Hunt, gather and eat delectable wild mushrooms and other edible plants on guided nature tours led by mycology experts who know their porcini from their chanterelles.
Lots of people think that mushrooms start popping up in earnest in spring. But in many parts of the country, fall is the boon season for these edibles, which love the cool ground temps and rain. But, for the inexperienced forager, edible varieties of mushrooms can be hard to find and identify, and many of the accessible wooded areas where they grow have strict rules in place about what and how they can be picked. It’s best to forage with someone who’s in the know. Fortunately, experts around the country are leading fun and enlightening fall foraging tours that take uncertainty out of the equation. A guided foraging tour is not only a great way to learn about mushrooms and other edible plants, but also to experience beautiful natural settings at a great time of the year, hone your powers of observation and deepen your appreciation of nature’s gifts.
Wild Man Steve Brill Foraging Tours in the New York Tri-State Region and Beyond
Author of books about edible and medicinal plants, foraging in New York and foraging with kids, Wild Man Steve Brill leads tours that educate folks of all ages about edible botanicals growing in nature areas near New York Tri-State region cities and suburbs—from local parks, like Manhattan’s Central Park and Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, to a section of the Appalachian Trail in Pawling, New York. Which just goes to show that you don’t need to venture far to access palate-pleasing, healing goodies.
Brill (and, for some tours, his daughter, Violet) casts light on the unique plants of his chosen tour environments. The Steve Brill tour calendar features at least two tours per fall weekend—click in on them to read their mouthwatering descriptions.
A three-hour walking Appalachian Trail Tour in September unearths edible trees and bushes such as river birch and common spicebush, autumn olive berries, garlic mustard seed and a wide variety of mushrooms: from honey mushrooms and puffballs to chicken mushrooms and hen of the woods.
A four-hour Central Park foraging tour in October showcases burdock whose roots can be used in soups, stews and Japanese dishes, sassafras, wild nuts such as walnuts, red juneberries and super tasty gourmet mushrooms including brick tops, chicken mushrooms, hen-of-the-woods and honey mushrooms.
This is one occasion when you’ll want your tour guide to get into the weeds.
Tour details: Each tour includes a suggested donation amount–$20/adult, $10/child under 12. Call (914) 727-2552 at least 24 hours in advance to reserve a place. The website includes information, photos and illustrations pertaining to wild plants and wild mushrooms, as well as recipes for cooking with them.
No Taste Like Home Foraging Tour in Asheville, North Carolina
This three-hour Foraging Tour from an ecotour company with a 25-year foraging history, takes place in a gorgeous area of the country, in the heart of the Southern Appalachians—twice a day, every day of the week but Tues. and Thurs. The region features over 300 edibles and the tour, led by experts, gets participants hunting and gathering in local fields and forests for mushrooms, wild fruits and other wild-growing plants.
The foraging tours covers about a half mile and participants not only reconnect with authentic, out-in-nature foods but also get to eat what they gather—the coolest aspect of the tour just might be the fact that participants get to sample mouth-watering appetizers prepared with the wild ingredients they find by one of three top-rated restaurants. The roster of restaurants changes, but has included: Rhubarb (Ashvegas), Benne on Eagle (NY Times) and Aux Bar (Voice of America). Tour participants just make a reservation and drop off their finds after the tour; when they come back for their meal, the wild dish is included, gratis.
Customizable private tours are also available upon request. But whichever way you end up foraging with them, they’ll give new meaning to the term “going out to eat.”
Tour details: Adults: $75; children, ages 5-11: $35. Contact: email@example.com; 828-209-8599
Odd Produce and Eat the Neighborhood Foraging Tour in Chicago, Illinois and Beyond
In 2009, Dave Odd, Chicago’s only full-time professional forager, began turning a many-years-long foraging hobby into a thriving business. Today, he supplies over 75 Chicago-area restaurants with hundreds of wild foraged edibles, as well as cultivated goods from all over.
Putting his and his team’s expertise to use, Odd’s Eat the Neighborhood enterprise conducts foraging tours for groups. Odd and other experts lead up to six foraging walks per day through various Chicago-area neighborhoods and the Midwest, depending on participant preferences. The company stages everything from backyard forays to blocks-long expeditions to overnight camping outings on Odd’s own property—the Land of Odd in Iroquois County, IL, 70 miles south of Chicago in a sand prairie. In all cases, participants learn about a minimum of 40 edible and medicinal plants. Given Odd Produce’s vast restaurant network, a tour also can be paired with a delicious meal that incorporates foraged ingredients seen during the tour.
Odd also arranges foraging events in other areas of the country. All interested parties need to do is let him know where they want their guided foraging tour to take place and he can work out a fully customized experience.
Tour details: Pricing is flexible and determined on a per case basis. Contact Dave: firstname.lastname@example.org; 847-409-8623
Fish & Fungi Wild Mushroom Forays in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado
Chris Ricci leads both bass and panfish fishing trips and mushroom hunts from July-October in Rocky Mountains woods around Durango, Pagosa Springs and Telluride, Colorado. He started mushroom hunting when he was a teenager and, on his tours, translates his passion into insight, helping locals and visitors learn more about mushrooms and the forest environments in which they grow. One of his stated goals: to dispel mycophobia—the fear of fungi.
On his half- and full-day guided tours, you’ll learn how to find and gather Porcinis (Boletus edulis), Chanterelles (Cantharellus) and a long list of other edible mushrooms that grow in the local forests. The tours are for people of all ages and the one requirement is that you bring a knife and basket for harvesting and gathering your finds.
You’ll be in great hands—his expertise has earned him the right to sell his finds to Colorado chefs, restaurants, caterers and retailers. He also advises folks on mushroom cultivation.
Tour details: Call Chris to arrange a tour and price: email@example.com; 970-884-0877; 970-749-4959
Whidbey Wild Mushroom Tours — Langley, Washington Area
Learn and gather on beautiful Whidbey Island in the Puget Sound area north of Seattle, Washington, every Saturday from mid-October to the first week in December. Whidbey Wild Mushroom Tour leader, Travis Furlanic, became fascinated by mushrooms in 2007 and, in the years since, has made it his business to dig really deep and get to know the full range of mushroom species. His tours focus on sharing his appreciation of their vast culinary, medicinal, artistic and aesthetic qualities.
Before heading out for the tour (which typically lasts from about 1-4 pm), participants meet up at a local coffee shop for an introductory chat about the mushrooms and their many uses, as well as hunting and gathering protocols. After the conversation, the group ventures into a nearby forest to find mushrooms and learn all about their distinguishing traits; Travis takes particular care to shed light on non-edible lookalikes. You’re sure to come away with a great deal of knowledge about mushrooms and confidence to forage yourself back home.
Tour details: Adults: $45; kids under 12: free. Contact Chris: firstname.lastname@example.org; 206-531-8904
Terra Fleurs Mushrooms — Fall Mushroom Hunting Tours in the Pacific Northwest near Seattle, Washington
The Pacific Northwest is an ideal spot for fall mushroom hunting—many wild varieties emerge in local forests between late Sept. and the end of November, from lobster mushrooms, white chanterelles, yellow chanterelles, winter chanterelles and pig’s ear mushrooms to cauliflower mushrooms, sweet tooth mushrooms, fall porcinis and masutakes.
Join one of Terra Fleurs’ excursions (owner James Nowak serves on the board of directors of the Puget Sound Mycological Society and teaches mushroom cultivation) and you’ll likely tap into an extraordinarily varied harvest (the company can customize the tour to your specific mushroom interests). Roundtrip travel (you’ll head out around 9:00 am) from Seattle to their remote forest foraging locations will take between 2-4 hours and forest foraging time, an additional 3-4 hours.
It’ll be a long day, but a very enjoyable one filled with education and recreation. Under the supervision of a knowledgeable guide, you’ll search for and learn to identify edible mushrooms, hunt for fungi with medicinal benefits and those used for dyeing fabric. The two-way radio, field guide, gathering basket and mushroom knife they provide during the tour will aid your harvesting efforts.
Tour details: Groups of 3 or more: $128 per person; couples or individuals: $380; children under 16: $60. Contact: email@example.com; 206-354-9015
Forage SF—Wild Mushroom Adventures on the Sonoma Coast of Northern California
With a mission to teach others about the natural world, Forage SF, founded by Iso Rabins, conducts classes as well as tours. The 3-4-hour-long mushroom foraging adventure on the Sonoma Coast, held on weekends from late October through the end of December, is focused on learning all about foraging and on finding mushrooms to bring home.
The guides for these weekend outings are true mycological experts—lecturers, authors, cultivators and more—and past attendees say their knowledge and passion for fungi is both infectious and entertaining. Not to mention the exhilaration of hiking in the forests of this magnificent part of the country.
On this foraging tour, you may find some rare, lesser known varieties of mushrooms in addition to more common varieties. Ever heard of Orang Peel Fungus, for example? Its brilliant orange hue would dress up any plate.
Tour details: Book a wild mushroom adventure here. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
General tips for fall mushroom tours (modify based on specific tour requirements): Wear clothing that covers your limbs and sturdy walking shoes or hiking boots, and bring rain gear, a bagged lunch or snacks (depending on the time of day), water and a basket for your finds.