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Mushroom Boom: How to Plan a Foraging Adventure on the West Coast

Mushroom Boom: How to Plan a Foraging Adventure on the West Coast

In case you haven’t heard, it’s been a wet winter on the West Coast. While the deluge was devastating for many residents, some have welcomed the rain: fungi, and the foragers who love them.

“Mushrooms love rain,” said Iso Rabins, the founder of Forage SF, a Bay Area-based company that offers classes on foraging mushrooms, wild plants and seaweed. “There will be a ton of mushrooms in the coming weeks and months,” he said.

This season’s boom in mushrooms dovetails with increasing numbers of people interested in plucking them out of the ground.

Chelsea Heffner, the founder of WildCraft Studio School in Portland, Ore., said that while mushroom foraging classes were always popular at her school, she has noticed a surge of interest in recent years. This may be in part because of a need for pandemic-safe outdoor activities, coupled with people wanting to better understand their environments, she said.

“There’s a real depth of connection that comes from an activity like mushroom foraging,” said Ms. Heffner, whose school offers classes in crafts and Native arts, as well as foraging.

Mr. Rabins agrees that challenging times have people longing for a deeper kind of connection. He started his business in 2008, another period of crisis.

“People start to re-examine their lives,” he said. “Let’s do something we can wrap our hands around. Knowing how to go into the woods and find a mushroom that you can take home and cook for dinner feels like something solid, or tangible.”

It’s also a whole lot of fun, and a fine reason to plan a trip. Here’s how to get started on a foraging adventure of your own.

Connecting with experienced mushroom hunters is a must for those new to foraging.

“You need to hold the species in your hands. You need to look at them from all angles. You need to see what they look like in their natural habitat,” said Langdon Cook, a Seattle-based writer and teacher who focuses on wild foods. “The best way to do that is with someone you trust.”

Both Forage SF and WildCraft offer guided foraging walks in the woods. Signing up for one can be a good anchor for a trip to California or the Pacific Northwest (classes tend to sell out quickly; Mr. Rabins recommends signing up for Forage SF’s email list to know when to book). Relish Culinary and Walk in the Woods are also worth checking out for classes and guided forays in California.

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