Matsutake Booklet Contents
A GUIDE FOR
FINDING & PICKING
are the fruit of a living organism called mycelium. Mycelium is a fungus
which attaches to a trees roots. Tree and fungus form a partnership,
beneficial to both, known as a symbiotic relationship. The mycelium
provides the tree with water and nutrients. Trees provide food for the
Harvesting mushrooms is much like picking an apple. The fruit is removed
but the organism remains to fruit again.
Environmental conditions which determine why the mycelium is present are
unknown. Preliminary investigations indicate soil decomposition as a
part of ecosystem function. The mycelium moves through the soil changing
soil composition and unlocking nutrients. Progression through soils
varies greatly depending on a variety of conditions: Host age, soil
type, moisture, litter depth, competing mycelium, and canopy closure are
a few. Movement may be noted by observing fruit positioning. Fruit
production occurs in the active area, or leading edge, of the mycelium.
Fruit has been noted to remained stationary or advanced 1 to 5
centimeters per year. Some advancement is noted in most cases.
HUNTING MATSUTAKE MUSHROOM
|Hunting is the on site
observations that lead to mushrooms. In most years fruiting is confined
to micro environments, small areas with good production
conditions, that year. Knowing the habits of fruiting conserves time,
energy, and makes a successful hunter.
|This term refers to types
of trees, litter layer, ground cover, and canopy closure. Matsutake mycelia
habitat can vary greatly. Old growth forests to open Manzanita
flats. Habitat is limited, to some extent, by tree association, a few
conifer and evergreen hardwoods.
|Shasta Red Fir
||Abies magnifica shastenis
|Allotropa, common name
candy cane, is a saprophyte which indicates matsutake mycelia. It feeds
on the mycelia, taking the nutrients it needs. The mycelia must be
present if the "plant" is. Allotropa has been noted with all
host trees wherever Matsutake grows in the Pacific Northwest.
It is rare to find mushrooms among allotropa. Fruiting area associated
is within 5 to 15 Ft.
Allotropa growth begins in early spring as temperatures warm. Young
allotropa resembles asparagus with no color, or a pink tint.
The maturing plant is red and white striped. This stage is reached in
mid June to early September. A mature plant has tiny white flowers with
a red center. Height is 3 inches to 3 feet.
The bright color and size allow them to be detected at a distance.
However, it is common to find only stalks due to animal browsing.
Dead allotrope is dark brown. It may stand in place for up to 3 years.
Winter rains beat them down making them difficult to see at times.
Dead or alive they indicate matsutake.
Allotropa can also introduce new harvesters to the smell of matsutake.
Directly under allotropa is matsutake mycelia. It will be white or have
a bluish tint. Remove a small portion and smell. The smell may
vary slightly depending on moisture and time of year. The mushroom body
is composed of the same material as the mycelia. Thus the same smell.
Gills are the only specialized portion.
|A variety of mushrooms
spring up before, after, and during matsutake.
|These mushrooms are generally called
indicators. They indicate something about matsutake. It's too early,
late, or matsutake likely fruiting nearby.
|Many other fall mushrooms are certainly
formed and triggered (begin to grow fruit) by temperature. There is
little or no information of individual mushrooms needs.
Yellow and White Chanterelle are almost always before matsutake.
Occasionally they may start together. The reason being, trigger
temperature. Just as a low temperature can trigger a large area of
matsutake, the trigger temperature of one or many varieties of mushrooms
may be reached.
A variety of red russula marks the end of the season. Only a minimum of
fresh fruiting will occur in that area. A much lower elevation, sunnier
situation or aspect may be well before peak.
Yellow corral is most commonly found near matsutake. The trigger for
yellow corral is just a little above matsutake. Formation requirements
are likely different. There can be corral and no matsutake, matsutake
and no corral. Commercial harvesters use yellow corral more than any
other fungi to guide them to mushrooms. If you find this corral and no
matsutake, look to the darker side of corral fruiting.
It's not only the type of mushrooms you see, age is also an indicator.
Note the age and type of any mushroom you see. Matsutake may be found
with an observed variety and age mushroom.
It is impossible to say what type of indicator you will find. Every area
has its own fungi system. Each year could be different. Examine the
clues nature provides you that year.
|A variety of animals harvest and eat
matsutake. During the process, there is a varying degree of disturbance
to the forest floor.
|Wood rats eat them in place or harvest
them. Their nests, mounds of sticks, are easily seen from a distance.
Watch for signs of digging. You may see bits of mushroom nearby.
|Deer are the superior hunters of
matsutake in the forest. Usually the first to find fresh fruit, which
they prefer. They paw the ground and kick them out.
|Watch for their trails and
disturbance nearby. Trails that are well traveled usually lead
to fruiting areas.
|Human usually disturb the
otherwise natural look to the litter layer. In most cases these
areas yield small amounts. However, it is a good idea to note
these areas for future years.
|This section refers to shading
trees create. In all habitats areas are shaded or not shaded due
to nearby trees. These areas are known as edges. Timber cuts are
an example of an edge. The sun is able to shine into the habitat
a short distance. Edges that receive most sun will fruit last.
They are last to cool. Edges that are shaded from afternoon sun,
fruit first. If you find this type pattern, look for openings in
the tree tops. Openings in the canopy create edges. Roads can
also create edges. Often producing 1 to 6 feet inside a road
edge. Edge fruiting is the most reliable.
|Ridge tops create the best
geographical temperature edges. Reliable fruiting usually occurs
slightly to the cooler, or warmer side of the top, somewhere
along the ridge. Smaller ridges, from a main ridge, can also be
reliable. Similar situations are created by a pocket or bowl.
|A wide variety of vegetation
can be found in matsutake fruiting areas. There is no evidence
of any influence other than thermal.
|Under story vegetation such as
huckleberry and rhododendron create shading. In most cases
shading inhibits soil warming, requiring extended formation
Many varieties of ground cover may also be found. Salal, ferns,
and moss are a few. The same thermal considerations apply.
|The forest floor
is covered by a layer of organic matter, known as litter. Under
this layer, where soil meets litter, or 1 to 2 inches into
soils, is where mushrooms begin to grow. Liter layers retain
moisture and provides a humid environment for fruit growth.
Areas with 1 to 3 inches of litter are most reliable. Litter
also insulates, limiting soil warming. Layers over 3 inches
seldom receive the warmth needed for formation.
NEEDLE CAST LAYER
In soils such as pumice, needles and soils mix
together forming this layer. Fruit formation is from 1 to 6 inches
from the surface.
|As the mushroom grows, it pushes up
the soil and litter cover, creating raised areas or bumps. Bumps
usually indicate an older mushroom. Study each foot of ground around
the bump. Get down on hands and knees and feel the ground. Push down
on the litter with your hands. You will be able to feel other
mushrooms. Don't worry about missing some, you will feel them before
they are large enough to pick. It's better not to disturb the young
ones. Return in a few days for a second picking.
|Needle cast layers are generally tightly packed and
crusted leaving little room for mushroom expansion. Young mushrooms
can be detected by a slight rise, and a crack in the layer. These
cracks resemble dry weather cracks. Poke your finger into the crack an
feel for a mushroom top. Mushrooms will feel cool and moist. Size can
also be determined in this manor. Cracks may contain 1 or run for
several feet and contain 60.
|Proper harvest methods are essential
to achieve full production potential. Production decreases as
When you find a mushroom, remove litter and soil covering only the
cap. Place your hand around the cap and wiggle it in a circular or
side to side motion, DO NOT TWIST. Almost all can be harvested using
mushrooms are tightly clustered and only 1 is mature enough to
harvest. Care should be taken to limit damage to immature to remain.
Place your fingers on top of the immature, press down. Gently remove
mature. This leaves young mushrooms undamaged, insuring another
Replace all soils and litter to its natural look.
USING A TOOL
|Some situations may
require a tool for harvest. Deep fruiting in tight soils leave little
room for rotating, using hand method. A tool is needed. Uncover the
mushroom as described in the previous section. Insert the tool, weed
poppers are best, along the stalk to a depth just below its bottom,
wiggle in a circular motion, as you pry up. Be sure to replace
soils and litter.
USE TOOLS ONLY WHEN HAND METHOD FAILS. NEVER USE TOOLS OVER 1
|Hold the mushroom by
the stem, cap up. Gently tap the top with your hand. Brush the cap and
stem with a piece of bed foam. Remove needles, leaves, and soil from
both. Do not clean veil.
|Worms, fly larvae, is
the most common infestation found. To find worms, squeeze the stem. If
you feel soft spots that run up and down, it probably has worms.
Hoppers is another infestation. Examine the gill area for tiny red
hopping insects. Infested mushrooms have a minimum or no commercial
|The best container is
a plastic bucket. Drill holes in side and bottom to allow air
circulation, and put a lid on.
Stack the mushrooms in the bucket, gills down. The gill area is the
focus of commercial value. Take precautions to protect it. Pack the
bucket as tight as possible. Never leave mushrooms in the sun. Always
set your container in the shade. Warmth matures mushrooms even after
the are harvested.
|Cool storage is
important during warm periods. Place 2 to 3 inches of ice in an ice
chest. Insert a basket and mushrooms. Cover with a damp cloth and
close the lid.
|#1 - No hole in the
veil. Minimum length, some areas 2 inch some 21/2 in length.
|#2 - 50% of the
veil attached to cap.
#3 - Any portion
|#4 - No veil
attached, heavy curl to the cap.
|#5 - Slight curl, or flat cap.
#6 - Cap curled up. (Fully Mature)
are down graded according to severity of damage.
WHERE TO START
|In good formation
years, fruiting begins in the areas that cool first. Commercial
harvesters refer to them as early season patches. As cooling
continues, warmer situations begin to fruit.
Map 1 indicates
Map 2 Middle
Map 3 Late season areas.
|These maps indicate general
cooling patterns. Areas that are shaded by geological features
receive less sun, and cooling begins. The size of the area
effected depends on the depth and length of cooling.
Fruiting may be limited to a small portion of one of these
|No mushroom may be harvested,
if it is not first formed. Biological needs are elusive. They
are certainly important, but seem to be sufficient every year.
Water has little or no effect during this stage.
Daily temperature average is the most critical.
Formation begins in the fall when soil temperatures fall below
58-60 degrees F. Mushroom formation begins as temperatures
rise 5 -12 degrees. This type of warming is known as a heat
bubble. Not enough or to much rise severely limits or stops
formation. It is typical in hardwoods to have too little rise.
Continuous cooling with only slight warming, forms no
mushrooms. Eventually soils cool beyond formation limits and
will produce no mushrooms that year. As little as three days
of proper temperatures is enough to form commercial amounts.
Formation patterns have been recorded up to 30 days.
There are 3 patterns for formation cooling. The short 3 to 5
day cycle, 3 to 5 day repeats, each cycle cooling further. The
third pattern produces the bumper and banner year crops.
Extended warming 5 -12 degrees, 2 - 3 weeks. On site
temperatures are not necessary. Temperatures from a town
nearby or local USFS will do. Many harvesters develop a feel
for good formation period.
TRIGGER TO FRUIT
|This is the stage the mycelia
begins to develop formed fruit. The term commonly used by
commercial harvesters is flush.
A temperature lower than the previous formation low, triggers
a flush. Flushes can vary in intensity depending on how much
lower a trigger low is, and the amount of fruit formed. 1
degree drops may trigger only a few. Where as a 3 degree drop
triggers all that are formed. Continuous drops or insufficient
warming, interrupts the process, formed mushrooms deteriorate. All
information available indicates 46 degree, soil temperature at
mycelia depth, as trigger.
Growth is the
final stage of production. Temperature and water both play a role at
this point. Water, moisture, and humidity (best of all) enhances
Temperature changes determine the rate of growth. Formed mushrooms
that are triggered will grow slowly, or not at all, if proper
changes do not occur. A general warming and daily variation between
hi an low air temperature is the key. 20 to 30 degree variations
between hi and low are best.
TIPS FOR GETTING STARTED
|Getting ready for a matsi season
can be simple or complicated, depending on experience and sincerity
of an individual. One element all have in common is the need to know
where matsutake grows. We are fortunate, in the Pacific Northwest,
to have Allotropa to indicate where matsutake mycelia is located.
|Allotropa, without a doubt, is the
best year round hunting tool harvesters have available. This plant
provides harvesters a means to detect matsutake any time,
except when the ground is covered with snow. Spring and summer walks
in suspect areas could be extremely rewarding. Try to locate
areas at a variety of elevations and aspects. Most years have a
defined production area. Mushrooms are only produced at certain
elevations and aspects. Knowing areas high, low, sunny, and dark,
gives you better odds mushrooms will emerge in an area you scouted.
Take the time to find areas before harvest begins, not when you
should be harvesting.
Allotropa can also be useful during harvest. Their dead bodies can
be seen most any time. While harvesting, examine areas near them.
There may be no mushrooms, but at least you know you are looking in
an area that will produce if conditions are right.
|The importance of forecasting has
not been fully realized by the "Matsutake World".
Partially due to an inability to understand, but mostly disbelief.
Forecasting fruiting conditions includes knowing when and where it
will start, how fast will they grow, and how much can be expect. All
categories of forecasting are not necessary to become a successful
|To start, mushrooms must
form. Formation falls under the category, "How
Much", and isn't information needed to know when, but if
there will be any. Formation begins with the first cooling in
the fall. The second cooling is when mushrooms can begin
to grow. Basic rule to start looking, Two cold spells,
or frosts. This rule
can be followed in most cases. Variations are attributed to
fruit growth category.
|Where can be more difficult
to determine. Knowing exactly where requires extensive
knowledge of the area in question. Getting a general
idea is less difficult. Depth of original formation cooling is
the key. Basic rule, The
deeper the cooling, the sunnier the aspect, and the lower the
elevation. Example: One year
you harvested on the north side, at a high elevation. You
found, or remember that the first cooling wasn't that deep.
Another year the cooling was much deeper, and you found
mushrooms in sunnier aspects and lower elevations. Similar
cooling will produce in the same places.
If you don't have this information, all is not lost. A visit
to your allotropa areas is necessary. Start looking in the
coolest spots. Look within a few feet, 5 to 15, of allotrope
sightings. If you find none, don't give up. Move to areas a
little sunnier. Still none, change elevation. After you locate
fruiting, note where fruiting is occurring. Elevation, sun
exposure, aspect, and mushroom age are the keys. Age of
mushrooms is immediately useful. Whatever age you find
indicates older mushrooms in cooler places, and younger in
sunnier. Basic rule, If you are finding older mushrooms,
move toward the sun to find younger. If you are finding
immature, move toward cooler spots. This
rule can be followed in most cases. Variations are attributed
to fruit growth category, "How Fast". You may
find younger mushrooms in cooler spots simply because they are
not growing as fast. This is not the usual, but does happen.
Use the knowledge acquired on this scout to find more areas.
On your next stop, look for a similar situation. Most
harvesters go into the forest looking at the ground. Look at
the canopy and the exposure. Let them guide you to the same
conditions where you have found fruiting that year. Then start
looking for mushrooms.
|Growth rate depends on
temperature changes. A general warming is needed with a
variation in daily high and low temps. Extreme warming
can slow growth, dry out, or burn mushrooms.
Plan harvest schedules using this rule. Sunnier areas
will require more frequent visits than cooler.
|Forecasting how much
will be produced is the most difficult for most. There
are many variables which influence final out come.
Formation period is also temperature effected. Moisture
is not necessary to form mushrooms. Many cases of bumper
crop years, without rainfall, are a matter of record.
The period between first cooling and second, is the
formation period. Basic rule, The longer the period
between first cooling and second, with warming of 5 - 12
degree average daily air temp, the more productive the
Elements which inhibit formation are limited
warming, too much warming and extended cooling. More
than one formation period may exist in a given year.
Continued cooling enables more area, sunny aspects and
lower elevations, to begin formation. A warming after
several cooling events, each a little cooler than the
previous, could form mushrooms.
and Washington require permits for special forest
products. Permits are available at most USFS and BLM
local offices. A permit from property owner, is
necessary on private lands.
Always use good picking habits. Poor picking reduces
mushrooms produced, and may give others the final clue
needed to find mushrooms.
PO Box 1141
Cave Junction OR. 97523