There are many things to find or hunt for among Colorado’s immense landscape; antlers, gold, wildflowers, waterfalls, wildlife tracks, edible plants, and mushrooms!
It can be a fun activity to hunt for them and Colorado is a great place to find them. In fact, after the pacific northwest, Colorado has the 2nd highest concentration of mushrooms in the country with hundreds of known varieties.
You do not need to be an expert or scientist to hunt for mushrooms even though there are biologists that specifically study fungi, which is referred to as Mycology. There is an even a Colorado Mycological Society, a non profit organization that hosts guided tours, meetings, and events in support of the art and science of fungi.
Distinguishing mushroom types can be difficult for a novice so it is recommended to have an expert to help you forage. Many varieties of mushrooms are edible but many are also poisonous and should be left untouched.
Mushrooms are unique because they are not a plant, nor a fruit or vegetable but are produced by fungi. They are a very important part of an ecosystem because they assist in decomposition of wood and have a mycorrhizal relationship with certain species of plants. Mushrooms have incredible health benefits too! They help boost immunity, are a source of vital nutrients like vitamin D, and are chock full of powerful antioxidants that do not become damaged during cooking.
We recently spoke with an experienced picker and got the scoop on Colorado mushroom hunting:
The best time of year to hunt for mushrooms:
From May to October, but August is usually the peak month for edible mushroom foraging. The best time to look for them is a couple of days after a good rainfall.
Where are mushrooms found?
They are found under tree canopies and between branches, logs, in the soil, around melting snow patches, even along the side of the road.
What are ideal conditions for mushroom growth?
“Definitely when there is a wet spring and sufficient moisture throughout the summer, you can expect to find a lot of mushrooms. They like muddy moist areas to grow in.”
What you should bring on a mushroom hunt:
A basket, brown paper bag, small brush to wipe off dirt, a pocket knife, and a guidebook for identifying them. You can also bring something to eat the mushrooms with (when you are certain they are edible), such as crackers, balsamic vinegar, sea salt, pesto and any spices you like. Also bring what you would normally for any hike if you are going far off the road (rain gear, compass, water, fire source, clothing layers).
What do you like best about mushroom hunting?
“Being outdoors and really paying attention to your surroundings and all of the little details in the landscape, I learn something new everytime I go. It is fun identifying the different varieties and I also love the culinary aspect of it too.”
What are some mushroom hunting tips?
“If you aren’t having any luck finding mushrooms, look for them at a different elevation. Moisture levels change at different elevations here in Colorado. Also, mushrooms are like sponges so they absorb everything in their environment and this is what makes them so potent. Be sure that you are eating mushrooms that come from a clean environment free of pollutants like sewage and heavy metals.”