Wild Mushroom Foraging tour – Vancouver

Wild Mushroom Foraging tour – Vancouver

Wild mushroom foraging tour log full of mushroomsThis 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.

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.

Boletes

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!

Puffballs

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.

Honey Mushrooms

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.

Mystery mushrooms

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!

False chanterelle

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.

Polypores

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!

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32 thoughts on “Wild Mushroom Foraging tour – Vancouver

  1. You say this was a Christmas gift? What time of year did you actually go on this tour? I’m guessing it wasn’t at Christmas hehe! I’m always curious about what time of year your hikes occur – sometimes you post pictures of snow and I’m all “dude! It’s way too hot for snow!” But you could be high enough in altitutdue to allow it haha but then I remember snow is awesome so who cares cos yay snow!

    1. This tour was last month. It was a Christmas gift last year, but we had to wait for autumn to actually redeem it.

      Most of my posts are recent. Sometimes I write them right after we finish the walk, sometimes it takes me a while, so I might post things a few weeks later. We did sooo many fun things recently, that I’m a bit behind!!

  2. This is the coolest post! So many times while walking in the forest I’ve said I’d like to lean more about mushrooms, and find out what I can eat and what will kill me! What a great Christmas gift. I’m going to check it out. Thanks!

    1. Oooh I think you would love it too. We did learn a lot, but it also made me realise that we’ve only scratched the surface. There is so much more to learn.

      There is a similar foraging tour for berries and edible plants in the spring too. I am tempted to sign up for that as well.

  3. Ahh I’d love to go on a fungal foray some day, I love mushrooms.
    The mycelium you were talking about, all fungi have that, but there has been a lot of study recently between the interactions of tree roots and fungi mycelium. Apparently trees use them to feed each other, and to communicate. It’s fascinating

    1. Yeah, he did talk a little bit about that. It’s all pretty amazing isn’t it.

      He also mentioned that we can only have oil because back then, there were no fungi there to break down trees. That is why there is no more oil created after a certain point in time, after fungi evolved.

  4. Looks like a fascinating hike–and a great Xmas present idea! I know one of the chefs for a restaurant where we used to live in MD (U.S.) would go foraging for morels. I would hike just about anywhere for morels!

    1. We didn’t find any morels on this walk (I have a feeling they might be from a different time of year!?) but he did mention we need to be careful of false morels…as those look similar but can be poisonous.

    1. Yeah, I had no idea it could be so complicated. Anyway, their genes mean they are waaay less likely to have mushroom incest than. It’s all pretty clever.

  5. Well now, mushroom sex is not something you hear about every day, so thanks for sharing that little tidbit. I know more then I really need to know about that topic.

    We have a bunch of different kinds of mushrooms that grow all over down here in the Southern United States, no doubt because of the humidity. Quite a few varieties grow in our own yard. I find them rather bothersome because they grow all over the lawn but what can you do?

    I’m glad you enjoyed your day. Again, your photos are lovely.

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt

    1. Yeah, it was kind of cool to hear that they have so many genders.

      I guess it’s good for your lawn though, it means your grass will be able to take up nutrients from the soil…and the fungi will be breaking down dead plant matter to keep the place neat! 🙂

  6. We’ve done a couple similar outings with ‘foragers’ here in the UK but I still never have the confidence to pick some of the varieties we find ourselves… just not sure enough of my memory at my age!

    1. Same. Even though we now know the names of some of them…I’d still feel nervous about picking them in case we poisoned ourselves by mistake.

      I’m slowly learning which berries I can eat here though. It’s a bit less intimidating to munch berries vs mushrooms!

  7. This is terrific! My Mom foraged in the Olympic National Forest west of Seattle…knew where to go and what to pick…used to send them to me overnight in a brown bag…DELICIOUS. Another great guide as always!

  8. What a cool and unique present and experience. I would love to do a tour like this but don’t know if I’d be confident enough to pick and cook the mushrooms myself.

  9. This sounds SO COOL!! I find it absolutely fascinating how much the forest can provide for us if we just know where to look. I did a tour in the Northwest Territories where I learned about cedar and spruce trees, along with how willow bark can cure headaches! Nature is just incredible. I gotta check out this tour one day!

    1. Oooh do you make the bark into a tea? I would never have thought of that!!

      There is another tour for berries in the spring time…I am a bit tempted by that too now!

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