Another fantastic mushroom haul from our local forests in the nearby Cascades. This time, the focus was Hericium, a toothed fungi. Yes, this is the kitchen sink full of bear’s tooth Hericium americanum.
For the beginner mushroom hunter, this is always a safe bet in The Cascades. I stress that this information about mushrooms is only applicable to foragers hunting in The Central Cascades- though study of your local mycology might lead to the discovery of many local fungi species you too can enjoy. Bear’s head is easy to identify and has no dangerous look alike in our region. It is a mushroom less likely to have bugs and usually grows up off the ground on dead trunks of older. Toothed fungi are very unique in the mushroom world. Here in The Pacific Northwest, we have two strong representatives, one is the bear’s tooth, and the other- Hydnum repandum commonly known as the hedgehog mushroom. I also found a few of those while foraging, so it was a toothed fungi extravaganza.
The bear’s tooth is prized for it’s beauty and taste. Really, this mushroom tastes like sweet crab meat. The flesh of this fungus is meaty, full of flavor, and so delicate in its form. To prep, I simply tear off any bark and browned edges and as I gently pull apart the white tangle into smaller pieces, I pick out needles, leaves, and bits of bark. I then put a table spoon of butter in my cast-iron skillet and saute on medium heat for about 10-15 minutes until most of the moisture is out of the mushroom and the flesh has turned brown. Add salt, pepper, onion, and garlic if you want the added taste, but just a little salt would be more than enough for this amazing taste.
Above is a great picture of some older bear’s tooth growing on a typical tree specimen. This grand fir Abies grandis is a standing dead trunk now, a perfect habitat for the Hericium. The trees I find them on are usually still hard wood, un-rotted by time, so I would put the death of these trees within a few years. Fallen “fresh” logs are also good hosts, though most of my best finds have been above head height, so remember to look up. In French, this mushroom is known as “Pom Pom Blanc” or white pom pom- and it can grow to be that big! Well worth the hunt in a forest, or in our case this week, a wonderful walk in our local forest looking for our delectable fungi friends.