The Guide to Wild Foraged Mushrooms

If you do not forage for your own mushrooms, it can be challenging to find great quality and assortments of wild mushrooms at your local retailer. Professional foragers have helped resolve this situation, but they tend to offer slightly larger quantities than the home cook hopes for. Do not let this dissuade you from enjoying the opulence and joy of cooking with these beauties. The seasons can be relatively short and not to be missed. Either, share with friends, freeze some for later (methods described below), or indulge in an feast of one of nature's greatest gifts.

Forage To-Table's Selection of Wild Mushrooms and Truffles

 Brief History of Mushrooms 

Throughout history, mushrooms have gained many varying reputations, considered both food and foe. Today, it is easy for us to find safe, tasty mushrooms for sale, but it wasn’t always this way. Over the years reckless mushroom hunters have thrown caution to the wind with sometimes fatal results, giving food-safe mushrooms a bad reputation. It’s resulted in two very different categories of people—mycophiles (those who love mushrooms) and mycophobes (those who fear mushrooms). 

For centuries, relatively little was known about mushrooms, and for a long time the Eastern half of the world was considered mostly mycophilic, and the West mycophobic. This all changed when the French introduced mushrooms into their haute cuisine. Inspired by the French, Americans took mushrooms to a whole new level of devotion. Clubs dedicated to foraging, identifying and cooking various varieties of fungi began popping up all over the country.

Fungi's Crown Jewel: The Truffle Mushroom

If there is a crown jewel in the realm of fungi, it is the truffle. Referred to as the “diamond of the kitchen” by famous French gastronome Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, truffles are one of the most expensive foods in the world. They grow near tree roots, most often oak, hazel, beech and chestnut, about 3-12 inches below ground. They are sniffed out by dogs and pigs that have been trained to recognize the truffle’s distinct odor. Once a truffle has been located, the trufficulteur (truffle farmer) will very carefully clean the surrounding area to check for ripeness. It is important to never touch the truffle with your bare hands, as this can cause the precious fungi to rot. If the truffle is not yet ripe for the picking, it is recovered and left to reach maturity. This long and labor-intensive process is the reason behind the hefty price tag, but it's worth it for the bold, rich flavor that truffles lend to a dish

Wild vs. Cultivated Mushrooms 

Truly wild mushrooms are foraged. That is, someone walks through the woods or meadows looking for a fungi that is edible. There's nothing wrong with cultivated mushrooms, but wild mushrooms have a greater range of flavors. Not all chanterelles taste alike, for example, and one batch of morels can be much earthier than another.

Mushroom foragers agree that what wild mushrooms bring to the table is undoubtedly a wider palette of flavors, colors and textures. But cultivated mushrooms can be a great way to introduce people to the flavor of mushrooms, particularly those who think they don't like them. 

A great way to introduce mushrooms for those that might not be familiar with them would be to use the blend culinary technique. Simply chop mushrooms to match the texture of ground meat – beef, pork, chicken, turkey (or tofu) – and use in place of some of the meat in recipes such as burgers, tacos, meatloaf, lasagna, pasta sauce or meatballs to make every day dishes more healthful and delicious. It tastes even more delicious and brings more umami to your plate.

The Health Benefits of Mushrooms

Considered a "low-density" food because they make you feel fuller on fewer calories for longer periods of time, mushrooms also dish up incredible flavor and depth. 

Mushrooms are gluten-free, low calorie, low carbohydrate, high fiber, have no cholesterol, and have compounds which may help regulate insulin production. Mushrooms are a source for calcium, which is wonderful if you are lactose intolerant, as well as vitamin D, an essential vitamin which helps the body absorb and metabolize calcium and phosphorous. Overall, they have antioxidants, amino acids, vitamins, and minerals. They are also a good source of iron, readily absorbed by the body. This is great for anemic people or vegetarians to keep up their iron levels, which plays an important role in forming red blood cells. Mushrooms containing Linoleic Acid can have an anticarcinogenic effect and have anti-tumor properties.

How to Store Mushrooms

When nature brings on the harvest, a surplus of mushrooms is often the result. If you are not tempted to make and enjoy the mushrooms in the week or two that they will last in your refrigerator, then a good alternative is to freeze them. We prefer the ready-for-the-next-dish method: blanching and freezing.

You simply wash the mushrooms, cut them into slices or quarters if desired, plunging them into boiling water for one minute, and then immediately plunging into very cold water. Drain them and place them into plastic freezer containers with a little head-space. Seal the container with the lid and freeze. For mushrooms with a thick and course texture, like a morel, you can skip the blanching and add a bit of vegetable oil, mix well into the mushrooms (sliced or whole), and freeze in plastic freezer bags for up to three months. When used, remove from the freezer bag and cook. No thawing will be necessary - cook until all moisture and excess water evaporates.


How to Cook Wild Mushrooms

We prefer our mushrooms to be very clean before cooking. If well-cooked, a little dirt probably won’t harm you, but grit will absolutely ruin a dish, no matter how good it tastes. Most of To-Table's mushrooms are delivered already cleaned by the foragers who know the best techniques for the different varieties. But certainly check to make sure they are very clean before progressing.

Few wild mushrooms may be cooked whole with satisfactory results. The exception to this will be smaller, fragile varieties. Most mushrooms should be sliced evenly (especially if fan-frying or sautéing is involved), or separated into bite-sized pieces.


Most mushrooms are terrific using a simple sauté. The length of time required varies with the consistency of the mushrooms. However, the basic process is the same for all. Heat butter or oil over medium-high heat. You will know the oil is at the right temperature when a drop of water placed in the pan sizzles instantly. The next step sometimes depends on which mushroom you are cooking. If you plan to use garlic in your saute, add it with or after other ingredients (such as onions or mushrooms) because it burns quickly, and burnt, will cause an unpleasant bitter flavor.

Morels are perfect for sauteing. For the simplest morel dish, halve your clean morels and dust them with a little flour. Half olive oil and half butter works very well - use about 4 tablespoons per fry pan of morels. When the oil is hot and makes a drop of water sputter, add the morels. Watch them closely and turn them over as soon as the first side is browned (less than five minutes). Brown the second side and remove them to a paper towel. Sprinkle with salt to taste and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, and eat! They can also be served on toast, or added to an omelet. The dusting of flour seems to capture the morel flavor.

Chanterelles are equally good when sautéed. Chanterelles taste great when quickly sautéed in butter (or butter substitute) with a clove of minced garlic. Salt and lemon juice are sprinkled on at the end. Chanterelles will be done in about five minutes. You do not have to brown them, just cook them till they release their liquid. Stir frequently, and you will know they are done when they smell so good you can no longer resist! 

The selection of mushrooms will change throughout the year. But the recipes that call for dried wild mushrooms, different kinds of mushrooms than currently available, or even domestic mushrooms generally can benefit immeasurably from these hand foraged wild mushrooms. While there are 6 pounds of mushrooms in a To-Table order, they keep well in the refrigerator (within reason) and can be used in many different recipes with different tastes and results based on the other ingredients.

Boletes take a bit longer to sauté. Their strong flavor holds up well to garlic, garlic and onions, or garlic, onions and tomatoes.

Slow cooking concentrates flavors. A quick sauté in a wok (one to two minutes in a small amount of oil over high heat) helps maintain mushrooms’ firmness. Slowly simmer chanterelles and morels with cipollini onions or shallots, fresh herbs, and a touch of chicken stock to make a rich, wild mushroom ragout to serve with meats, poultry, polenta, risotto or even fish.

Don't forget huitlacohe or corn mushroom. A gray, red, blue or black mushroom found on ears of corn, huitlacoche are a delicacy in Mexico. It is often referred to as the Mexican truffle for its expense and scarce availability. Chop and cook with contrasting and lightening textures and flavors, such as eggs, cream or with sweet vegetables.


Other Ways to Cook Wild Mushrooms

1. Mushroom Soup: Sauté a variety of wild mushrooms with shallots and garlic; season with thyme and bay leaves; simmer in good-quality beef broth for 20 minutes

2. Add sautéed mushrooms to scrambled eggs, omelets and frittatas or pasta dishes.

3. Add diced raw mushrooms to  burgers (mushrooms keep them moist).

4. Grill mushroom caps and shrimp for the ultimate "surf and turf"

5. Fill roasted mushroom caps with tuna and crab salad or herbed goat cheese

6. Nestle grilled or sautéed mushrooms into grilled cheese sandwiches and paninis

7. Re-hydrate dried wild mushrooms and use the mushrooms and strained broth as the base for soups, stews and gravies

8. Serve sautéed mushrooms over grilled and roasted chicken, tuna, steak, pork, burgers and duck breast.

9. Fold into rice and pasta dishes, raw or sautéed

10. Arrange over flatbreads and tortillas; top with a drizzle of olive oil and grated parmesan cheese; bake at 400 degrees for 5 minutes

11. Use instead of chicken and beef in fajitas and steak sandwiches
12. Sprinkle over salads
13. Add to stir-fries

14. Fold sautéed mushrooms into twice-baked potatoes or add to scalloped potatoes before baking

15. Add to pot roast recipes when you add the other vegetables


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