Hunting wild mushrooms is an exciting and enthralling hobby. It’s a great “excuse” for getting out in the woods, hiking, and walking, as you never know what treasure is out there waiting to be discovered. Foraging mushrooms is a pastime anyone can partake in; all you need is a willingness to learn and a sense of adventure.
Top 6 Tips For New Mushroom Foragers
- Exercise caution: Don’t ever, ever eat anything without crystal clear identification. Many mushrooms have dangerous look-a-likes, and taking chances is not beneficial for anyone.
- Start slow: You don’t need to know everything at once. Take your time; learn a few new edibles (or non-edibles) each year and focus on finding and correctly identifying them. Embrace the learning process; expertise takes time.
- Make some foraging friends: One of the best, most worthwhile ways to learn about mushroom foraging is to join a foray. Local foraging groups exist across the country, and there are tons of formal and informal gatherings. These are the people who will know the best edibles in your area and how to find them.
The North American Mycological Association is a great place to start.
- Learn basic identification skills: Get some mushroom identification books. There are thousands of mushrooms out there, and they don’t all have caps and gills like the common button mushroom. You’ll need to learn the difference between types and how to verify your finds.
- Tread lightly: The earth is a precious place, and mushrooms are a valuable asset. Fungi will not come back if we destroy their habitat. Only pick what you will use, and never disturb the surrounding environment.
- Be patient: Be patient with yourself, the mushrooms, and the forest. You’re not going to walk out into the woods and come back with bucketfuls of mushrooms every time. Some days you’ll hike for hours and find nothing. Other days, you go out in the woods for 5 minutes and find a treasure trove. That’s part of the adventure.
Three Easy Mushrooms For New Foragers
These three are wonderful edibles with no look-a likes. Even if you only learn the three of them, you’re doing great!
Chicken of the Woods (Laetiporus sp.)
Chicken of the Woods is easy to identify because it is bright orange or yellow. This mushroom grows as a bracket fungus on the side of trees and downed logs. It never grows from the ground.
Chicken of the woods usually grows in overlapping clusters and is a dense fungus with an earthy aroma. The texture is like chicken (hence the common name). It is fantastic as a faux chicken substitute fried, in soups, and sauteed.
Lion’s Mane (Hericium sp.)
A fungus with bright white icicle-like spines that hang down, Lion’s Mane’s unique appearance is unmistakable. Several Hericium species fall under the collective name Lion’s Mane, and they are all distinctive-looking and edible.
Lion’s Mane grows on the side of trees or fallen logs, and appears in early fall to winter. The texture is reminiscent of crab, and many people say it has a mild seafood-like flavor. Lion’s Mane is excellent shredded and used in faux crab cakes.
Giant Puffballs (Calvatia sp.)
If you see a massive white volleyball-looking thing in the woods, you’ve found a Giant Puffball. These fungi are enormous, like a big white globe. The skin is smooth, and they have no stem. Giant Puffballs grow on the ground in meadows and along tree lines.
When foraging puffballs, make sure the inside is entirely white. If there is any sign of yellowing or discoloration, the puffball is past maturity and will probably make you a little ill.
There’s no time like the present to start mushroom foraging. All you have to do is put on a pair of shoes and go for a walk. Mushrooms grow everywhere, so keep your eyes open. Get yourself some good ID books, and you’ll soon start learning all the incredible mushroom species that exist in our world.