Browsing the archives for the mushrooms tag.

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Successful May Morel Forage!

General Posts, Identification

Thanks so much to everyone who joined us for our May Morel Forage today! And my sincerest heartfelt apologies to those who tried to come out and got stuck in marathon traffic. (And congratulations to all the runners out there who ran the Pittsburgh marathon and half marathon!!)

Happy Morel Hunters with Morels

Happy Morel Hunters with Morels

We had an awesome day, everyone found morels (Morchella semilibera). We also found some very young tender Dryad’s Saddle (Polyporus squamosus) which should also be very tasty!

Half-free Morel, Morchella semilibera

Half-free Morel, Morchella semilibera

The inside of the half-free, just like that of other true morels (black, gray and yellow) will be hollow:

You can see how this half-free morel stem is completely hollow. Also, the top of the morel is attached almost at its bottom, not at the tip top.

You can see how this half-free morel stem is completely hollow. Also, the top of the morel is attached partway down, leaving a "skirt" and giving it its common name: "half-free."

The stalk of this morel is much more tender and delicate than that of the other morels (which can be tough and rubbery), and is great chopped up and sauteed along with the cap, making for quite a meaty meal.

We identified lots of other wild edibles on our way to the morels, including our first sighting of Lambsquarters (Chenopodium album) of the year.

Lambsquarters, Chenopodium album

Lambsquarters, Chenopodium album

In addition to the Lambsquarters, Morels and Dryad’s Saddle, other edibles we saw and discussed included:

  • Garlic Mustard, Alliaria petiolata
  • Onion Grass
  • Burdock, Arctium
  • Broad-Leaf Dock, Rumex obtusifolius
  • Plantain, Plantago major
  • Deadnettles, Lamium purpureum
  • Chickweed, Stellari media
  • Purple Violet, Viola
  • Yellow Wood Violet, Viola biflora
  • Mayapples, Podophyllum peltatum
  • Dandelion, Taraxacum officinalis

Thanks so much to everyone who came! Get out there and look for morels…they are just coming up in Western Pa! The yellow morels follow the half-free, so we should have at least 3 more weeks of happy hunting!

yellow morel mushroom

yellow morel mushroom

More local information about mushrooms can be found with the Western PA Mushroom Club. You can attend a monthly meeting or go on one of their weekly hikes…if you are interested in learning more about mushrooms this is a great place!

And make sure to do a thorough “tick check” when you come out of the woods…there seem to be an abundance of ticks this year!

Happy hunting, stay safe,

~ Melissa Sokulski


Morel Mushroom Risotto

General Posts, Recipes


The other day my daughter was taking a winter survival class. The other two adults and I were standing around, talking wild edibles. I wondered aloud what I might do with the last of my dried morels. The leader of the course answered without hesitation: “Morel Risotto.”

He was right.

Dried Morels

Dried Morels

The key to this delicious vegan dish was using the broth made from reconstituting the morels.

Morel Mushroom Broth Used In The Risotto

Morel Mushroom Broth Used In The Risotto

Morel Risotto - vegan, gluten-free


  • 1 cup brown rice, rinced
  • handful dried morels, soaked in one cup very hot water. Save the broth.
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup fresh mushrooms, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup cashew milk, watered down with 1 cup water
  • 2+ cups water as needed
  • salt
  • pepper
  • optional: pine nuts for garnish

Soak the Morels in Boiled Water - and SAVE the Broth!

Soak the Morels in Boiled Water - and SAVE the Broth!

To reconstitute the morels:

  • Place dried morels in bowl.
  • Boil water
  • Pour at least a cup of water over morels.
  • Cover and let steep
  • Save broth
  • Take morels out when soft (about 1/2 hour), squeezing broth into bowl. You are saving the broth to use in the risotto.

Chopped reconstituted morels, morel broth, onions, mushrooms, garlic, cashew milk

Chopped reconstituted morels, morel broth, onions, mushrooms, garlic, cashew milk, olive oil


Risotto is made by cooking the rice slowly in liquid, added liquid in small amounts and letting the rice absorb it before adding more. This imparts great richness and flavor into the dish.

  1. Heat 2 Tbsp olive oil in pan.
  2. Saute onion til soft, about 3-5 minutes, adding a bit of salt to help onion release its juices.
  3. Add fresh mushrooms, cook 3 minutes more.
  4. Add garlic and dried morels. Toss and saute a minute or so.
  5. Add the rinsed rice to the pan and stir to coat rice with the oil.
  6. Add broth, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring until rice dish has absorbed it.
  7. Once the broth is used, add watered down cashew milk (the cashew milk will thicken if you add it without watering.)
  8. Continue to add milk and water.
  9. Add liquid, stir, and cover to let the rice absorb liquid. You can also begin to add a little salt and pepper. You may have to add up to 2 more cups of water until rice is soft…I did!
  10. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  11. Add garnish of pine nuts if desired. Enjoy!

This dish was AMAZING! I served it with salad and roasted sweet potatoes. I’m glad I still have one more handful of dried morels left!

Morel Risotto with Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Salad

Morel Risotto with Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Salad

Rainbow Salad: cucumber, parsnips, cabbage, carrots, beets over a bed of chopped spinach and Romaine

Rainbow Salad: cucumber, parsnips, cabbage, carrots, beets over a bed of chopped spinach and Romaine

Now I’m anxiously awaiting morel season…still over 3 months away!

Enjoy the winter and your stores of dried edibles!

~ Melissa of Food Under Foot


Cook Forest Chanterelles

General Posts

We haven’t been out foraging this year as much as I’d like. Last year was a fantastic chanterelle year. This year, well, I honestly didn’t know.

This weekend we went up to Cook Forest State Park. Our reserved campsite was a mistake: loud, on the path to the bathroom, crowded, noisy. Luckily there were other spots available and we found a quiet one which was just at the start of a hiking trail.


After setting up camp we took an evening hike.  There on the side of the trail were beautiful chanterelles.



We sauteed them with onions and roasted them in the fire into mountain pies with cheese.

img_0169The next morning we went out and harvested some more:

img_0158We sauteed them with onions, potatoes and had them with the most delicious eggs we picked up on an Amish farm in Smicksburg, on the way up to Cook Forest.

Later that morning we went to the Clarion farmer’s market and found a woman selling, alongside her organic produce, chanterelles by the pound.


The woman told us it is a GREAT year for chanterelles. She agreed that last year was fantastic, and reported this year is even better. “There’s been so much rain that my lettuce is terrible, my cucumbers practically non-existent, but the chanterelles are everywhere. They are saving my organic farm!”

How has your chanterelle season been? I’m back in Pittsburgh, and I’m going out as soon as I can to find more!

Don’t know how to cook chanterelles? Check out these past posts:

Hope your summer is fantastic and that you are out foraging safely and sustainably!

Festive Foraging!

~ Melissa and the folks at Food Under Foot


Wild Edibles Walk and Morel Mushroom Sale THIS Saturday!

General Posts

Please join us for a wild edibles walk and morel mushrooms sale this Saturday, May 17, 2014 at 10:30 - 12:30 at Frick Park Environmental Center.

There are so many fantastic wild edibles out there right now - including morel mushrooms and Dryad Saddle mushrooms - let’s see if we can find some!

Of course we can’t guarantee morel findings, but we CAN tell you Frick Park is a well known morel playground! At least you’ll learn what to look for and we’ll share some great tips on how to find them. We’ll bring samples of all the different equally delicious types of morels there are to find around here including little grays, black, half-free and yellow.

We’ll also find and discuss at least 15 common wild edible plants including dandelion, burdock, dead nettles, chickweed, cleavers and many many more.

If you’d like to buy some morels from us we are selling them in 3oz bags - which as you can see below is quite a lot of morels!

3 oz of morels

3 oz of morels

The walk is $5/person, and each 3 oz bag of fresh morels is $5.

Please register and let me know how many 3 oz bags you would like (ideally.) I will try to make sure each person who wants morels gets some, so if you’d ideally like 3 bags that will only be possible if there are more morels left over after everyone who wants some gets some.

Register by sending an email to: with your name, email and phone number, how many will be on the walk with you and if you’d like morels how many bags you would ideally like.

We’ll meet at Frick Environmental Center, 2005 Beechwood Blvd (where the Earth Day walks were.) There is a parking lot there and we’ll meet at the circle garden (by the Port-A-Johns.)

In a nutshell:

What: Wild Edibles Walk and Morel Sale, rain or shine

When: Saturday, May 17, 2014 10:30 am until about 12:30

Where: Frick Park Environmental Center, 2005 Beechwood Blvd. We’ll meet by the circular garden at the entrance of the park.

Cost: $5 per person for the walk, plus $5 per 3 oz bag of fresh morel mushrooms (of course you do not need to buy mushrooms, you can just come for the walk…maybe you’ll find your own!)

RSVP: with how many in your party and how many 3 oz bags of morels (we’ll try to fill all orders, making sure everyone who would like gets at least one bag) or call: (412) 381-0116

Questions: (412) 381-0116

Hope to see you Saturday!

~ Melissa and Dave

* Please Note: You do not have to buy morels to go on the hike with us! (walk is $5/person)

** Also, we’ll have more hikes, workshops and learning opportunities this year and we’ll give you much more notice! We just wanted to get out while it is still morel season so you can learn how to find morels!!


18 Reasons Not To Be Impatient About Your Garden

General Posts



I LOVE this time of year.

I have my garden in…but nothing is up yet. In fact, the tomatoes, peppers, basil and zucchini are still seedlings growing inside, the temperature outside is not consistently warm enough. And of the things I have planted: lettuce, kale, peas, radishes, only the merest of sprouts have come up. But I am not sad or impatient. Here’s why:

The WILD garden is filled with bounty right now! While my garden edibles won’t be ready for at least a month for the earliest things, NATURE is providing me with hardy greens of a variety of flavors, a variety of veggie stalks, and gorgeous gourmet mushrooms! Here are some of the things I’ve been enjoying the past week from Nature’s Garden, which is full of glorious abundance:

  1. Stinging Nettles, Urtica dioica, they’re up and in my smoothies and soups!
  2. nettles


  3. Japanese Knotweed Stalks, deliciously tart, great for steaming, juicing and nibbling as a trailside treat
  4. Deadnettles, flowering now, this gorgeous flower is going in the smoothies and stir fries
  5. deadnettles blooming in mid-winter

    deadnettles blooming in mid-winter

  6. Chickweed, love it in salad
  7. Garlic Mustard, flowering already! In salads and pesto
  8. Fiddleheads, use care not to overharvest this springtime delicacy!
  9. Ramps, again, please use care not to overharvest!
  10. ramps


  11. Onion Grass, aka Wild Chives/Garlic/Onion, use as you would chives
  12. Burdock Leaf Stalks, boil, steam, stir fry or add to soup
  13. Burdock Roots, juice, use in coleslaw and sour kraut, or stir fry
  14. Dandelion Leaves, bitter yet delicious and great as a liver cleanse
  15. Dandelion Flowers - I have a batch of dandelion wine brewing!
  16. Dandelion Root, dry for tea or dry roast and use as a coffee substitute
  17. Mint, is popping up
  18. Asparagus - If you’ve found a patch of wild asparagus you are in luck right now!
  19. Hairy Bittercress, this was one of the first things up! Tastes a bit like radishes, adds bite to your salad
  20. Morel Mushrooms, depending on where you live these have been up for a week or two or just due to come up. Yum!
  21. morel mushroom

    morel mushroom

  22. Dryad Saddle Mushrooms, if you find these with/instead of morels you’re in for a treat! Young dryads saddles are delightfully delicious.
  23. Dryad's saddle

    Dryad's saddle

I mean, really, who could ask for more?


Yum-mazing Morel and Mashed Potato Muffins


Yum-mazing Morel and Mashed Potato Muffins

Yum-mazing Morel and Mashed Potato Muffins

As stipulated in the 5th annual Morel Recipe Challenge, this recipe had to be baked. And what better way to bake than with muffin tins?

These Morel Muffins came out AMAZING. I have never baked anything in muffin tins, not even muffins. We only have the tins around to sort buttons and mix paint. But after today I may actually use them for savory recipes! I’m definitely making these again!

Dried Morels from Marx Foods

Dried Morels from Marx Foods

I used the wonderful dried morels sent to me by Marx Foods. To reconstitute them I simply poured boiling water over them, covered the bowl with a dish and let stand about 20 minutes. I then used that morel soak water to cook the potatoes, so make sure to save it! (You could also cook the quinoa in it…just make sure to use it, yum!) You could also use fresh morels in this recipe.

4 medium potatoes, peeled, cubed and boiled/steamed in the morel soak water. Then mashed. Add extra water when cooking if necessary and mash the potatoes and the cook water together at the end. You will need 1 1/2 cups mashed potatoes for this recipe.

And I added garlic mustard because, well, it’s that time of year and I love using wild ingredients! But you can either omit this altogether or substitute arugula or chives. I picked some garlic mustard leaves, washed and dried them then chopped them very fine and small.

garlic mustard
garlic mustard

Yum-mazing Morel and Mashed Potato Muffins

An original gluten-free dairy-free vegetarian recipe by Melissa Sokulski for the 5th Annual Morel Recipe Challenge

You will need a muffin tin for this recipe.

  • 2 oz dried morels, reconstituted as above and chopped. You could also use one cup of chopped fresh morels.
  • 1 medium onion, chopped (it will be about 1 cup chopped onions)
  • 2 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil or butter, to saute morels, onions and garlic, plus a bit more to oil muffin tins
  • 1 1/2 cups mashed potatoes (see above)
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked quinoa
  • 1/2 cup flour, plus a bit more to flour muffin tins (I used a mix of almond meal and buckwheat flour to keep the recipe gluten free, but you can use whatever flour you like.)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 Tbsp chopped garlic mustard (you can also use arugula, or chives, or omit, see note above)
  • 1 Tbsp brown mustard
  • salt
  • pepper
  • nutmeg

Tip: I made this recipe gluten-free and dairy-free so my family could eat it. However, I KNOW it would be DIVINE with your favorite cheese grated and mixed into the batter!

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Oil muffin tin with olive oil and sprinkle with flour to make it easier to remove “muffins” after cooking.
  3. Reconstitute dried morels (if using dried) by covering dried morels with boiled water. Cover bowl and let sit at least 20 minutes, until mushrooms are soft and able to cut. SAVE soak water to cook potatoes or quinoa.
  4. Boil (in morel soak water) and mash potatoes. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Boil 1/2 cup quinoa in 1 cup water (or morel soak water) for 15 minutes until quinoa is soft and water has been absorbed.
  6. Saute chopped morels, onions, and garlic in olive oil (or butter) for at least 10 minutes, until onions are translucent. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Mix sauteed morel mixture with mashed potatoes, quinoa, and all other ingredients.
  8. Divide mixture evenly into the 12 muffin cups.
  9. Bake at 375 for 30 minutes.
  10. Remove from oven and let cool at least 5 minutes to help it set and make the muffins easier to remove.


Baked Morel Muffins

Baked Morel Muffins

Festive foraging,

~ Melissa Sokulski

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Morel Season 2013 Begins


Morel season is finally upon us!  The official start of my 2013 mushrooming season began when I found these tiny gray/white morels last weekend:


Or did it start even before that, when I signed up to participate in the 5th annual Morel Recipe Challenge and I received my 2 oz of dried morels in the mail:

Dried morels and instructions from Marx Foods

Dried morels and instructions from Marx Foods

I am still working on my recipe for this challenge…it must be something baked and I do have some ideas….it is due by Sunday so stay tuned!

In the meantime I have found a few early morels (in addition to the tiny white ones) and had a very scrumptious dish of sauteed morels, fiddleheads, and nettles with onions and rice.

Sauteing morels and fiddleheads with onions

Sauteing morels and fiddleheads with onions

And remember, if you are looking for morels for the first time, there are a couple of tricky mushrooms out there: false morels. The two main Genuses are Gyrometria and Verpa. The Verpa - especially the Verpa bohemica (or wrinkled thimble cap) - disguise themselves as half free morels so be careful.

Gyrometria, one kind of false morel, not edible

Gyrometria, one kind of false morel, not edible

True morels are:

  1. 100% hollow inside, all the way from top through the stem. There will be NO cottony stuff in the inside, no folds or chambers, just completely hollow.

You can see how this half-free morel stem is completely hollow. Also, the top of the morel is attached almost at its bottom, not at the tip top.

You can see how this half-free morel stem is completely hollow. Also, the top of the morel is attached almost at its bottom, not at the tip top.

  1. Morels do NOT attach only at the top of the stem like Verpas. The tops (spongy-looking part) of the morel attach to the stem at its base; you can’t pull the spongy part of the mushroom easily off. Even half-free morels attach halfway down the top, not at the tip top like the Verpas.

(I’m sorry I do not have a picture of a verpa, but you can search the web and find some. Here is a good picture from

Morels must be cooked before eating! This is a general rule for all wild mushrooms.

Enjoy the spring! There is a lot out there in addition to morels right now:

  • fiddleheads (please harvest responsibly!!! Preferably from someone who grows them. Only take one or two from each plant, they are so easily destroyed.)
  • spring beauty
  • garlic mustard
  • Japanese knotweed
  • stinging nettles
  • deadnettles
  • dandelion
  • chickweed
  • onion grass
  • ramps
  • violets
  • wintercress
  • cleavers
  • burdock
  • broad leaf dock
  • curly/yellow dock
  • ground ivy/creeping charlie

We had a great time on our Frick Park Earth Day walks, by the way. Thanks for coming out to walk with us!

Talk to you soon…and soon there will be a new morel recipe up!

Happy, safe and responsible harvesting to all,

~ Melissa


Identifying Oyster Mushrooms

General Posts

Harvest of Oyster Mushrooms (with Trish)

Harvest of Oyster Mushrooms (with Trish)

Some things to know about Oyster mushrooms:

  • Oyster mushrooms (Pleurotus ostreatus) are found in late fall and winter. Other varieties of oyster (P. pulmonarius and P. populinus) can be found year round.
  • Oysters grow on wood: hardwood, either live or dead trees, stumps or branches.
  • They have gills., which are white to cream colored, and can descend a bit down the stalk (if a stalk is present.)
  • They usually grow in shelf-like overlapping clusters.
  • If a stalk is present, it will be off to one side, not in the center.
  • Spore print is white to cream or possibly lilac.

Oyster is a gilled mushroom. Gills are white (to cream) and can descend a bit down the stalk (if there is a stalk, which is sometimes absent, and if present is off to one side.)

Oyster is a gilled mushroom. Gills are white (to cream) and can descend a bit down the stalk (if there is a stalk, which is sometimes absent, and if present is off to one side.)

It is important to take a spore print when identifying mushrooms. The deadly galerina, which also grows on wood, will have a rusty brown spore print. (The deadly galerina also has a center stalk.)

Taking a spore print of the oyster mushroom. Since we expect it to be white, we are using non-white paper.

Taking a spore print of the oyster mushroom. Since we expect it to be white, we are using non-white paper.

Poisonous mushrooms to distinguish:

The oyster grows on wood and has gills. Poison (from toxic to deadly) mushrooms which grow on wood and have gills are: Jack O’Lantern, Deadly Galerina and Angel Wings.

Jack O’Lanterns are  yellow-orange, with yellow-orange flesh and yellow gills and a whitish cream spore print.

Deadly Galerina is a smaller brown mushroom with creamy to brownish flesh, gills are yellowish brown, and spore print is rusty brown. It has a central stalk. This mushroom can cause death.

Angel Wings: Smaller, white, grows on evergreen wood not hardwood. Spore print white. Inconsistently reported as edible, toxic, and deadly, so I think is best to avoid.

Reference Books for Mushrooms

I use a couple of mushroom books as my main references. One is Good Mushroom Bad Mushroom by Western PA Mushroom Club member John Plischke III, and the second is National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Mushrooms.

Oyster mushrooms are delicious. They sell them at stores. If you buy them there make sure to smell them and memorize the smell; that will also help you identity them in the wild. Oysters have a distinctive sweet smell.

Remember, when eating wild mushrooms you need to be 100% sure of identification. Wild mushrooms can be deadly! Oyster mushrooms always grow on wood, have white to off-white gills, white flesh, and white to cream spore print. These facts are so important when identifying!

To learn more about wild mushrooms from local experts, join a mushroom group for a lecture, hike or foray. Local groups will be listed on the North American Mycological Association website. If you’re in or near Western PA, check out the Western PA Mushroom Club.

Festive Foraging!!


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