Read below to find out how to get started with mushroom foraging, how to prepare mushrooms, learn about their medicinal properties, and get recipe ideas!
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Do you feel it? Fall is upon us!

After a scorching summer, we Pacific Northwesterners are welcoming our rainy fall....and it's mushrooms! If you haven't heard, we've been plummeted with wildfires this season, so the returning rains bring ecological balance. And tasty and healthy fun-guys too. 

While some mushrooms can be found year-round or in multiple seasons, fall is when mushrooms truly thrive. This season is a great opportunity to learn more about our fungal allies, and how they benefit ecosystems and their humans. Scroll down for fungi-filled content:

  • Getting started with mushroom foraging
  • Recommended books for the developing mycophile
  • Medicinal mushroom preparation instructions & tips
  • Mushroom recipe ideas (hint: it's not a stir-fry)
  • Medicinal mushroom research news

Getting Started with Mushroom Foraging

Mushrooms can bring a lot to your culinary endeavors- and your medicine cabinet too! They play a critical role in ecosystems and are really fun to foraging. It requires an entirely different "eye". If you're like me and acclimated to scoping out plants, developing your "mushroom vision" will stretch your senses and strengthen your understanding of local organisms and species dynamics. 

To get started with mushroom hunting: 

  1. Get a field guide for your area
  2. Attend a mushroom walk or foray with a local club or mycological society

A field guide for your area will be indispensable, and will be a great reference for all your mushroom endeavors. I also really love David Arora's classic text Mushrooms Demystified as an additional reference for keying out mushrooms and identifying certain characteristics. His smaller pocket guide All the Rain Promises and More is a must-have field guide for even advanced foragers (plus, you can't beat that cover photo). Gary Lincoff's book The Complete Mushroom Hunter is also a valuable resource. 

But to really familiarize yourself with local mushrooms, attend a mushroom walk or foray. There are mushroom clubs or mycological societies in nearly every region of the country. The resident mycologists and enthusiasts will be a wealth of information about finding, harvesting, and preparing local mushroom varieties. The North American Mycological Society has a list of mushroom clubs around the country. 

Also, check out this great post 10 Secrets To Finding The Best Wild Mushrooms by Wendy Petty for a great overview on how to deepen your mushroom hunting skills!

Check out these entertaining nonfiction reads for mushroom season-

Remember, if you're going to consume mushrooms, always be 100% positive of your ID skills! There are toxic and lethal look alikes out there. Don't be scared away from mushroom foraging- just be careful and learn ID skills from a mushroom club.
I gathered this beauties a little while ago outside Olympia, WA. From the top left clockwise: Lobster mushrooms (Hypomyces lactifluorum), Black trumpets (Cratarellus cornicopioides), Winter chantrelles (Cratarellus cornicopioides), Chantrelles (Cantharellus cibarius), and Cortinarius.

We made a couple omelettes and fritattas with these for a few days, and it was heavenly.

Working with Medicinal Mushrooms

Mushrooms are incredible allies for immune support. Visit my blog for a writeup on working with Reishi, an article for the Journal of the American Herbalists Guild on Turkey Tail, and keep an eye out for a future online workshop on medicinal mushrooms this winter!

There are a few books that I love for more references on medicinal mushrooms-

Making Mushroom Tea

Using the equivalent of 1 teaspoon of dried mushroom to 1c water,

  1. Add the mushrooms to water on a pot on the stove
  2. Bring up to a boil
  3. Lower heat and simmer for at least 30 mins (up to several hours!)
  4. Strain and enjoy
You can also reuse the fruitbodies for another batch of tea. They're best if used within a day. You can also add other herbs and spices, like ginger, licorice, or cinnamon to suit your taste. 

Mushroom Tinctures: Double Extraction Method

Mushroom tinctures are made using a double-extraction technique. First, the alcohol extracts the constituents that are not soluble in water, like sterols & terpenes. After the mushrooms have been extracted in alcohol, it goes through a hot water extraction or decoction process to extract the beta-glucans, proteoglycans, and other immune-supporting polysaccharides. The below steps outline the double extraction process using the folk method of tincturing. (For more detailed recipes and ratios, see Christopher Hobbs' book Medicinal Mushrooms.)

Part 1: Alcohol extraction

Break the fruitbodies up into the smallest pieces possible. This makes for a larger surface area and thorough extraction. (It's easier to do this while before drying.)

  1. Fill a quart or half-gallon canning jar halfway with the dried mushroom. 
  2. Add the vodka (about 50% alcohol), filling the jar to the top. Label it!
  3. Cap the jar and keep it in a warm, dark place for 4 to 6 weeks. Agitate daily.
  4. After about a month strain the mixture using cheesecloth, coffee filters, or a strainer.Try straining a few times to really remove all the solids.

Part 2: Hot water extraction

  1. Take the alcohol-soaked mushroom pieces that are left over after straining (called the marc) and put them in a pot. Cover them with water--twice as much as the alcohol you have.
  2. Simmer for 2 hours. The water will evaporate throughout this time.
  3. Allow the tea to cool before you strain it. Discard all the solids but water.
  4. Add this water to an equal amount of the alcohol extract. This gives you an extract that's 25% alcohol, as the vodka was 100 proof to begin with (50% water/50% alcohol).

You may need to do some measuring before you boil the water to make sure you have enough. Gauge the amount of liquid used in your first alcohol tincture and boil at least triple that amount of water for the hot water extraction. It may seem like a lot but it will reduce (you can always keep boiling if it doesn't).

Mushroom Recipe Ideas

Cooking with mushrooms is not all about stir-fries and soups. With some creativity and a little courage, you can incorporate mushrooms into a variety of dishes.

  • Reishi chai
  • Lion's Mane mocha
  • Porcini hot chocolate by Wendy Petty
  • Maitake shepard's pie (using the Maitake as meat)
  • Lion's mane and sauteed scallops
  • Fried duck eggs and morels
For even more inspiration, check out the recipes on Hunt, Gather, Cook, Hunger and Thirst, and The Mushroom Forager. For mushroom-themed cookbooks, check out Shroom and The Mushroom Cookbook.

Medicinal Mushroom Research News

Lion's Mane mushroom demonstrated protective effects against alcoholic liver damage in mice. See the full text article here. Reishi, Turkey Tail, and Chaga have also demonstrated liver supportive effects. Maybe an under-appreciated aspect of medicinal mushrooms? 

An ethanol extract of Lion's Mane also protected against diabetic neuropathy in mice. See the full article here. This adds to the body of evidence of Lion's Mane as supportive for both central and peripheral health. 

An interesting study tracked the changes in macrophage-stimulating polysaccharides during fruit body maturation. In short, the polysaccharides of the mature mushroom had higher macrophage activation activity than less mature fruit body stages. Read more here.

Agaricus blazei (aka Royal Sun mushroom or Almond portabello)  may have some anxiolytic effects, as suggested by a recent study of anxiety in mice. Get the details here. Agaricus blazei is long respected for its antioxidant abilities and is frequently used in integrative oncology settings. 

Curious about the difference of mushrooms in their raw vs. cooked forms? This recent study of Oyster mushrooms sheds light on the topic. Spoiler: heating the mushrooms did not affect B-glucans, but it did decrease polyphenols and subsequent antioxidant activity. However, adding the blanching water back in restored these constituents. See more here.

Research and News Links
Ashwaganda leaves, not roots, demonstrate nootropic potential

Low vitamin D speeds up cognitive decline

Paleo People Were Making Flour 32,000 Years Ago

Feelings of discrimination can change how our bodies control levels of the stress hormone cortisol

A Stanford chemical engineer produced a common cancer drug in a laboratory plant

Common Medicines Make Superbugs, Not Prescription Antibiotics (must read!)
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I assisted with the research and writing of this series, and if you're interested in medical cannabis and integrative cancer treatment, sign up to receive notifications for this series. 

The biggest challenge for patients and caregivers wanting to learn more about how to incorporate cannabis into cancer care is the complete absence of reliable, educated and unbiased information on the subject. Until now. Answering the urgent call for this information is The Intelligent Patient’s Guide to Cannabis and Cancer, a practical, patient-centered guidebook by internationally respected medical herbalist and herb-drug interaction expert  Jonathan Treasure. 
The Dandelion Seed Conference is happening again! Join us at the Longhouse at the Evergreen State College October 9-11 2015. 

This is the third annual conference on herbal medicine for community and social healing. Early bird registration is now available for $150 here. 
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