Make sense of wild mushrooms, Vail Valley |

Make sense of wild mushrooms, Vail Valley

Vail Daily staff report
Vail, CO Colorado
Vail Daily File Photo/Dominique TaylorFraidy Aber, center left, the former Vail Symposium director, helps chef Jay McCarthy identify mushrooms during last year's Vail Symposium mushroom foray on Tennessee Pass.

VAIL, Colorado –Last year Vail Valley, Colorado chef Jay McCarthy spent an afternoon foraging for mushrooms on Tennessee Pass with a small group of people.

The annual mushroom foray hosted by the Vail Symposium gave McCarthy a chance to learn what types of mushrooms in Colorado were OK to eat and which ones to avoid. Being a food guy himself, he has since gone foraging for mushrooms on his own in the Vail Valley and even used his newfound knowledge of mushrooms to add some flavor to the dishes he prepares at home.

“That was so fun man,” said McCarthy, general manager and chef for the Beaver Creek Chophouse, of the mushroom foray.

“The group that the Symposium put together … it was a whole lot of new faces and interesting people and that was as much fun as the mushroom hunting.”

McCarthy said that it was just as much of a social event as an educational event. He also learned the best places to look for mushrooms during the different times of year and how mushrooms play an integral role in Colorado’s ecosystem.

The Vail Symposium is bringing back mushroom expert and foray leader Bill Windsor and is offering two days of hunting – Thursday and Friday – for this popular event.

“As a part of our month long celebration of Colorado, experiencing the outdoors through its natural food resources is important to understand,” said Carrie Marsh, executive director of the Vail Symposium.

Besides specific environments in which to find mushrooms, Windsor said he will cover what to look for in a mushroom and how to use them in a recipe.

“I will be showing core identification features so that you know that you’re getting the right mushrooms and not picking the wrong mushrooms,” Windsor said.

Why not just buy your mushrooms from the store? It’s certainly easier than hunting them down yourself. The answer to that question is easy to Windsor.

Mushrooms degrade very quickly in taste and texture, Windsor said, and shipping time to supermarkets is often seven to 14 days.

He said nothing can replace “the deliciousness of wild mushrooms when they’re picked fresh and prepared right for the dinner table. You’re never going to get the same quality that you would get out on your own hunt.”

When: Thursday or Friday, 12 to 5 p.m.

Where: Meet at the Vail Transportation Center on Thursday. Friday the foray meets at the Meadow Mountain Ranger Station in Minturn.

Cost: $30, includes lunch.

More information: Call 970-476-0954 or

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