Winter Foraging 101: Foraging Wild Mushrooms

Wild mushrooms can be foraged during the winter in many places across the US. Some of the most common are tough, woody species like:

Turkey Tail (Trametes versicolor)

Reishi (Ganoderma sp)

Birch Polypore (Fomitopsis betulina)

Chaga (Inonotus obliquus)

These winter mushrooms usually finish their year’s growth in the fall and can be harvested all winter long.

Wild Turkey Tail mushrooms showcasing their classic vibrant colors after a recent rainfall.
chaga benefits
Beautiful Appalachian Chaga fungus just after harvest on the chopping block.
Birch polypore growing on a downed log.

Winter Mushroom Foraging: Wild Enoki

The wild form of Enoki (Flammulina velutipes) loves to grow in wet, damp winter weather – its wild form is quite different from the way it is encouraged to look in cultivation, so be sure you can identify it and tell it apart from potentially deadly look-alikes, like the toxic Galerina, that also fruit in the same places and at the same time of the year. This is a good mushroom to always spore print. 

Wild Enoki mushrooms looks much diffferent than their cultivated cousins. Always do a spore print when dealing with this species just to be safe.

Winter Oyster Mushroom

A less intimidating mushroom for those getting started in mushroom hunting is the delicious Winter Oyster (Pleurotus ostreatus). The winter oysters are often a little more brown or darker grey on top than their summer counterparts – even when the mushrooms come from the exact same mycelium but at different times of the year. Lots of people like the winter form of the oysters better because they tend to be a little more meaty and are less likely to have gnat larvae in them.

Wild Oyster Mushrooms Growing On A Log
Wild Oyster mushrooms grow on a downed log in the middle of winter.

Cold Weather Mushrooms

Pheasant Back (Cerioporus squamosus) mushrooms sometimes appear during late winter thaws and Elm Oysters (Hypsizygus ulmarius) sometimes fruit as well – something like an apple picking tool or a throwing stick might help you harvest these – which tend to grow beyond the reach of most typical foraging tools. 

Pheasant Back mushrooms have a watermelon-like taste and can even appear in early winter if it's warm enough.
An Elm oyster poking out of a hole in a tree.

More Winter Mushroom Foraging

You should also make a note of the location of any Chicken of the Woods (Laetiporus sulphureus) or Hen of the Woods (Grifola frondosa)  mushrooms you find in winter – although they will be long past their prime, and the chicken of the woods especially will most likely be faded to chalky white, there is a very good chance there will be mushrooms again in the same spot next season.

Last, but certainly not least, is the Lion’s Mane (Hericium erinaceus) mushroom. This mushroom enjoys cooler weather and is sometimes seen during warm, wet spells in mid-winter. It is an excellent choice edible and sometimes can be a big haul!

A frozen, snow-covered Lion's mane fruiting.

Check out the rest of our Winter Foraging series!

Winter Foraging 101: Intro to Foraging in Winter

The ultimate guide to gathering in the cold.

Winter Foraging 101: Foraging Wild Greens

From Chickweed to wild onions and everything in between. Get to know your cold-loving greens.

Winter Foraging 101: Foraging Wild Berries

What winter berries lack in plentitude, they make up for with the impressive quantities of vitamins and minerals they provide.

Winter Foraging 101: Foraging Wild Treats from the Trees

Although most fruit and nut seasons are over by winter, there are a few deliciously notable exceptions.

Winter Foraging 101: Foraging Wild Roots, Shoots & Tubers

Wild greens aren’t the only thing to forage in the winter. There are lots of sources of starch and carbohydrates to be foraged as well.

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