A Beginner’s Guide to Mushroom Hunting
With their delicious flavors, satisfying textures and the many health benefits of mushrooms, they are becoming more and more popular in many people’s culinary pallets. With the food’s increasing popularity, mushroom hunting has been on the upswing in the last decade. As the weather warms up and the mushroom bodies start poking up, foraging is about to be in full swing. If you are thinking about mushroom hunting for the first time this year, we gathered a few basic tips to ensure you make your experience top notch.
Many mushrooms can be a delicious addition to many recipes. Many of the gourmet mushroom cultures sold at Premium Spores can be grown at home and are jam-packed with vitamins and nutrients, boosting the immune system and increasing your energy. It is important to remember that not all mushrooms are safe to consume and many can cause many health problems. Mushroom identification is truly a life or death situation and should be taken very seriously. Mushrooms are Extensive research into the mushrooms you discover and forge in the woods is very important before consumption. There are many books, online research journals, and guidebooks that specifically pertain to your region and you may even be able to find a local mycological society to consult with before eating your finds. The Complete Mushroom Hunter book by Gary Lincoff is an excellent resource for beginners.
Approximately only 4% of mushrooms are thought to be edible and flavorful and about 20% of mushrooms are considered edible but lacking in flavor. A large portion of mushrooms are thought to be inedible but seemingly harmless, meaning they are too hard to chew/ingest in the first place. About 20% of these mushrooms can lead to gastrointestinal and other issues in the body, causing illness, leaving approximately 1% of mushrooms to be deadly to the consumer. Some mushrooms, like the increasingly popular morels, are delicious finds but nature has a deceptive look alike. Do not consume a mushroom discovered in the wild, unless you are 100% confident that you are eating the right thing!
Limiting Your Risk of Consuming Contaminated Mushrooms
Mushrooms are the fruiting body of a complex system of mycelium under the soil/in the trees that we cannot see. This system continues to expand and when the temperatures and environment are just right, the mushroom will make its appearance. When growing, they are not sentient beings and do not know the dangers that await them at the surface. They do not worry about car travel or the things people spray to kill insects. When foraging for mushrooms, you may be surprised about where you can find them but you want to be careful where you are picking them from. If they are close to a well traveled road, you may want to leave these mushrooms be. While driving, vehicles let off toxic exhaust fumes and these fumes can be trapped in the soil, the lifesource of the mushroom or the mushroom itself can be coated in these toxic chemicals.
Not only do we recommend avoiding most roadside foraging, we recommend avoiding hunting in areas that were recently sprayed with chemicals such as pesticides and herbicides. A lot of produce nowadays is treated with these to ensure they will be grown with a higher yield, however, you should try to avoid consuming these chemicals. It may be difficult to know if the ground you are foraging has been treated with these things but keep your eye out and make sure you thoroughly clean every piece of food you forage.
Places to Forage for Mushrooms
Mushroom hunting/foraging mushrooms calls for outdoor adventure and immersing yourself in the natural environment. Many mushroom hunters have created Facebook groups for their respective US state and group members provide precise locations where they found wild mushrooms and they are shown on a map, much like the one above. The mushrooms you are seeking are most likely in secluded wooded areas and in meadows. Taking an adventure off the commonly trekked trails gives you the greatest chance of finding those delicious delicacies. If you’re planning on starting your wondrous adventure in the park down the street or a wooded area hours away from you, do your due diligence and make sure you are allowed to be there and do what you’re doing. You do not want to stumble onto someone’s private property, as this is trespassing and can turn from a day of foraging to a criminal charge or even a dangerous situation. Even if you find a glorious patch of black morels mushrooms or a beautiful pearl oyster growing from a tree, this is someone else’s property, this is someone else’s bounty.
Another thing to be conscious about is the restricted areas within the public parks you are wondering through. Sometimes, you have a feeling you can find some tasty mushrooms in one area of a park. Make sure you are allowed to be in this area. Conservation areas that are being protected, should not be disturbed. If you are not allowed to walk through this area, there is a reason and you should be respectful of the park’s conservation efforts, allowing the wooded areas to naturally change, grow and do what it needs to do to be a healthy natural habitat.
You and Your Fellow Mushroom Hunter
We consistently want and seek more, it’s just a human instinct. If you are hunting for personal use, try to get out of the mindset that more is better. Be honest and make sure you take only what you can and will use. There may be other hunters in your area and there is most likely enough to go around. Having a batch of rotting mushrooms in your fridge helps no one. A giant foraging bounty is a perfect Instagram image or may just feel like an awesome victory but please try not to take more than you can chew.
Mushroom hunting can be an amazing activity for all ages but it comes with some cautions. Make sure you truly know what you’re eating, be conscious of where you’re finding these little guys and overall have fun with it. As mushroom hunting season is coming in hot, we hope you have a wonderful time adventuring the wilderness, have the greatest luck while searching for your treasure and stay safe out there!