Cleaned lobster mushroom chunks on a cutting board ready for slicing
Lobster mushrooms can come home from the field sporting a lot of debris, but they clean up nicely with a little knife work. (Michael Foster/WDFW)

Gourmet edible mushrooms popping up for fall

Hit the woods for nature’s bounty this month and beyond

Safety First

Since this is an introduction to mushroom hunting, a few words on safety are needed:

A cloth sack of chanterelles sits on the forest floor with a large chanterelle in the foreground.
When you find a productive area, it’s not uncommon to leave with several pounds of chanterelles. These were part of 3 lbs picked in an afternoon outing. (Michael Foster/WDFW)
  • Confirm your identification: Find a good field guide at your local library or bookstore and learn the ropes of identifying mushrooms to make sure what you have is definitely the edible you think it is. If you have a friend or family member who is knowledgeable on the topic, show them the specimen before eating. Many areas have mycological societies welcoming new members where you can safely learn identification. Before long you’ll be confident in making your own identifications, but when in doubt, skip harvesting. While many toxic mushrooms will cause discomfort or gastric distress, some cases of poisoning are fatal.
  • Study surroundings: It can be easy to get lost when mushrooming because you’re often leaving trails and roads behind, so be aware of your surroundings. Often described as a treasure hunt, mushrooming can be exciting when you find a productive patch and before long you can wander far from known territory, carried by each new mushroom you spot. It’s a good idea to hunt uphill from roads and trails where possible so you can easily travel downhill to your starting point. As with any outing into the woods, leave your hike plans with someone, pack the 10 essentials into the forest and dress for conditions. Additionally, mushroom season overlaps with many hunting seasons, so it’s always a good idea to wear blaze orange/pink or other bright colors for visibility.
  • Start small: If you’re new to harvesting wild mushrooms or just trying a new one, start by trying a small portion. While the edibles listed here are perfectly safe, if it’s new to your system, you could have a mild adverse reaction and you’re better off then if you only ate a small amount. The same goes for if you find you’re allergic or a misidentification was made in your harvest.
A pair of chanterelles on the forest floor with a slug nearby
Chanterelles have distinctive false gills that look like forked folds or wrinkles that run part way down the stem. (Michael Foster/WDFW)


We’ll start with perhaps the most common edible mushroom you might encounter: the chanterelle. This delicious mushroom is usually yellow in color but can range from nearly tan to a light yellow/orange. It’s usually found in mature conifer forests, with a preference for Douglas fir. It can range in size from no bigger than your finger to a mushroom the size of your hand and it usually has an irregular cap.

Chanterelles are collected in a game bird hunting vest, with several more piled near the stock of a shotgun.
It’s easy to add a little mushroom hunting to many other outings when the time is right. These chanterelles were picked along the way during a grouse hunt. (Michael Foster/WDFW)
A pan of chanterelles cook on their way to being pickled.
There are many ways to prepare chanterelles. Here a pan of the mushrooms cook on their way to being pickled. (Michael Foster/WDFW)
Several hedgehog mushrooms are positioned on the forest floor to display the fine teeth under an irregular, cream-to-tan-colored that help identify the mushroom.
Look for fine teeth under an irregular, cream-to-tan-colored cap to help identify hedgehog mushrooms. (Michael Foster/WDFW)


The hedgehog or sweet tooth has a cream-colored to tan or buff irregular cap with distinct “teeth” on the underside where many mushrooms have gills, hence the name. It’s also found on the floor of conifer forests in the fall, sometimes very close to patches of chanterelles.

An excited mushroom hunter shows off her impressive lobster mushroom.
Lobster mushrooms can grow to impressive sizes in the right conditions. This lucky forager found this specimen on the edge of an abandoned forest road, and it weighed nearly a pound by itself. (Michael Foster/WDFW)

Lobster mushrooms

The lobster mushroom is a fascinating one among the edible mushrooms because it is actually a parasitic fungus attacking another fungus species, producing a remarkable result. The parasitic fungus attacks a species that is typically passed over by foragers, usually a russula species, and turns it into a firm, red-orange mushroom that has the look of a cooked lobster shell and can have a seafood scent.

A cluster of orange-red chicken of the woods mushrooms grow from a conifer stump.
The prolific chicken of the woods mushroom will surprise with its vibrant colors. (Michael Foster/WDFW)

Chicken of the woods

Breaking away from the cap-and-stem kinds of edible mushrooms, we come to a striking bracket fungus called the chicken of the woods. This vividly colored mushroom stands out in the forest with its groupings of yellow, orange or red brackets with surprisingly bright yellow undersides. Its coloration earned it some other common names, including sulfur bracket for that blazing yellow color.

A cauliflower mushroom grows from decaying wood on the forest floor.
The cauliflower mushroom will seem to grow from the forest floor at times though it’s actually attached to decaying wood below the surface. (Michael Foster/WDFW)

Cauliflower mushroom

The cauliflower mushroom is so named because of its large clumps of tan or off-white curly branches resembling leaves. The structure is reminiscent of cauliflower florets though others say it looks like a coral or even a brain.

A large bear’s head tooth fungus grows from the side of a fallen tree.
This big bear’s head tooth fungus was found just a stone’s throw from a trailhead parking lot. (Michael Foster/WDFW)

Bear’s head tooth fungus

Another unique looking mushroom that grows in often sizeable clumps from decaying wood is the bear’s head tooth fungus. This time though, instead of looking like cauliflower or brains, this mushroom resembles an array of tiny white icicles hanging down from a series of branches.

Oyster mushrooms can often be found in the same area year after year. (Michael Foster/WDFW)

Oyster mushrooms

While all these fungi are common to the fall season, the oyster mushroom can be found at nearly any time of year if conditions are right. It can still be found at times in the fall, but it is often at its most prolific in the spring.

Happy hunting

This list of edible mushrooms is just a portion of what’s out there, but we hope it helps you get out to explore the outdoors near you and make use of some great all-natural foods for the dinner table. There are also numerous options for cooking with each one of these mushrooms, so there could be something to please even the finickiest eaters. Good luck and stay safe in your foraging!

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The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is dedicated to preserving, protecting and perpetuating the state’s fish and wildlife resources.