For Owen Rice, it all began in 1990 when he picked morel mushrooms in Eastern Oregon. “I fell in love with so many things about commercial mushroom picking and the lifestyle associated with it,” says Rice.
Five years later, Rice and his wife, Marina Ormes, began MycoLogical Natural Products, which encompasses two brands: Terra Dolce (specializing in organic dried chili peppers and organic dried mushrooms) and MycoLogical (wild and organic gourmet mushrooms and fresh wild truffles). At its heart, MycoLogical focuses not only on superb mushrooms and truffles but also on raising people’s awareness and understanding of the symbiotic relationships between wild fungi, healthy forest ecosystems, and sustainability. Today, the company has 15 employees (with more brought on during the holidays). In 2015, MycoLogical sold about 256,000 pounds of fresh and dried mushrooms to local customers, buyers beyond Oregon, and even to international customers craving mushrooms sourced from the Cascadia bioregion’s rich temperate forests.
MycoLogical sells both wild and cultivated mushrooms. Dedicated foragers gather black trumpet, chanterelle, hedgehog, lobster, matsutake, morel, porcini, and yellowfoot mushrooms at the height of the season, which ranges from late summer to late fall. MycoLogical also works with farms in Oregon, California, and British Columbia to source cultivated mushrooms that are available year-round, such as beech, crimini, king oyster, maitake, nameko, nebrodini, oyster, pioppini, portabella, and shiitake. Chanterelle and maitake tend to be the most popular fresh mushrooms.
“My favorite is the porcini, known locally as king bolete,” says Rice. “It is such a heavy and dense mushroom, and the buttons are often impressively large. I’ve seen perfect closed-cap buttons as large as a softball.”
For mushroom lovers wanting to try their hand at foraging, Rice advises caution and education. “Be sure to get an expert identification of any wild mushroom before consuming, or attend a local mushroom class to become an expert yourself,” he says. “Don’t take chances eating wild mushrooms. There are many that can make you ill if misidentified.”
Whether dining out or cooking in, local mushroom lovers can find MycoLogical mushrooms at stores such as Market of Choice, Capella Market, Kiva Grocery, Friendly Street Market, and New Frontier Market, as well as restaurants like The Bier Stein, Belly, Izakaya Meiji, and King Estate.
“When buying at a store you want to get the freshest product possible,” suggests Rice. “With so many varieties it is hard to generalize, but look for nice, vibrant color—not dingy or discolored—and a somewhat firm texture.”
If you want to dry your own mushrooms, the Oregon State University Extension Service advises that most mushrooms dry well, especially button mushrooms, chanterelles, and morels. When drying fresh mushrooms, check for closed caps with visible gills, then follow these steps in the Extension Service’s “Preserving Mushrooms” guide:
- Remove dirt with a quick rinse or soft brush
- Trim woody portions or areas that seem damaged or questionable
- Most mushrooms can be dried whole or halved. A good rule of thumb is that each piece should be about a half-inch thick
- Dry at 120 degrees Fahrenheit in a food dehydrator until crisp (times vary by mushroom and dehydrator)
- To use dried mushrooms, soak in boiling water until softened, strain, then add to dish
Sautéed Chanterelle Buttons with Sweet Marsala Glaze
For an introduction to local mushrooms, Owen Rice recommends his favorite recipe for fresh chanterelles, which can be served with crackers as a wonderful hors d’oeuvre.
4 cups fresh chopped chanterelles
1 finely chopped onion
1 cup sweet Marsala wine
Sauté chanterelles and onion in butter in a covered pan over medium to medium-high heat. Let the mushrooms simmer slowly in their own juices for 3-4 minutes, then uncover and allow juices to boil off. Continue to sauté 1-2 minutes more to lightly brown the mushrooms. Add the Marsala wine, and salt to taste. Slowly simmer until all the liquid is gone, leaving a sweet glaze on the chanterelles.
MycoLogical Natural Products
OSU Extension Service Guide
Preserving Mushrooms (Publication No. SP 50-919)