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Foraging in Massachusetts

Foraging mushrooms is an amazing way to learn and connect with the fungal kingdom.

Beginner Tips

  • In Massachusetts the most abundant times to go foraging are between April and November.

  • When foraging for mushrooms you want to consider timing, what the weather has been like, and most of all WHERE the mushrooms would be growing.

  • Looking for the plants or habitats the mushrooms grow in helps to minimize where you are looking.

  • There are thousands of species of mushrooms that fruit in Massachusetts. To effectively start foraging it is good to learn a hand full and go out looking for those. Below is a list of five species that are easy to learn and identify.

  • If you want to learn more about local foraging, you can join a mycological club or online community. Here are some great resources:

Get started with 5 Easy-to-identify Mushrooms

Foraging mushrooms can be very rewarding. Sometimes you are rewarded with an abundance of mushrooms, which always feels like a blessing bestowed from a higher power. Other times you may just have had the pleasure of seeing some mushrooms you hadn’t noticed before and a nice walk in the woods. Either way, foraging mushrooms is a great activity for the body, heart, and soul.

1.  Black Trumpet

​Black trumpet is a small black mushroom that is vase shaped and likes to grow out of moss or leaf litter. Trumpets fruit from July-September. When you are looking for trumpets it is great to look at the edges of trails that have moss particularly after heavy rains. They can also be found coming out of leaf litter where hemlock trees and beech saplings are growing. This is a very tasty mushroom that dries very well and has a STRONG smell. Black trumpet mushrooms can grow in large groups that pop out once you see one.

2.  Chicken of the Woods

Chicken of the woods is a yellow to orange mushroom with pores on the underside. This mushrooms grows out of living or dead wood but most commonly fallen decaying logs. Chicken of the woods is most abundant in September and October but can be found as early as May through the summer. Chicken has a bright orange cap with pores on the underside that are either white or yellow. It can become very large, fruiting in flushes of over 30 pounds sometimes.

3. Maitake or Hen of the Woods

Photo credit: Pethan CC BY-SA 3.0

Maitake, or Hen of the Woods, fruits exclusively on oak on the east coast of the United States. It typically fruits out of the ground at the base of old living or dying oak trees. Multiple fruiting bodies can be found at the bottom of a single tree. Maitake fruits in Late august through october. This mushroom fruits from a single stem and has many overlapping fronds. It ranges on the spectrum of black to white in coloring on the top and has white pores on the underside.

4. Wine Cap mushrooms

This image was created by Ann F. Berger at Mushroom Observer, a source for mycological images. CC BY-SA 3.0

Wine cap mushrooms are a massive mushroom that grows in Massachusetts around May and again in September. Of all the foraging mushrooms you can find this one is very unique because it can easily be cultivated. By transplanting the mycelium found in the leaf litter or wood chips into fresh wood chips or cardboard these mushrooms can be continually grown. You can also cut off the stem butt and transplant that into compost, wood chips, or cardboard. This mushroom is similar to portobello in taste, size and texture. It has a burgundy to white (if it is in the sun) cap and the underside is purple-black gills. There is usually a partial veil present and the stem is thick and white, tasting like asparagus!

Reishi mushrooms

This image was created by Ann F. Berger at Mushroom Observer, a source for mycological images. CC BY-SA 3.0

Reishi is a very distinct mushroom with a bright red varnished look to it. It goes through an amazing transformation being all white initially then turning a vibrant yellow before a deep red. There are two different primary types of reishi found in Massachusetts. Hemlock reishi which fruits in May-July on dead hemlock, and reishi which grows on hardwoods in September and October. When young and all white this mushroom can be cooked and consumed.