This was one of the coolest Christmas presents from last year. Marc’s brother bought us a wild mushroom foraging tour from Swallow Tail Tours. We’ve always had fun watching out for interesting mushrooms when we’re hiking, so we both liked the idea of finding out what some of them are. It’s not permitted to harvest mushrooms from provincial parks in Canada, so we didn’t pick the fungi…we just learned how to identify them.
If you fancy going on a wild mushroom foraging tour, or if you think this’d be a good gift for someone you know, then read on to find out more about it. I’m not affiliated with Swallow Tail Tours in any way. We just had fun, so I want to share the experience.
Wild Mushroom Foraging tour – details
Length of tour: 2 hours
Location: Lynn Headwaters Regional Park
What’s involved: Lunch, a lecture and then time foraging around Lynn Headwaters Regional Park.
Cost: $46 per person
Tickets: Here is the link if you’d like to go on this tour too.
Other Wild Edibles: If you like to learn more about foraging, my blogging friend Karen wrote a fantastic post Guide to Wild Spring Edibles
Wild mushrooms – Start of the tour
This wild mushroom foraging tour started with lunch. There was a spread of crackers, sarnies, fruits and a mushroom dish. Marc and I had had a late breakfast, so we didn’t try much of it, but it all looked pretty tasty. After that, we were given a short lecture about fungi. We learnt that mushrooms are little chemical-making factories, and about the basics of identifying them.
Once we’d listened to the lecture, we started to explore Lynn Headwaters Regional Park, looking for fungi together. I did take a few notes while we were wandering around, so I’ll try to share my knew knowledge. Just please be aware, I am pretty clueless, so I might name the wrong mushrooms, or spell them incorrectly. Please let me know if you spot a mistake.
The first mushroom was found was a bolete. When you turn it upside down, it has pores instead of gills. These mushrooms are made of lots of tiny tubes all close together. Click on the photo to see all their teeny holes.
Lactarius poleson – milk cap
The next mushroom looked pretty normal, until you cut across its gills with a knife. Then a sort of milk comes out of it. It’s a lactating mushroom…
Hypholoma – sulphur tuft
These little mushrooms were hiding under some foliage at the base of a tree. Our guide mentioned that they glow under UV light. Marc has a UV torch at the bottom of his bag, so we got it out to check. Cool eh!? This one is toxic, so don’t munch on glowing mushrooms!
These little mushrooms are sooo cool! They don’t have gills, instead, inside they are like a pure white marshmallow. You can eat them, but before you try, you need to cut them in half and make sure that it is totally white. If it has started to go yellow, don’t eat it. When the puffpalls get older, the inside turns to dust (well, spores.) This one is all puffed up at the moment, but our guide squished it, and showed us how the spores poof out and spread in the wind.
We found a few large patches of honey mushrooms. These are just the top of a much larger organism below the forest floor. There is a whole network of white filaments called mycelium that connect the fungi underground. The mushrooms are just the top part of the larger organism. They are edible, but just the caps. And, you must cook them before you munch them. These mushrooms are pretty common here in Vancouver. Now we know what to look for, Marc and I keep finding them.
I loved finding these teeny honey mushrooms hidden in the moss and bark on the trees in Lynn headwaters Regional Park.
Our guide wasn’t sure what these are. To start with, he thought they might be angel wings, but then he realized it must be something else. I didn’t hear if they decided what it was!
The orange upside-down mushroom is a false chanterelle. These grow around douglas fir when there is moss, but no shrubs. We were told that real chanterelles have false gills, false chanterelles have real gills. You can eat the false chanterelles, but they are starvation food and not very tasty.
The photo on the left is the underside of the mystery mushroom.
Lastly we found a few polypores. Sometimes they weep. We were told if you find one high up (above doggy pee pee height) you can lick those dew-like droplets. Apparently they are really tasty.
Mushroom sex and genders
We learnt some cool things about the sex of mushrooms. It turns out they have hundreds of different genders, rather than just two. Mushroom spores can grow into hyphal strands which are made from single chains of cells. Each cell is haploid (so has half the DNA they need.) Each strand needs to meet another spore branch to become whole. When these strands find each other, they clamp together and tunnel into each other. Then when they meet, they have two nuclei inside one cell (diploid). Sex happens inside the mushroom, only if they have different versions of genes. It’s all pretty cool.
I didn’t explain this well, so read this for more information about mushroom sex and genders.
Anyway, if you are thinking about giving someone an experience rather than a thing this holiday season, I promise, it works really well! Thank you to Alex and Louise for this amaaazing prezzie!