Beige mushrooms pop out of the earth like buttons on a fat man’s vest. Nearby, wild onions and sheep sorrel form a wilting boutonniere. On an autumn nature walk with friends, with crackly leaves underfoot, delectable vegetation is everywhere—if you look for it.
A growing number of foodies go to local woods and waters, instead of the grocer, for mushrooms, ramps, seafood, berries and herbs. Hitting the trailhead has become de rigueur for restaurateurs and recreational cooks. Like a scavenger hunt for foodstuffs, foraging resembles an outdoor game—and is the perfect way to prep for a Thanksgiving meal with friends.
We took a group of Nordstrom employees out to forage (and for a photo shoot) in the Washington woods. Dressed in Treasure&Bond clothing, our crew hunted for items to include in a homemade meal. We also spoke to foraging experts and enthusiasts to learn where to go and how to score big in the Puget Sound.
Our menu included chanterelle, oyster and maitake mushrooms, all wild and forageable in the Pacific Northwest. Onions, herbs and wildflowers were also on our wish list. Mushrooms are the most popular edible to scout for and, of course, make a tasty autumn side dish. Kylen McCarthy, a former Seattle resident and a current chef at New York’s Il Buco Alimentari e Vineria, has experience uncovering buttons on both coasts. They are his favorite foraged ingredient to cook (he recommends adding juniper berries for an earthy, elegant fragrance). “The fall [foraging] season in the Northwest is comprised of mushroom predominantly, matsutakes from Oregon and a small window for porcini and black trumpets,” he says. “The East Coast follows a similar pattern with the end of summer transitioning into a mushroom-dominant fall.” For McCarthy the pleasure in foraging comes in how it relates us to the environment. “Although I’m an avid supporter of any foraged mushroom or wild edible, I think the enjoyment is found in understanding the ecology of your environment and allowing those influences to translate a particular place in time,” he says.