SOUTH FORK— It’s that time of year again when the forests around the town of South Fork fill up with the sight of fresh fungi, and mushroom hunters in the area flock to the mountains to see if they can fill their bags with spoils. The Rio Grande National Forest is an excellent place to go and find some of the region’s most sought-after mushroom delicacies bringing people to the area this time of year.
The South Fork Visitor Center is hosting their annual Mushroom Foray Aug. 11 and 12 where guests can learn the techniques and need-to-know tricks to finding the perfect mushrooms. Mushroom hunters from around the globe always caution new hunters on the importance of knowing what kind of fungi is being picked prior to consumption as some of these toadstools can be rather tricky and can cause severe health issues and even death.
That’s where the Marvelous Mushroom Man, AKA Roger Dawson, comes in to save the day. Dawson will meet the group of mushroom hunters early in the morning on both Friday and Saturday at the visitor center for a brief presentation before taking the group out to hunt mushrooms. The orientation walks guests through the characteristics of mushrooms like the King Boletes, a large mushroom that has the taste and texture that has been compared to that of a juicy steak.
Another mushroom that people in the region are always on the hunt for is the hard to find Chanterelle. This tasty mushroom is also known as the mushroom of summer. This succulent mushroom usually grows in highly vegetated areas of the forests. The Californian breed of this mushroom can grow to be two to three times the size of the Rocky Mountain species. Mushroom hunters must be careful to not over-collect this type of mushroom for the simple fact that it cannot be preserved well. Chanterelles are best used immediately, sautéed slowly with a light seasoning.
Dawson also takes the time to show participants how to collect mushrooms in a way that does not deplete the growth of future fungi which happens to be a great food source for local wildlife. Many animals in the area feed on the mushrooms and depend on the fungi as a natural food source, so it is very important to collect only what hunters plan to use, leaving just enough for deer, chipmunks and other small woodland creatures.
At the end of the day, hunters gather back at the visitor center to go through their finds and talk about recipes with Dawson. Dawson advises participants on the best way to prepare their mushrooms and supplies them with recipes to take home for future use. It is always beneficial to have a mushroom identification manual on hand to help with identifying fungi and if in doubt, ask before consuming.
Participants can sign up by calling the visitor center at 873-5512. Space is limited so call and reserve a spot today.