Tag Archives: foraging

Wild Mushrooms! Foraging and Preparing Dinner in Western Maine

A couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of visiting friends in Western Maine. The weather was beautiful- warm, a bit humid with a bit of a breeze, but comfortable to sleep outside in the open air. We walked through the woods in search of wild fungi to add to our dinner and came across an abundance of chanterelles and black trumpet mushrooms. Chanterelles were much easier to spot on the forest floor, given their orange color amidst the green and brown ground covering. The black trumpets, however, seemed to sneak up on us as their colors blended with the dark soil and brush. Here is a quick reference to help identify both chanterelles and black trumpets.

Identifying chanterelles

Caps: The cap of the chanterelle can be somewhat funnel-shaped with rigid edges.  The color ranges from a dark yellow to yellow/brown to orange and orange/brown.
Gills: The gills are actually ridges, and run from the stem to the edge of the underside of the cap. Toward the edge of the cap, the ridges actually fork. The ridges run down the stem.


Chanterelle (Cantharellus Cibarius)

Picture courtesy of David Spahr

The stem is just about the same color as the cap and gills. The flesh is yellowish-white to orange in color.



Chanterelles grow on the forest floor, often in mossy areas beneath trees. Chanterelles do not grow in clumps, but rather  (as some other mushrooms do and are often mistaken for chanterelles.)


Chanterelles found in Western Maine

Chanterelles are known for having a faint scent of apricots. While I have not experienced this with a single chanterelle, I do pick up on some fruity, apricot-like scents when I have been able to collect a small handful.

Identifying Black Trumpets:

Black Trumpets are typically from 2-7 cm wide and up to 10cm in tall. The are tubular with a deep vase shape at the top (see pictures, below.) The caps of this fugue may roll under. They should be black or dark gray in color, and turn more ashen gray as they age. At this stage, they may still be edible but they will not be nearly as delicious! Black trumpets often grow in mossy areas and grow from a single stem, as seen below.


Black Trumpets in Western Maine


Black Trumpets foraged (a few chanterelles thrown in, too!)


Wild mushrooms should be cooked prior to consumption. Preparing these wild mushrooms was quite simple; we removed the dirt from the stems and caps (by hand or with a small knife) and sautéed in some butter over a fire outdoors until they were softened, which was about 10 minutes. The butter in this picture (below) is from a local farm– it’s raw and from grass-fed cows. You can add a bit of salt while cooking or wait until your mushrooms are plated and ready to be consumed. (You can cook wild mushrooms the same way you cook domesticated/grocery store mushrooms.) 


Preparing to cook the mushrooms over a fire. Check out the color of that butter!


Chanterelles and Black Trumpets being sautéed in butter


Chanterelles and Black Trumpets


Cooked chanterelles


Cooked Black Trumpets


Consuming wild foods is still, unfortunately, a taboo subject for some; mushrooms seem to be the most daunting. Arthur Haines, owner of the Delta Institute of Natural History, plant taxonomist, botanist and anthropological nutritionist writes:

Our society has a fear of fungi, there is no doubting that. We’ve been told they can kill us if we ingest the wrong species (which is true). So, we avoid culinary interaction with all wild species because some are poisonous. How is this different from plants, or wild animals, or people (aren’t some of those dangerous as well)? How is this different from farmed foods (people die every year from eating cultivated produce). Recognize that over 300,000 people are hospitalized each year in the US eating “safe food”. Knowing this, are you going to avoid store-purchased food?” 

Arthur continues to write:

“Fungi contain a special group of carbohydrates, complex polysaccharides called glucans, which are known to beneficially activate the immune system. Glucans are known to stimulate Natural Killer Cells to destroy malignant cells, increase the scavenging activity of macrophages, induce maturation of T-Cells to enhance cellular immunity, stimulate B-Cells to produce antibodies to tumor antigens, increase release of Tumor Necrosis Factor alpha to induce programmed cell death, up-regulate production of Interferon alpha from white blood cells to improve viral resistance in the body, increase the concentration of some Interleukins that are responsible for triggering the maturation of other immune cells and, well, you get the point.  Mushrooms improve the functioning of our immune system in a manner that protects us from bacteria, viruses, and cancer.”


You can read the rest of his post on Mycophobia: Is it doing us any good? HERE

You can find Arthur at www.arthurhaines.com, on Facebook, Twitter and Youtube.


Other mushroom identification resources: (not affiliate links)

mushroom identification book   mushroom 2  mush 3  mush 4


And to leave you with a quite from Arthur’s website:

“Don’t fear the wild– embrace it!”


Nettle Pesto aka “Nesto!”

SAMSUNGNettles are available during the later spring and deep into summer, as long as you know where to find them (and you have a pair of gloves!) You may have come across nettle before- a small plant that leaves your feet and shins stinging, burning and itching with small bumps- hence the name, “Stinging Nettle!” Despite the name and reputation as a “poisonous plant” nettles are a delicious wild food that offers beneficial medicinal properties!

Nettles often grow along larger rivers. If the young shoots are less than 6cm in height, you can gather these without gloves and can eat them raw (added to salads, etc in the early spring.) As the summer progresses, the plants get taller and the stinging hairs appear. This is when you’ll want your gloves to harvest!SAMSUNG

Nettle can grow to about 2-4 feet tall. The somewhat tear-drop shaped, dark green, opposite leaves are a few inches long, with very coarse teeth. The leaf tip is pointed, and its base is heart-shaped (as pictured.) The stalks, stems and leaves contain tiny hairs and look fuzzy.  The stems and leaves are both edible when prepared correctly (stinging compounds deactivated.)

It is quite easy to remove the stinging from the nettles so they can be consumed safely.

Instructions for Collection and General Preparation:

SAMSUNG1. Collect your nettles. Be sure to practice sustainable foraging methods as to allow future nettle crops to continue to flourish! Use gloves to prevent stinging and burning from the nettles. (Also consider your arms, as you’ll likely be reaching into bushes of nettles!)

2. Rinse the nettles in a strainer.

3. In a large pot, add the nettles and enough water to cover them. I like to add a pinch of sea salt as well.


SAMSUNG4. Bring the nettles to a boil. Allow them to boil for about 10 minutes. (When I strain the water from the cooked nettles, I like to save some to add to soup broths!)

You can can the cooked nettles (follow instructions for canned greens.) You can freeze them for longer storage or refrigerate them for more immediate use.

Nettles are often called a “super food” because they rich in chlorophyll, vitamins, minerals, protein and amino acids.  Nettles are 29 times higher in Calcium and 9 times higher in Iron than spinach (which is typically touted as a superfood!) Nettles are tonic to the liver, blood and kidneys, aiding in a necessary process of detoxification of the body; they are a reliable diuretic that balances blood pH and filters waste from the body, including uric acid.  This process can be especially useful in the treatment of arthritis, gout, eczema and skin rashes and irritations. Nettles contain homeostatic properties, or a remedy to stop bleeding.  A strong decoction (boiling to make a tea, for example, or steeping to make a tincture) is traditionally used to treat wounds and hemorrhage.  This can assist with building blood after menstruation, birth or other blood loss. When nettles are fresh, tinctured or freeze-dried they have anti-histamine qualities that may be effective for acute allergic reactions.  Nettles are both astringent and anti-inflammatory, which help with the symptoms of allergies and many other ailments.


I prepared my first nettle recipe last spring after collecting a small bag full along a river- Nettle Pesto, aka Nesto. Here is my recipe:

1 bunch of nettles (approx 6 cups raw, approx 2 1/2-3 cups after boiled- instructions above)
2 garlic cloves, raw
Pinch of sea salt
Juice of 1 lemon
1 small bunch basil
1/2 cup pine nuts or walnuts
1/4 cup olive oil
Optional: 1/2 cup parmesan cheese

(I have also made this with goat cheese added- delicious!)


Nesto Instructions:
1. Prepare the nettles according to the boiling directions, above.
2. Strain the nettles and allow to cool for a few minutes before proceeding.
3. While the nettles are cooling, add all other ingredients to a food processor. I like to save a few nuts to top the nest when plated.
4. Add the nettles and blend until the mixture is the texture of pesto.

Enjoy the Nesto as a dip to your favorite vegetable, add a spoonful of Nesto to more olive and a bit of vinegar for a delicious salad dressing, or use on top of your favorite meats or grilled vegetables!

You can opt to use this Nesto in place of pesto in mostly any recipe.






For additional information on spring foraging, check out Arthur Haines’ Youtube video on Spring Foraging. 

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Dandelion Flower Fritters

a dozen dandelion flowers- flower only; no stem
1/3 cup almond flour
2 tsp vanilla
1Tbsp pure maple syrup
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 egg
butter for cooking

1/2 tsp baking soda
1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar

dandelion fritter ingredients

Mix the almond flour, vanilla, maple syrup, cinnamon and egg in a bowl
Add the baking soda- DO NOT MIX
Add the apple cider vinegar
(it will bubble up like your grade school volcano project)
Once it bubbles up, mix well

Melt butter in a frying pan over medium-low heat
Dip each flower in the batter and place in the melted butter
Cook over medium-low heat until brown on the edges

dandelion fritters cooking

Flip as you would a pancake and continue to cook for a minute or so on the other side

Remove from the pan and let cool for a minute before eating

dandelion fritters plated

dandelion flower fritter
*Optional: drizzle a bit more maple syrup over the top and enjoy!

dandelion fritter

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