Foraging for mushrooms is nature’s version of an Easter-egg hunt: a practice in patience, mild competition, and, once the prize is finally found, delicious exuberance. Mushroom hunters, scientifically dubbed mycologists, have long known the joys of wandering through the woods and handpicking edible fungi. But as concern for food origins becomes more prevalent, mushroom hunting has reemerged as a popular pastime. The Mushroom Society of Utah, founded in 1994, is an embodiment of this growing interest. Hosting forays, classes, and potlucks, the MSU provides curious Utahns expert advice about finding and identifying delectable wild fungus.
Stephanie Cannon, president of the MSU and one of its first members, explains that the society was founded by a group of friends with seemingly dissimilar interests. “Some were into biology and cooking; others were interested in horticulture and sustainable living,” Cannon says. “The mushroom is the perfect intersection of all these things.”
One of the MSU’s most popular events is the annual Fall Foray. Typically held the weekend before Labor Day at the Francis Town Hall (Francis is 23 miles from Park City, just south of Kamas), the event is as much about socializing as it is about fungus finding and includes several days of camping, guided hunting excursions into the nearby Uinta National Forest, and potluck-style dinners featuring—what else?—freshly picked mushrooms. “We’ve had some years when we’ve found in excess of 100 different species,” says Don Johnston, former president and MSU secretary. If you missed the foray, have no fear. The MSU is hosting another mushroom hunting mission in Southern Utah on September 9-10.
Foodies, outdoor enthusiasts, and scientists alike can all find their place in mushroom foraging and the MSU. An annual family membership is just $20, which allows access to a community of local experts, tips for good foraging practices, and directions to sure-thing hunting grounds. If you join, who knows? Perhaps instead of hunting for brightly covered eggs and candy next spring, you’ll find yourself tramping through loamy woods to fill your basket with morels and boletes.
Wild Mushroom Soup
- ½ lb assorted mushrooms (especially tasty varieties include porcini, morel, oyster, and Agaricus)
- 1 cup chicken broth
- 2 cups half & half
- dash white or ground red pepper
- pinch marjoram & thyme
- ¼ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp crushed garlic
- minced parsley for garnish
Chop mushrooms finely and combine with chicken broth in a saucepan; simmer for five minutes. Place half of the mushroom mixture with the half & half, pepper, seasonings, and garlic in a blender and process until smooth. Return to the pan with the remaining mushrooms and broth and heat thoroughly. Serve with parsley. Suggestions: If using morels, slice thinly versus chopping to preserve shape and texture. For porcinis, sauté in butter until medium brown before combining with the chicken broth, and leave in bigger chunks to enjoy this mushroom’s meaty texture and rich flavor.