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Spore to Spoon: Mushrooms in Oregon

Pete Springer/OPB

In the 1990s, a pound of matsutake mushrooms harvested in Oregon fetched hundreds of dollars on the international market. This season, a pound of top-quality matsutakes went for as little as a dollar or two. As increased availability and a bountiful harvest have driven prices down, how has the mushroom industry in Oregon changed?

Vitaley Paley, owner and Executive Chef of Paley’s Place Restaurant in Portland, and Eric Bechard, owner and chef at Thistle Restaurant in McMinnville, have benefited from the fall in prices. They include mushrooms in many of their dishes, like one including big porcini mushrooms grilled whole with fried onions and sauce. It’s a completely vegan dish, but according to Paley, “it feels like you’re eating a hunk of meat.”

On this show we’ll also speak with Bruce Newhouse, the co-founder of the Cascade Mycological Society. He started the Mt. Pisgah Arboretum Mushroom Festival, which showcases one of the largest collections of mushrooms on the West Coast. His favorite part about mushrooms?

Their invisibility. They’re in bread and beer and wine. We’re spectators just scratching the surface.

They’re even in fancy desserts! Have you ever gone mushroom hunting? What was your experience like? What did you find? (If you want to try your luck without actually leaving your computer, check out this online forest products search from OPB’s Oregon Story.) Do you have a favorite mushroom recipe? Care to share?

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