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4 Wild Mushrooms to Forage in Winter: Velvet Shank, Oyster Mushroom, Wood Ear and Winter Chanterelle

foraging for oyster mushrooms
Oyster mushrooms.

Winter Foraging for Edible Mushrooms

Every winter, many of us foragers look forward to spring when everything turns green again and we can enjoy being outside foraging. There is nothing better than getting fresh air and exercise and at the same time looking for mushrooms, plants, berries and other wild food. Many foragers preserve their excess mushrooms from earlier so they have mushrooms all-year-round, but eating fresh mushrooms is always something special.

Mushroom foraging is known to be an autumn activity, but that’s not entirely true. There are countless species of edible mushrooms that can be found at different times of the year – even in winter. While the forest seems to have gone into hibernation in terms of plants, weeds, and berries, there are still some delicious edible mushrooms hiding around. So I’ve rounded up four wild mushrooms to forage in winter: velvet shank, oyster mushroom, wood ear and winter chanterelle. These four edible mushrooms are some of my favorite winter mushrooms. They are all easy to identify for beginners and relatively common. 

But no matter what, you should always be careful when identifying mushrooms. Don’t eat anything you’re not 100% sure of what is. 

Having said that, I wish you a wonderful winter mushroom trip! 

If you’d like more foraging and wild food inspiration, follow Nordic Forest Foods on social media where I’ll be sharing new information regularly.

Velvet shanks
Velvet shanks.

Velvet Shank 

Latin: Flammulína velútipes

Season: September-April 

Size of the cap: 1-6 cm

Size of the stem: 2-8 cm long

Thickness: 0,3-0,8 cm wide

 

A great mushroom that grows in winter and is called enoki-take when grown commercially. 

Description of the Velvet Shank

Velvet shank is recognisable by the slightly greasy orange and flat cap, the pale yellowish lamellae and the shiny, almost velvety and dark stem. 

Where and when to find Velvet Shank

Velvet Shank is one of the few edible winter mushrooms. It can be found as early as in September, but is most common in November and until April, as long as temperatures are above freezing point. However, it also tolerates a certain period of frost. Velvet shank grows in small clusters on many kinds of deciduous trees. 

Velvet Shank Uses

Velvet shank is edible, but without any particular taste. Its justification as an edible mushroom lies mostly in the few offerings that are otherwise available in winter. When preparing the mushroom for cooking, the tough part of the stem is removed.

The cultivated enoki-take mushrooms are genetically identical to the wild velvet shank. Enoki-take are grown in the dark which makes them completely white. Moreover, the cultivated enoki-take has an abnormally long stem with a small hat and is popular in the Asian cuisine. 

Foraging for Velvet Shanks
Velvet shanks.
Oyster Mushrooms
Oyster Mushrooms.

Oyster mushroom

Latin: Pleurótus ostreátus

Season: October-April 

Size of the cap: 5-20 cm

Size of the stem: 1-5 cm

 

Description of the Oyster Mushroom

The mushroom looks like an oyster in its form as well as color. The color of the oyster mushroom can vary from blue-gray, gray to cream color. The cultivated oyster mushrooms that you can buy in the supermarket are often white. The cap is greasy and 5-20 cm wide. The stem of the mushroom is short and white. The lamellae are also white and run very far down the stem. It is difficult to misidentify oyster mushrooms, and it is therefore a great beginner mushroom. 

Where and when to find Oyster Mushroom

Oyster mushroom is a common edible wild mushroom that can be found from October until April. You can find oyster mushrooms growing on dead or half-dead tree trunks, and you will often find many at the same spot. 

Preparation and preservation of Oyster Mushroom

Detach the oyster mushroom from the trunk and brush it clean. Oyster mushrooms are rarely infested with larvae, so you don’t need to cut them through. 

Oyster mushrooms can be cooked in all kinds of ways, but the mushroom stem is tough and must be discarded before cooking. The mushroom is suitable for both freezing and drying. 

The oyster mushroom can be used in many dishes since it is very neutral in taste. Try making a mushroom lasagna, mushroom sauce or fry them on a pan with a bit of butter, garlic and fresh herbs and serve them on toasted bread. Oyster mushrooms contain a lot of water, so it’s a good idea to fry them for quite a long time. 

foraging for Oyster Mushroom
Oyster Mushrooms.
wood ear on elder tree
Wood Ears.

Wood Ear

Latin: Auriculária auricula-júdae

Season: September-March

 

Description of the Wood Ear

Fruit body 2-7 cm, brown, ear-shaped or irregularly cup-shaped, jelly-like to cartilaginous, soft and pliable. Upper surface violet-grayish to olive-brown, finely velvety. Flesh is rather tough. 

Where and when to find Wood Ear

Attached to the tree by a very short stem. It does not have a particular smell or taste. It can be found mostly in September-March, on old and dead trunks of elders. More rarely on other deciduous trees. Wood Ear on elder trees is very common, especially near coasts. If the trees are large you will almost never look in vain. It is sensitive to frost. The wood ear can be found most of the year in damp, frost-free periods. 

Wood Ear Uses

It cannot be fried, as the high water content causes it to jump on the pan when fried. However, it can be used in soups, sauces and salads, even raw. They can also be dried and soaked again before use. 

Foraging for Wood Ear
Wood Ears.
foraging for winter chanterelles
Winter chanterelles.

Winter Chanterelle

Also known as: Funnel Chanterelle or Yellowfoot

Latin: Cantharéllus tubaefórmis

Season: September-December

 

Description of the Winter Chanterelle

The cap varies in ochre to yellowish shades and is about 2-4 cm, trumpet-shaped, wrinkled, with wavy-curled rim. The gills have wide spaces between them and are lighter in color than the cap. The stem is yellowish or grayish, paler below, slightly flattened and hollow. The whole mushroom is thin-fleshed with a pleasant smell.

Where and when to find Winter Chanterelle

The winter chanterelle is most often found late in the year, from late September to December. Winter chanterelle grows mostly in coniferous plantations, preferably with spruce and mossy forest floor. It is also found on mossy slopes in deciduous forest, especially beech forest. It should be watched carefully, as the colors of the cap blend almost perfectly with the background. If it is a particularly wet year, it can be found in thousands. 

Winter Chanterelle Uses

The winter chanterelle is a delicious and versatile edible mushroom that has a characteristic spicy and fruity scent. Although the winter chanterelle is thin-fleshed, it can often be found in quantities, so it is very profitable to collect. As well as being a prized edible mushroom with a fine taste, the mushroom is also suitable for drying, as it has a hollow and very thin fruit body.

foraging for winter chanterelles
Winter chanterelles.

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