WALDPORT — Nina Beckert grew up in Gelsenkirchen, an industrial area of Germany. She and her father would travel to the woods where they foraged for mushrooms.
“My dad taught me,” she said of learning to identify safe, edible mushrooms. “My greatest childhood memories are with my dad in the woods.”
When Beckert and her husband purchased their home east of Waldport, seven miles “upriver” as locals say, she was excited to find familiar mushrooms growing in their woods.
“It totally makes sense to forage for food which is free,” said Beckert, as she pointed out chanterelle mushrooms growing out of the needles on the ground in the shade.
Beckert wants to help others learn to safely forage for mushrooms, calling it an endless food source.
“They freeze great. I dehydrate them. I make soup. I barter with them,” Beckert said of the mushrooms she and her husband, Oliver, gather. “I started to make tea out of the turkey tails.”
Some, like reishi mushrooms, are believed to have health benefits, Beckert explained.
Waldport librarian Sue Bennett reached out to Beckert to offer “Mushroom Hunting 101,” a class offering basic information to get people out taking advantage of the abundant mushrooms this season.
“The response was overwhelming,” said Bennett of the class that was held at the Waldport Library on Monday evening.
Beckert presented information about safe foraging as well as how to clean and prepare gathered mushrooms. She also provided attendees a taste of her mushroom chowder.
Beckert “is very knowledgable,” said Bennett. “It’s a perfect time of year for a program like this.”
With both lobster and chanterelle mushrooms plentiful and the Siuslaw National Forest easily accessible, foragers can find mushrooms from June into the first part of November, said Beckert.
Randi Stevens also harvests mushrooms from her Tidewater property. A fiber artist, Stevens uses them to dye wool.
Stevens explained that she uses dyers polypore and lobster mushrooms to get colors ranging from yellow to green, brown and grey, depending on the mordant, or dye fixative, she uses.
Foragers can gather up to a gallon of mushrooms in the Siuslaw National Forest daily. Beckert urges people to use caution when foraging in the woods. Attendees of “Mushroom Hunting 101” were gifted a whistle to take on their foraging adventures, useful if encountering wildlife or to notify others.
Those wanting to explore more about mushrooms can attend the 20th annual Yachats Village Mushroom Fest on Oct. 18-20.
Beckert can be found at her food cart, Wernersquared, at the Newport Farmers Market on Saturdays.