Kootenay Foraging – 10 Edible Reasons you Should Take a Hike this Autumn

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Back before life had responsibilities, I did not look forward to autumn because it marked the end of summer.  It marked the end of endless days of sunshine, swimming, bike riding, building forts.  Family vacations, hanging out with friends, BBQs.  Summer was a time of freedom from responsibility, a time for fun, for play. And winter, the time for snow, for hockey and for Christmas.  Winter was still so far away.

At some point though a change in my mind set occurred.  I can’t remember the exact date but I most definitely do remember the catalyst: surfing.  Tofino is dubbed Tuff City for many reasons.  One such reason alludes to how much fortitude one needs to live year round on the west coast of Vancouver Island, in a temperate rainforest that receives about 130 inches of rain annually, over about 210 days.  It’s about mid to late October when the swell starts picking up. This coupled with decreased tourist activity, especially on the beaches, was very much something to look forward to.

Although I haven’t lost my love of the ocean, the beaches are no longer just down the road.  And despite the abundance of beautiful lakes in the area fit for paddle boarding and canoeing, they don’t give up much in the way of waves to ride.  (Although I have heard of a break on Okanagan Lake, just out of Penticton.)  What the Kootenays lake in waves, they make up for in snow.  Wow!  Some of the nicest powder in the world some say and I wouldn’t argue.  The Monashee, Selkirk and Purcell Mountains have some back country terrain that is breathtaking – covered in snow for riding or carpeted green or muddy for biking.
Autumn though, the bit of time between warmth and cold, between sun and snow. This special time of year in the same mountain ranges mentioned above offer even more if you’re walking or hiking in their forests and trails. After the rains start, so do the mushrooms.  Pines, chanterelle, porcini and lobster mushrooms are some of the more sought after.  However coral mushrooms, oyster mushrooms, and puffballs are out there as well. Even walking around the neighbourhood looking around the backyard, fairy ring and meadow mushrooms abound.  I find it akin to fishing: fishing is called fishing not catching as foraging is not necessarily called finding.  What is guaranteed is fresh air and an abundance of nature. Being attuned to flora and fauna that I share my time with on a hike is meditative.

A few things that make up my foraging ethos:

  1.  Be bear aware, and other other creature aware too.
  2.  Wear bright clothing.
  3.  Be careful how to pick/cut mushrooms when I forage.
  4.  Always cook what’s picked and never in the field.

To really explore the world of mushrooms, both edible and not, mushroom guides and references are handy.  The internet is the best repository for imformation but can sometimes be hard to sift through.  The 4 sources I usually refer to are Mushrooms of Northwest North AmericaNorthern Bushcraft, mushroaming.com, and MushroomExpert.com