Sunday, August 15, 2010

Gathering Wild Mushrooms in Alaska, Drying Wild Mushrooms, and 5 Recipes for Wild Mushrooms

Perfect 1 pound 10 ounce Boletus edulis

Steve arrived home from work last Friday, a briefcase in one hand and a massive Boletus edulis in the other. A smile of pure joy lit his face. “It’s time to go mushrooming.”

He handed me the mushroom, a king bolete, also known as porcino in Italy and cep in France. I weighed it: 1 pound 10 ounces. When I cut into it, the flesh was firm and pure white, untouched by worm, fly, slug, squirrel, or rot. I’d never seen anything like it. Normally, porcini this big have been heavily predated upon and are chock full of worms.

“Where’d you get this?” “Right in front of the house.” “Whataya mean, right in front of the house?” “Let me show you.” Steve brought me to a spot twenty feet from our front door.

“It’s definitely time to go mushrooming,” I said, thoughts of dinner already a distant memory. “Let’s get changed.”

Leccinum subglabripes

It’s been raining for weeks, so on went rain coats, rain pants, and waterproof hiking boots. Going mushrooming involves tromping through woods, pushing through understory, going up and down hillsides, seeking out terrain where desirable mushrooms thrive. Staying dry is key to maintaining proper enthusiasm.

Mediterranean Cooking in Alaska has moved as of March 2011. To read this post please go to

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Rules for Gathering and Handling Wild Mushrooms
The first and most important rule for mushroom foragers is: “When in doubt, throw it out.” Do not gather mushrooms that you can’t absolutely, positively identify.
Leave all unknown or questioned mushrooms alone, even if it means walking past many mushrooms of every color and shape before finding one you recognize.

1. The best way to learn about mushrooms is to have someone show you the edible species; spending time studying field guides also helps. The perfect field guide for Alaska doesn’t exist.

The books I like best are...

Mediterranean Cooking in Alaska has moved as of March 2011. To read this post please go to

Please click on over and visit my new site. Thank you!

Wild Mushroom Pasta Sauce

Fresh Porcini Salad with Shaved Fennel and Parmesan Cheese

Pasta with Wild Mushroom and Clam Sauce

Wild Mushroom Ragu (Pasta Sauce)

Port Duxelles

Mediterranean Cooking in Alaska has moved as of March 2011. To read this post please go to

Please click on over and visit my new site. Thank you!


Anna A. said...

I love your blog and recipes! Ah, I am salivating over that shroom ragu. Must make it soon.

Mediterranean kiwi said...

fascinating stuff!
i am rather jealous of your weather and your foraging finds - but your skill in detecting edible mushrooms is something of an art
i am savouring the pasta sauce from the screen - wonderful finds!

Anonymous said...

What an incredible post. I have learned so much today. I have to fight traffic in Manhattan to get to my mushroom forest in my neighborhood supermarket.

Tammy said...

Wow, i dream of collecting wild mushrooms! The photographs are just fabulous, i particularly like the look of the Wild Mushroom Pasta Sauce.

kitchen roach/galley roach said...

I envy you for the amount of mushrooms you already gathered! We found only a few hedgehogs and boletus in SE and hope for more after rain.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the information and the wonderful recipes -- you have made this excellent mushroom season that much better!

Steve and Edie

Laurie Constantino said...

Thanks all!

As for being jealous of our weather, Maria, as of today we've had 30 consecutive rainy days (cold and rainy at that), beating the previous record of 27 days set in 1951. And it hasn't stopped yet. They're predicting rain for the forseeable future. I'm not complaining, but you being jealous is going just a wee bit too far (especially as I look at pictures of blue skies and beautiful sandy beaches near you in Crete).

Good luck in SE, roaches. Wish I were finding hedgehogs. They might be my personal favorite of the wild mushrooms.

Steve and Edie, so glad to find out we're not the only pickers around.

Margot said...


Just a short note to let you know that I noticed this website using your recipe and image:


Laurie Constantino said...

Margot, Thanks, I didn't know and, yes, they are stealing lots of my content. I've started the legal process to shut them down. I very much appreciate you alerting me!

House of Annie said...

This is a great post! I'd love to go mushroom foraging with you, and then eat some of your mushroom ragu.

Jeffery said...

Hey Laurie!
Good to see my neighbors next door also take full advantage of the incredible diversity of the fungi provided in the north. Keep up the great work!

Foodjunkie said...

WOW! I can't but be impressed by this post. And so jealous....I guess living in Alaska has its perks and wild mushrooms are definitely one of them! I'd love to learn mushroom foraging, although the mountains around Athens are I think too dry for them, plus they keep burning them down. I have, however bookmarked your recipes just in case a good bunch of wild mushrooms comes my way!

mwalla said...

Hi! beautiful pics! By the by, do you know of any meet-ups, or clubs for foraging in Anchorage? I'm curious as to good spots that aren't closely guarded secrets, as well as other folks with a mycological bent. Saw some incredible boletes near Hope over the weekend, must've been three pounds, but they were too far gone to bring home. Plus, I lost my copy of All the Rain Promises, so was a little leery of a positive ID.

Wanda said...

Beautiful pictures! Beautiful mushrooms. I love mushrooms and have gathered different varieties here in West Virginia. We have several types of boletes, but I'm never sure enough of them to try any. I wish I knew the edible ones! Your recipes look awesome!

TK said...

Great article. You are so right about a mushroom guide for Alaska. My mother Phyllis Kempton, was working on such a book but was unable to finish when cancer took her. She had devoted most of her adult life to the scientific study of AK Fungi. Her herbarium went to University of Michigan where she and her associate Virginia Wells had collaborated with Dr. Alex Smith. The field guides he published were the basis for much of their pioneering work in AK.

Laurie Constantino said...

TK, so nice to hear from you as your mother was the person who taught me most of what I know about wild mushrooms. I had heard of the work she and Virginia Wells had been doing. One day in the late 80s/early 90s, I called her up and asked if she'd be willing to let me tag along with her when she went mushrooming. Thus started a series of wonderful expeditions. Your mom would call and say she was leaving in an hour and did I want to come. I always did, no matter what I had to cancel to go along. The expeditions stopped when I moved to Juneau for work. Your mom's knowledge of Alaska mushrooms was unmatched, and it was Alaska's true loss that she was unable to complete her book. The funny thing was, my interest was always in edible mushrooms and while your mom clearly knew which mushrooms were and weren't edible, she often told me she had no interest whatsoever in eating them. Your mom was a wonderful woman and very willing to share her knowledge. I was so sad when she died and often think of her when I'm out foraging.

Mwalla, you should go to the Girdwood Fungus Fair this weekend.

Claudia said...

A fantastic post! Thanks for all the work you put into it. I almost would want to move to Alaska. Not quite. We're having sort of drought conditions here where the good mushrooms grow.

Anonymous said...

Mmm, I haven't had wild mushrooms much since I lived in Kasilof - a long time ago! That ragu looks particularly scrumptious.

I wanted to ask - I happened across your blog in a Google-stab-in-the-dark - can you tell me where you're buying bulgur in Anchorage. I haven't had a chance to scour the town yet, but after not finding it at New Sagaya I've been wondering if I shouldn't just go for mail order!

Thanks, CP

Laurie Constantino said...

CP, Sagaya does have bulgur but it's in sort of an out-of-the-way place with a bunch of other dried products in bags of the same brand, named Zergut. If you walk down the aisles from the front of the store towards the back, it's on the left hand side on the very bottom shelf at the end of an aisle near the meat department.