount for identification purposes. I promise it won’t kill you :)



Lactarius lactates milky latex

A beautiful mushroom that I was very excited to see was the Hygrocybe singeriIn California these mushrooms are very common in redwood forests. They are so beautiful and colorful and slimy they are very fun to find in the woods. They are decomposer mushrooms that you can often find growing in leaf litter.IMG_4912

Hygrocybe singeri is recognizable because it stains black when you touch it.


Hygrocybe singeri stains black when you touch it.

For me, by far the most exciting find of the day was the hundreds of very edible Coprinus comatusThis mushroom, also known as the shaggy mane, is part of a large group of mushrooms called the inky caps.


Tons of Coprinus comatus AKA the shaggy mane

Inky caps are called that way because their spores are very black and the caps slowly melt and eat themselves (called deliquescing) to disperse the spores.


Inky cap deliquescing and releasing its black spores

You want to eat this mushroom when it is young and white, before it has started to deliquesce.


Young Coprinus comatus, in perfect condition for eating :)

Look how happy I am to be surrounded by tons of edible shaggy mane mushrooms :) Cheers NZ!


New Zealand Mushrooms! Part 1

I’ve been a bit remiss about posting here but as it turns out writing a dissertation is a bit time consuming…and so are world travels :) As a treat to myself for finishing up my dissertation, I spent the month of March traveling in New Zealand. I swam with dolphins, took a helicopter ride over Mount Cook, did tons of hikes, met incredible people, and much to my excitement found tons of mushrooms! On my first day in New Zealand I was lucky enough to be taken around by my friend and fellow mycology PhD student, Renee Johansen, who interestingly enough I met while doing field work in Canada. Renee lives in Auckland and drove me around to some amazing sites where we saw giant Kauri trees, waterfalls, beautiful beaches, and you guessed it… tons of mushrooms!


Giant Kauri trees


Beautiful black sand beach Piha


Kite Kite waterfall

Of course seeing the Kauri trees and the black sand beach and my first of many waterfalls in New Zealand was amazing, but then I noticed these yellow mushrooms carpeting the moss..


I thought they looked awfully familiar … very similar to the yellow foot chanterelles I know and love from Mendocino. I saw those diagnostic blunt ridges and I knew that they must be some New Zealand species of chanterelles!


I checked with Renee’s advisor Dr. Peter Johnston and he confirmed that it’s a New Zealand species called Cantharellus wellingtonensis. I saw them everywhere around Auckland! Unfortunately I was not able to try them but if anyone has tried them please let me know what they taste like! The other extremely exciting find was I found a stinkhorn in the wild!


New Zealand stinkhorn!


I also saw these gorgeous orange mushrooms everywhere in New Zealand. Apparently they are invasive but they sure are pretty :)IMG_3650

On my second day in New Zealand I went north to the Bay of Islands and took a hike to the Haruru Falls.


Haruru Falls in Paihia

The waterfalls were beautiful but it was a two hour hike to get there and on the way we found tons of mushrooms!


Beautiful New Zealand Bolete

I was pretty excited to see some ectomycorrhizal fungi all over New Zealand – I found a Thelephora, Rhizopogon, Tapinella, and some sort of pretty Bolete.


Stay tuned to see all the other beautiful mushrooms I found in New Zealand!

Mushroom hunting in Point Reyes!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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!!!

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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?

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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!

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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 :)

More mushrooms in Oregon: the coast, dunes, and city parks

As the drought dragged on in California this fall I longed for rainier pastures in Oregon. Fortunately my friend Roo who is also a PhD student in mycology lives in Eugene where mushrooms are abundant! After having so much fun and finding chanterelles in the Cascades the last time, I returned this time to look for Porcinis and Matsutakes on the coast in the dunes.


Mushroom hunting along the Oregon dunes

To me it’s a pretty irregular sight to associate mushroom hunting with sand, but don’t you just love this photo of Roo walking across the dunes with his mushroom basket? Turns out the dunes are a great place to go mushroom hunting! Plus you get awesome views of the Oregon coast. Not a bad place to hunt, right?


Oregon coast

We walked around for a while and came across some lovely giant Amanita muscaria. Unfortunately they were a bit soggy and difficult to take home but they sure are pretty.


Amanita muscaria or the fairytale mushroom in the woods

In addition to mushroom hunting on the coast we also did some city mushroom hunting in Eugene at a local park. It was a beautiful park with so much green peppered with yellow fall colors.


Fall colors in Oregon

While we did not find any edible mushrooms in the park we found some really cool little guys including these cute little Calocera cornea jelly fungi.


Calocera cornea covering a dead log

We also found some fun ascomycetes called Xylaria hypoxylon decaying wood. Can you guess why their common name is the candle snuff fungus or more ominously dead man’s fingers?


Xylaria hypoxylon AKA dead man’s fingers or the candlesnuff fungus

There was lots of dead wood in this park so we saw lots of interesting wood decay mushrooms including this really cool polypore Oligoporus caesius commonly known as the blue cheese fungus.


Can you guess why this is known as the blue cheese fungus?

Roo is really into wood decay mushrooms and ascomycetes in the Xylariales in particular so he spent lots of time poking around dead logs.


Roo poking dead logs for ascomycetes

I was particularly impressed by this jelly fungus/polypore called Phlebia tremellosa that was all over a dead log. I’ve never seen this mushroom before and it was so slimy and jelly like.


Phlebia tremellosa covering a dead log

It also had cool pores on the underside. It’s hard to describe the texture but it was quite jiggly and fun.


Pored underside of Phlebia tremellosa

This was quite an awesome city park and had some lovely giant Douglas fir trees in it. Aren’t they majestic?


Giant Douglas fir tree in Eugene park

So I know what you are thinking – nice pictures and nice mushrooms of mushroom hunting on the Oregon coast and in Eugene, but where are the edibles??? While we unfortunately did not quite find the bounty that I was hoping for, we did happen upon a few king boletes Boletus edulis in nestled under the bushes in the forests on the Oregon coast.


Boletus edulis the prized king porcini

Perhaps more exciting, I found this baby nestled under a manzanita bush. Get excited for the next couple posts where I post about what we cooked with the porcinis and matsutakes!


Tricholoma magnivelare the American Matsutake

Chicken of the woods

Gorgeous Laetiporus water color by Roo Vandegrift; source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/werdnus_roo/11058420284/

Gorgeous Laetiporus water color by my talented friend Roo Vandegrift; source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/werdnus_roo/11058420284/

Laetiporus gilbertosinii, affectionately referred to as the chicken of the woods, is one of those mushrooms that you don’t really have to be an expert to identify. It is a bright orange shelf fungus and in Berkeley commonly grows sticking out of Eucalyptus trees. The Eucalyptus trees may not be very happy to host it (it’s a disease), however, lucky the mushroom hunter who passes by an infected tree! These mushrooms are nearly impossible to misidentify, as nothing else looks anything like it. However, CAUTION must be used when eating this mushroom because it must be cooked SUPER WELL in order to eat it, otherwise you will likely get sick. If you do find it, and you cook it super well, it is an extremely flavorful, meaty mushroom.


Only eat it when it is in the young and soft bright orange/yellow stage

This semester I am currently teaching a class in mushroom identification to Berkeley undergrads called California Mushrooms. These lucky students get to go outside and hunt for mushrooms for class! If they are super lucky and we find some good edibles, we cook them in class for everyone to try! My next couple posts will likely feature my students and various mushrooms that we try in class.


Do not eat the mushroom when it is in the old dried up stage

For chicken of the woods you only want to eat it when it is in the young, soft, and juicy stage. You will not be able to eat it if you find it in this hard, dried up stage. Luckily, some students brought in some fabulous young and juicy specimens to class so we got to try them in lab! Here is our fancy cooking set up in the fume hood of the teaching lab.


Cooking set up in the teaching lab

You want to be careful with this mushroom and only eat it when it is in the really young, soft, and juicy stage. Isn’t is a gorgeous orange/yellow color?


Chicken of the woods at the perfect soft and juicy ready for eating stage

Before cooking the mushrooms, we brushed off the dirt with a brush and sliced it up into fairly thin slices, so it cooks evenly.


Can’t get over the gorgeous yellow orange colors of this mushroom!

Since we were in the teaching lab we just cook up the mushrooms so everyone can try them, so you won’t be getting any fancy recipes from me in the posts about my class. However, I’ve heard they are really good in tacos!


Cooking the mushrooms in butter and salt

We cook them up in their purest form – with butter and salt! Again, this mushroom can get you sick if you don’t cook it super well so make sure it is nice and browned before eating it and only eat small amounts at first.


Gorgeous browned chicken of the woods in butter

How delicious do these little nuggets of mushroom goodness look? The mushrooms were super flavorful – they actually tasted a lot like cheddar cheese.

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Students were super excited to gobble them up! Here is my advisor doling out the mushrooms.


Are you jealous of my California Mushrooms students?

Please feel free to leave recipe suggestions in the comments below!

White chanterelle and kale quiche

I know you have all been waiting on pins and needles to find out what we made with the Oregonian chanterelles. Well now you finally get to find out! We made a quiche!


Gorgeous white chanterelles (Cantharellus cascadensis) that we found in Oregon!

I know next to nothing about pastry, but turns out Roo spent 6 months training as a pastry chef while in college! He has so many skills hidden up his sleeve. I definitely could not have made this delicious recipe on my own, but thanks Roo for teaching me how to make the perfect pie crust. 


Roo measuring out the flour for the pie crust

Apparently it is essential to own something called a pastry cutter if you are to be a pie crust aficionado. In absence of a pastry cutter, Roo says you can use two butter knives. The object is to mix up the flour with the butter so that the butter and flour incorporate while still saying separate. Sounds tricky, right? It is also imperative to use tools and not your hands so that the butter stays cold. Apparently the secret to a good pie crust is keeping the butter cold until it hits the oven, so there are lots of waiting steps where you let the dough “chill out” the in the freezer.


Roo mixing up the butter and flour with the pastry cutter

After incorporating the butter and flour, slowly add 4 Tbsp of water a tiny bit at a time until the dough hits the consistency of corn meal.


Pastry dough is so simple! Just flour, butter, and flour. Make sure it hits the right consistency before rolling it out!

Once the dough hits the right texture, knead it and roll it into a ball. Then stick it in the freezer to chill some more. Pastry dough can be made in advance and frozen for weeks this way.


While the dough chilled in the freezer, we took the opportunity to hit up the local coop and buy eggs and onions for the filling. Once we got back we started to roll out the dough. Roo couldn’t find his rolling pin, so we got creative with our tools.


Being resourceful and rolling out the pastry dough with a glass!

Make sure to clean off the counter top really well and spread out some flour before rolling out the dough. Once it’s rolled out evenly, gently place it in the pie pan.


Pastry dough lining the pie pan

Cut off the edges with a butter knife and make fun pastry treats with them :)


Roo says it’s important to put parchment paper over the dough and weigh it down with something like dry beans to prevent air bubbles from forming. Then stick the dough in the freezer while you cook the insides of the quiche!


Weighing down the pastry dough with dry beans before placing it in the freezer

We started off our quiche filling by chopping up an onion and letting it caramelize in butter. Then we added 6 garlic cloves. So much flavor!


Caramelizing onions for the quiche filling

While the onions cooked I cleaned and cut up the chanterelles. God they were gorgeous!

This wasn’t going to be some frou frou wild mushroom quiche that you get at a restaurant that has 2 little pieces of mushrooms that you have to search out. No, this quiche will feature loads of meaty mushrooms!


Delicious mushroom, onion, and garlic filling for the quiche!

We added the mushrooms to the onions and garlic and let them get nice and brown. Once they got a bit brown, we added some salt and pepper.


This next part was a real treat for me – we cut 3 kinds of kale straight from the garden! I live in a bit of a concrete jungle so this was quite a novelty for me to have freshly cut greens.


Three kinds of kale fresh from the garden!

How beautiful is this kale?


Once we had cleaned and chopped the kale we braised it in olive oil for a few minutes.


Kale braised in olive oil.

Now we were finally ready to start putting together the quiche!


Roo says it is important to line the bottom of the crust with cheese to keep the crust crusty when the quiche cooks. He dropped so many nuggets of pastry knowledge!


It’s important to line the bottom of the crust with cheese to keep the crust crusty!

After cheese we layered in the garlic, caramelized onions, and chanterelles. This quiche is nice and shroomy so skimping out on mushrooms here!


No skimping out on mushrooms in this quiche!

IMG_2426Next, add the kale on top of the mushrooms.
IMG_2430At this point, we whisked 1 cup whole milk with 3 eggs and poured it on top of the mixture.
IMG_2431Then bake at 375 degrees F for 45 minutes.
IMG_2433Cutting into it you can see the thick mushroom layer! Roo says it was his best crust he’s made it years! There you go, now you can make bakery quality pie crusts from now on :)


Sun in my eyes but excited to eat this quiche in the lovely garden where the kale grows!        Photo credit: Roo Vandegrift


Pie crust:

  • 6 Tbsp cold butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1.5 cups flours
  • ~ 4 Tbsp water
  • extra flour for rolling the dough


  • 1 large onion
  • 3-6 cloves garlic
  • mushrooms
  • kale
  • jack cheese
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup milk

White chanterelle and kale quiche. Photo credit: Roo Vandegrift

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!

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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.

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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.

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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







Morel mushrooms!


Morels are a quintessential spring time mushroom in California. Morels, mushrooms in the genus Morchella, are funny looking ascomycetes with wrinkly caps and hollow stems. Mushroom enthusiasts go gaga for their earthy flavor.


Morels are considered to be associated with fires, and mushroom hunters seek out recently burned forests in order to find them. In California, there is no shortage of fires and newly burnt forests. While this is bad for the trees, there is one benefit for mycologists- morels!


Although I do research in forests burned by wildfires, I unfortunately missed the mushroom season in my field sites last year. I wasn’t able to get to the burn sites during the spring rains because I was in Switzerland giving a talk at the Mycorrhizal Symbiosis meeting and then I got to visit my cousins in Italy – I know, poor me :P. Fortunately, a local mushroom hunter came to visit my lab a few weeks ago and brought some of these soil borne treasures.


A word of caution though before you set off to hunt for these epicurean delights on your own – be sure that you know what you are doing! There are some sneaky look alikes called elfin saddles that contain a toxin similar to rocket fuel! However, once you get the hang of it the pitted caps of these mushrooms are fairly distinctive. Luckily, I have access to many world experts in mycology so I know that my mushrooms were safe to eat :)


Since I hadn’t tried wild picked morels before, I decided to cook them and try them in their purest form so I could really get a feel for their flavor. I sautéed them in butter, added a little salt, and put them on some multigrain toast. They were delicious!


Morels cleaned, sliced, and sautéing in butter

Patrick Hamilton, a chef and mushroom enthusiast that I met while giving a talk at the Sonoma County Mycological Association, gave me the tip to let them cook for 8 minutes.


Morels getting all brown and crispy and delicious!

The first time I tried them I put them plain on toast. I wanted to try them plain and simple in all their earthy mushroomy glory.


Morel art! Reminds me a bit of a Georgia O’Keefe painting…

The next day I invited my friend Judy over to try the morels. I still kept it simple but this time I added cheese!


Morels on toast with some shredded mozzarella

Here is Judy enjoying morels while appropriately sporting the Berkeley mycology shirt!


Mmm Mmm mushrooms!!!

Pesto pasta with yellowfoot chanterelles and hedgehog mushrooms

I’d been wanting to go back to Humboldt and Del Norte Counties ever since I visited them for the first time last year. MLK weekend gave the perfect opportunity to make the long drive north. Hiking through the majestic giant redwood forests made me feel like I took a giant leap back in time; I wouldn’t be surprised if a T-Rex came rambling around the next corner.

Majestic giant redwoods in Redwood National Park

Majestic giant redwoods in Redwood National Park

Humboldt is truly spectacular. The towns of Eureka and Arcata are charming, friendly, and have fantastic food. Humboldt County gets an average of 55 inches of precipitation per year, which is nearly double the precipitation of Berkeley at 25.4 inches of rain per year. This means good things for mushrooms! People really appreciate foraged food up there, and I ate a delicious wild mushroom casserole at this cozy gem in Eureka, Brick and Fire Bistro. Usually when I mushroom hunt I just use the Berkeley Mycology baskets that I borrow from lab. But in Arcata they were selling beautiful mushroom baskets, and I finally got one my very own!

My very own mushroom basket!

My very own mushroom basket!

I was lucky to get some insider tips on some legal places to mushroom hunt, and here we are foraging in one of those special spots. Isn’t it spectacular?

Taking a walk through 'mushroom heaven' in Humboldt

Taking a walk through ‘mushroom heaven’ in Humboldt

We found some some awesomely giant yellow foot chanterelles, which were at least double in size beyond what I’ve ever found before. Must be all that rain they get in Humboldt!


Giant yellow foot chanterelles

I also found some adorable hedgehog mushrooms, which if you’ve read my previous blog posts, you might remember are distinguished because they have teeth instead of gills.

Hedgehog mushrooms have teeth!

Hedgehog mushrooms have teeth!

Now what to cook with my gorgeous mushrooms? I’ve already made lasagna, polenta, frittata, risotto, and pizza featuring wild mushrooms. This time I wanted to make something simple and filling but that would highlight the delicious prized edible mushrooms. I always clean my mushrooms and start cooking them first before starting with the rest of the meal because it is important that they are cooked well, and of course I view them as the centerpiece of the dish :) This time I decided to try making a quick pesto pasta to serve as a bed for the mushrooms.

Browned hedgehog mushrooms.

Browned hedgehog mushrooms.

The trick with cooking mushrooms is that it is really important to just leave them alone after you put them in the hot pan that has been coated with oil or butter. They need time to just hang out and do their thing. It takes a while for all of the excess water to boil off  – it never ceases to amaze me how much mushrooms can shrink down! Then it takes a while for them to get that nice brown color and crispiness that makes them taste so good. So trust me when I tell you to relax and go do something else while the mushrooms are in the sauté pan, and let them get nice and brown before you start mixing them up with your spatula. At the very end you can add salt and then set them aside.

Yellow foot chanterelles

Yellow foot chanterelles

While the mushrooms were browning, I got started on the pesto. Having never made a pesto sauce before, I turned to the internet and found a great recipe here. Why have I never made pesto from scratch before? It is so easy! It is so much more vibrant and fresh tasting when you make it at home and the ingredients are very simple. It is also very easy to modify if you have a specific nut or cheese allergy. The recipe I used suggests using walnuts as an alternative to pine nuts, and I’ve also heard of people replacing the pine nuts with almonds.

Ingredients for the pesto: olive oil, garlic, basil, pine nuts, parmesan cheese.

Ingredients for the pesto: olive oil, garlic, basil, pine nuts, parmesan cheese.

The ingredients for pesto are simple: olive oil, parmesan cheese, garlic, basil, and pine nuts. The first step is to wash the basil leaves and place them into a food processor with the pine nuts and pulse them a few times.

Pine nuts and basil in the food processor

Pine nuts and basil in the food processor

Next, add the garlic cloves and freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Basil, pine nuts, and garlic.

Basil, pine nuts, and garlic.

Basil, pine nuts, garlic, and Parmesan

Basil, pine nuts, garlic, and Parmesan cheese.

Next, pulse several more times until well mixed. Then slowly start streaming in olive oil as the food processor is mixing the rest of the ingredients. I would say the amount of olive oil you add is up to you depending on how chunky you like your pesto. Prior to making the pesto, which is really quick and only takes 5-10 minutes total, I had boiled some water and made some pasta. Once the pesto was finished, I mixed it in with the pasta and added a few extra pine nuts and some shredded Parmesan cheese on top.

Home made pesto mixed with  pasta topped with extra pine nuts and Parmesan.

Home made pesto mixed with pasta topped with extra pine nuts and Parmesan.

To me, the point of the pasta was really only to play a supporting role to the freshly foraged mushrooms, so I loaded lots of crispy sautéed mushrooms on top.

Pesto pasta with hedgehog and yellow foot chanterelles on top.

Pesto pasta with hedgehog and yellow foot chanterelles on top.


Simple pesto pasta to accompany freshly foraged hedgehog and yellow foot chanterelles.

It turned out deliciously. Patrick was obsessed with the pesto and scarfed down all of the excess pesto that wasn’t used for the pasta by spooning it onto pieces of baguette. For me, I cannot wait to get back to Humboldt and hike in the redwoods and forage for mushrooms again. For Patrick, he cannot wait for me to make the next batch of home made pesto!