​Foraging 101: Local Food in Flagstaff and Mormon Lake

Here at Mormon Lake Lodge, we’re known for tasty grilled meats. Locals and visitors from across the globe flock to our steakhouse and saloon for the kind of stick-to-your ribs country fare that can sustain a cowboy on a 31-mile trek through the Coconino National Forest up into Flagstaff. Local ranches have left their mark at Mormon Lake Lodge, where brands from local cattle and dude ranches have been burned into our log pillars for future generations to enjoy.

Early pioneers, like those who first arrived at Mormon Lake in the 1870s, were known for their ability to find wild foods. They foraged for mushrooms and dark-purple currants found in the higher elevation climes of Northern Arizona. Many of the ingredients that indigenous tribes and settlers foraged for in the damp forests surrounding Flagstaff can still be found there today.

Wild Morsels at Mormon Lake

At an elevation of approximately 7,000 feet, the area around Mormon Lake Lodge is a great habitat for many eatable native plants. Wild mustard, for example, grows annually throughout many forested areas in Arizona. Dandelions are also safe to consume; the entire plant including yellow petals, stem and greens is edible. Tip: You should always have a guide handy when foraging for wild plants. Toxic plants can easily be mistaken for safe ones, especially when it comes to berries and mushrooms.

Foraging in Flagstaff

High elevation combines with regular rains to create the perfect environment for morels and other edible fungi. According to the Arizona Mushroom Forum, “Successful fungal collecting in Arizona takes place almost entirely in the higher mountainous areas of the state, in the wet summer monsoon months of July, August, and September. In late April and early May after a wet winter, there may also be some worthwhile morel hunting in the mountains.” Conifer trees near Flagstaff take vitamins and water from mushrooms, while the mushrooms enjoy the shade created by their evergreen neighbors.

Safety First

Unfortunately, it can be tough to tell a harmless mushroom from a poisonous one. That’s why many locals leave the foraging to professionals like husband-and-wife chef team Brian Konefal and Paola Fioravanti. The pair hunt seasonally for native fruits, berries, and mushrooms to incorporate in dishes at their petite European bistro, Coppa Café. Mushroom varieties including aspen boletes, slippery jacks, and oysters have landed on the menu, and Brian has occasionally hosted foraging trips in the nearby pine forests. The café is located less than 40 minutes from Mormon Lake Lodge, making it an ideal stop for happy hour or weekend brunch.

With 300 acres of high country forest, Mormon Lake Lodge and the surrounding Coconino National Forest is home to some amazing plant species including several wild edibles. While expert foragers may want to go exploring in the woods, especially during our wet season, it’s always a safer bet to enjoy wild mushrooms here at our steakhouse or in nearby Flagstaff. Contact us today to start your Northern Arizona vacation at Mormon Lake Lodge.

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