This year is a good year for mushrooms and the Practical Herbalist team found a gold mine. The prized nuggets we pulled from the good earth were in the form of chanterelles.

Heavy rains soaked our little valley for weeks this fall. This is bad news for grapes and late season tomatoes but excellent news for mushroom hunters. The Practical Herbalist team (Pat, Candace and Sue) piled baskets, tools and mushroom ID guides into the jeep and headed for the hills. The drive was long but the harvest was worth it.

Sue-MushroomThe hills dripped with chanterelles. We collected other mushrooms as well; mostly fragile shrimp mushrooms and bold lobster mushrooms. The succulent chanterelles were our focus for this trip.

Sadly, we found one of our favorite mushroom hunting spots had been logged. It will take decades to bring this area back to a shadow of its former glory.

Chanterelles have a flexible shelf life along with a delicious flavor. They are pricey in the stores making the all day voyage to collect them worth the sacrifice. They can be preserved in a myriad of ways, which makes the hunt on a beautiful day in the deep, green woods our favorite substitute for mall hopping for Christmas presents.

Chanterelles are easy to identify and harvest. A beginning mushroom hunter would do well to start with them as he or she learns the ropes. Mushrooms are tricky to collect. Even experts can make fatal mistakes. For suggestions on good mushroom ID guides, check our book review section.

To keep your trip safe and happy, remember these basic rules:

1) Know your mushroom. Start by collecting only one species you are confidently familiar with. Identify the mushrooms before and after you have collected them. Did you pick a milky cap instead of a shrimp mushroom? When in doubt, throw it out.

2) Know your area. Keep an eye on the terrain. Does your mushroom love coniferous or deciduous trees? Does it grow in loam or fields? Are you allowed to harvest here? If so, how much?

3) Know your companions. Don’t go mushroom hunting as a beginner alone. Pick fellow mushroom hunters you trust and who can help ID your choices.

4) Let others know your location. Tell someone in town where you are going. It is very easy to get lost hunting mushrooms. Stay within sight of your companions or your vehicle. Bring a whistle to blow if you get separated from the group.

5) Know your limitations. Don’t be a hero. If you are getting tired and hungry, stop and rest. Eat a snack. Drink your water.

Candace-mushroom26) Know the seasons. Dress for the weather and dress for the weather to change. If you are mushroom hunting in fall, remember other types of hunters are in the woods too. Wear red or orange to distinguish yourself from deer.

7) Remember, this is supposed to be fun. You are collecting in a beautiful place. Stop and take in the grandeur. Look at other plants that this mushroom grows with. Let this experience fill your soul as you fill your basket.