Not only is mushroom season important to a forager, so is the act of hunting itself. Do you know what going to the supermarket and buying your mushrooms is to a mushroom hunter? It’s like a fisherman going to the shop to buy fish. Yes, you can do it, and yes, it’s certainly a lot easier. But where’s the thrill? Where’s the challenge?
Getting your hands dirty is one of the appealing factors with mushroom hunting. Getting back to nature and never knowing what you’re going to end up coming home with. Let’s face it, there’s a big forest to explore. The number of varieties of mushrooms that grow in there is huge.
But as with knowing the right time of day to go fishing, you have to know what time of year is right to go mushroom hunting. Because wild mushroom season is not all year ‘round. There’s a specific time of the year where different varieties of mushrooms will fruit. You just have to know which is when.
Why Do You Need to Know When Mushroom Season Is?
Just like when you’re out in the middle of the lake, surrounded by other boats, there’s also competition out in the forest. Keen mushroom hunters will pounce on anything they find, leaving you empty-handed. You need to know the best time to go foraging because, if you leave it too late, there might not be any left to find.
Most wild mushrooms will have a peak time to harvest. Too late and you miss out because someone keener than you beat you to the prize. Too early and you end up with mushrooms that aren’t mature enough to pick. You have to find the sweet spot with each and know just when the wild mushroom season is.
It could be quite expensive to get it wrong. Morel mushroom season isn’t a very long time and given the price these precious fungi fetch when offered to restaurants? There will be a lot of morel-hungry hunters trekking through the forest to find them before you do. And that’s where this handy little guide will help you.
Below are some hints and tips to guide you to finding your prize before anyone else. Use the information to help you plan out your next mushroom hunting expedition. Take note of the averages and try and bag yourself some quality mushrooms. The thing with mushrooms is that they don’t follow any specific calendar.
There’s no specific date that you can mark where they promise to show up. What mushrooms depend on is the weather. The right conditions will almost always guarantee certain varieties to make an appearance. The trick is to know what to look for.
The Best Mushroom Seasons
#1: Morel Mushroom Season
One of the most common questions I get asked is when does morel mushroom season start? It’s not surprising considering the popularity of the fungus. Mid-March is the general starting time to keep an eye out for the morel. If you notice a week of temperatures around the 60s, followed by nights in the upper 40s, you should be good to go.
When heading out, remember that morels tend to grow anywhere. Although they grow around certain varieties of trees, it’s not unusual to find them growing up on a muddy bank, surrounded by nothing but fresh air. Many have theories about where they definitely grow, even swearing to their beliefs, but the truth is, morel mushrooms can grow anywhere, provided they have plenty of the things they need to survive.
#2: Chanterelle Mushroom Season
The chanterelle mushroom has several species in its family and most of them are popular because of their incredibly fruity aroma. It’s reminiscent of apricots, with a peppery taste. To find these beauties in the wild, you’ll want to keep your eyes on the ground from around June and July, all the way through to December.
They grow in Europe, Asia, North America, and Africa. When searching for them, keep an eye out for the clusters they mostly grow in, amongst the mossy coniferous forests. Many people in America wait for a good amount of rain, followed by a couple of hot days.
They love shade, so generally grow amongst trees, close to hardwoods like oak, poplar and maple. If you spot one growing on a hill, explore both up and down from your location. Chances are, the spores were carried downhill by the rains.
#3: Portobello Mushroom Season
There’s no denying that portobello mushrooms are one of the most popular mushrooms on the planet. Because of their earthy taste and fleshy texture, people often use the mushroom as a meat substitute. Its size also helps, especially when baked or fried and served nearly as large as a steak.
But what’s just as appealing with these mushrooms is the constant supply available through shops. Many mushroom farms grow this variety by the ton, due to its enormous popularity. But if you did want to hunt for it in the wild, head out late August, September to take advantage of the early fall blooms.
#4: Cep Mushroom Season
Cep mushrooms, or porcini, are one of the most popular choices for chefs and food connoisseurs. They describe them as being one of the tastiest and easiest to work with when building classic dishes. In Italy, they call porcinis the king of the wild mushrooms, and for good reason.
From the early stages of September to the later days of October is when the cep is easiest to find. They grow in many parts of Europe, North America, and Asia. They’re rich woody flavors add a unique twist to most dishes, which is why they are so popular.
#5: Lion’s Mane Mushroom Season
For some, the mushroom season can’t come quick enough. The hopes of finding a prized mushroom amongst the dense forest floors of the world are too much to bear. But finding mushroom in season is one way to guarantee you get a mushroom in top shape.
Take the Lion’s Mane. Its bright white strands remind me of the coming snowfalls that always happen a few weeks after the end of Lion’s Mane season.
Mid to late Fall is when they are good to find. Look for the ones that are bright white. Once a Lion’s Mane turns slightly pink, the taste becomes bitter and makes them unusable. And remember to look up for this mushroom, as they grow high in the treetops instead of on the ground.
The Final Say on Mushroom Season
Many books exist that explain mushroom seasons in much more detail. Many of the mushrooms that exist have their own optimal growing times. Get to know them. Study past growing charts that exist on the internet and plan your own course of action. It’s better to prepare yourself beforehand, rather than flying by the seat of your pants.
Remember that mushroom season isn’t a specific point in time. It tends to change from one year to the next, the mushrooms waiting for the best climatic conditions to grow in. While some years have longer summers, others have longer winters, the seasons changing at different times. This could mean a change of mushroom season by several weeks or more.
If in doubt, why not ask a professional for advice and follow their lead? Many experienced foragers are only too happy to help where they can. So why not take advantage of it? Remember to stay safe out there.