Chef Karl Holl developed a love for foraging wild foods during his years at Napa, California’s Martini House, which was famed for its Mushroom Tasting Menu. That passion has followed him to the Pacific Northwest, where Karl and his brother Alex collaborate as Spatzle & Speck, a one-stop farm-to-feast catering business outside of Portland, Oregon.
“Alex spends a lot of time on the farm and I spend a lot of time in the kitchen,” Karl says. “For events, we come together and share our story and our perspective on cooking, farming and foraging, and connecting them all together in terms of what Oregon has to offer.” You can sample their farm-and forage-inspired menu, with staples like their 100 layer lasagna featuring wild Pacific Northwest mushrooms, at Park Avenue Wines in SW Portland.
We asked Karl for his advice for getting you into the forest and doing some foraging of your own. When he heads out into the woods, Karl carries his trusty Opinel mushroom knife. Designed to make foraging simple without a bunch of extra gear, the knife combines a curved harvesting knife, a serrated cleaning surface and a boar bristle brush into one compact package.
How do I know where to go to find mushrooms?
A lot of it is spending a lot of time in the woods. If you’re not out there you’re not going to find them! It has a lot to do with elevation, a lot to do with temperature, moisture is very key. Years of experience and education are key, you really have to do it. Don’t get discouraged when you don’t find anything. I’ve had many days of not finding any mushrooms, and those are good days for learning. Some days I don’t pick baskets and baskets but I find lots of variety and some great quality.
What should I bring with me?
I bring a wicker basket, and an extra pair of socks, which is very important. I always bring a little pack of rain gear, and I always bring water and snacks. And I always bring an Opinel mushroom knife.
It’s the only knife I’ve ever used. The curved blade is awesome for harvesting and cleaning as you go. That it’s able to lock is really great, and the brush definitely comes in useful when you’re taking your time and cleaning the mushrooms as you go. A friend carries a knife plus a little paintbrush, but this is two-in-one! Plus it’s a pocket knife as well, and it travels well.
What are the best practices for harvesting mushrooms?
The most important thing is to educate yourself. And having respect for the land is also very important. Cover up the earth the way you found it minus the mushroom you’re harvesting. You want to make it so you’re not disturbing what’s there.
When you find a mushroom take some time to stop, look, scope the land, are there other mushrooms in sight? I try looking uphill, you can see the little tufts in the ground where mushrooms come from. It’s important to take time and be diligent and clean the mushrooms as you’re going.
Only take what you can consume. There are laws in some places, for example, here you’re only allowed to take up to 2 gallons per day. Also, check with the ranger stations, you may need a personal consumption permit.
What resources do you recommend for identification?
There are really great books. Mushrooms Demystified [by Davis Arora] is a really great book, it tells you areas, times of year, where they grow best, a whole breakdown. Be confident in identifying! If you don’t know what it is you definitely shouldn’t eat it!
Once I have a basket of clean mushrooms and I’m confident I know what they are, how should I cook them up?
My favorite thing to do is a simple pasta. Pappardelle noodles with roasted mushrooms, with garlic and thyme and a little bit of butter and parmesan. I also do a lot of preserving of mushrooms. I do a lot pickling and drying. I love dried porcini, dried morels. When you have an abundant haul drying is always good. And I love making mushroom soup. I’m making soup today, actually, with chanterelles, for a winery dinner.
Where can I get that?!
We have a kitchen at Park Avenue Wines in the SW part of downtown Portland, Oregon. It was a huge restaurant called Brasserie Montmartre, and it’s recently become a wine shop and wine bar, and about a year ago we moved in there to the huge two-story kitchen as our commissary kitchen. Five days a week, Tuesday through Saturday, Park Avenue Wine Bar is in front and Spatzle & Speck is serving our farm-inspired dishes. Our cuisine is very driven by our farming and foraging.
For more Opinel Mushroom Foraging fun, check out the video Rachel Zoller put together where she talks about our coveted mushroom knives!
Comments will be approved before showing up.