Spring Foraging In Mercer County & Appalachian-Inspired Recipes

Last updated: March 22, 2024

Spring brings new life to Mercer County, with colorful flowers blooming and the forest floor waking up. This season also reveals a unique feast for adventurous foodies: wild mushrooms.

Morel mushrooms, a prized delicacy, are a hallmark of spring in Appalachia. Finding them can be thrilling, and their earthy, nutty flavor adds depth to any dish. But the fun doesn’t stop there! Many other edible varieties, like lion’s mane, chicken-of-the-woods and chanterelles, flourish in our local forests. West Virginia is a haven for mushroom enthusiasts, boasting nearly 1,700 species documented by the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources.

The Thrill Of The Hunt 

While some may have their secret spots, the truth is, mushrooms can be found in various locations. They often favor areas near oaks, elms and ash trees, especially those that are decaying. As the season progresses, look for them deeper in the woods, along north-facing slopes or near streams with sandy soil.

Cultivating A Passion For Mushrooms

Mercer County is fortunate to have E.B. Fungi, a local business dedicated to all things mushrooms. Owned and operated by Joe Foye and Brenda Outsen, E.B. Fungi not only cultivates various mushroom varieties but also fosters a love for these fascinating fungi in the community.

A life-altering car accident led Joe on a new path toward healing. While seeking natural solutions for his recovery, he discovered the potential benefits of lion’s mane mushrooms. Unable to find them readily available, he embarked on a journey of learning to cultivate them himself. This newfound passion for mycology (the study of fungi) fueled the creation of E.B. Fungi, named after his hometown of East Bridgewater, Massachusetts.

Meanwhile, Brenda, a Mercer County native with a lifelong fascination for the beauty and diversity of mushrooms, found her own path to the world of fungi through foraging and, later, cultivation. Her passion led her to connect with Joe via a Facebook group dedicated to mushroom enthusiasts.

Today, their combined journeys have blossomed into a thriving business in Princeton. E.B. Fungi offers fresh mushrooms, related products and educational programs to the community and throughout the region. 

Appalachian Flavors With A Twist

Appalachian cuisine is known for its heartiness and resourcefulness. Brenda suggests incorporating mushrooms into these traditional dishes for a delicious and unique twist. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Fried Oyster Mushrooms Appalachian cuisine celebrates comfort food, and golden-fried oyster mushrooms offer a unique local twist on a classic.
  • Lion’s Mane “Crab Cakes” – This vegetarian alternative is sure to delight with a satisfying texture and taste – just don’t forget the Old Bay seasoning!
  • Pulled “Pork” Sandwich – Shredded king oyster mushrooms in barbecue sauce create a flavorful pulled “pork” sandwich.
  • Mushroom “Ribs” – Elevate your plate with the meaty texture of large stem “ribs,” ready to be coated in your favorite sauce.
  • Chicken-of-the-Woods and Dumplings – Experience a delightful spin on classic chicken and dumplings with tasty chicken-of-the-woods and puffball dumplings.

Tips For Responsible Foraging

The excitement of the hunt should never overshadow safety. Brenda emphasizes the crucial role of proper identification. Here are some of her top tips: 

  • When in doubt, throw it out. Never consume a mushroom you cannot confidently identify.
  • Invest in a good field guide and learn the key characteristics of edible varieties. 
  • Consult with experienced mycologists or reliable resources for confirmation.
  • Respect the environment. Take only what you need and leave no trace behind.

Embrace The Spirit Of Spring

Spring in Mercer County offers a wonderful opportunity to connect with nature, discover hidden treasures and create delicious meals with a regional twist. With E.B. Fungi as your guide, you can embark on this culinary adventure responsibly and safely. So, lace up your hiking boots, grab your basket and get ready to experience the magic of Appalachian mushrooms!

Check out E.B. Fungi’s Facebook page and Instagram for more recipe inspiration and information on workshops and events.