Langdon Cook is a nationally known forager, who has a column in Seattle Magazine. Recently he hit the trail looking for spring Porcini mushrooms, which start popping up in late May through mid-June.
‘So we look for them on the east slope of the Cascades, in conifer forests. Often I like to have a trail to get into the woods, then I can start bushwacking after that,’ Cook explained, eyes scanning the ground.
Porcini actually means ‘little pigs’ in Italian, and soon, Cook finds a clump of three little pigs.
He finds another group under what he calls a ‘Mushrump’ – a hump in the duff and pine needles that gives a clue to the mushrooms sprouting beneath. Porcinis are often nicknamed ‘Poor Man’s Steak’, though Cook says at the prices these mushrooms fetch in stores, it’s cheaper to buy a New York Strip. He estimates the 3-pound bag containing his harvest could be worth approximately one hundred dollars retail.
Cook emphasized the number one rule of safe wild mushroom hunting: If you can’t identify what you’ve found with 100% certainty, don’t eat it.
Of course, there are days when ID’ing a mushroom is impossible, because he finds none.
‘There are days when you get skunked. But you know, it's a day in the woods, which to me, hey, that’s a win!’
Cook’s latest book is called Upstream: Searching for Wild Salmon from River to Table, and you can find his foraging column in Seattle Magazine.