Mushroom hunting or “mushrooming” is the term given for gathering edible mushrooms in the wild. Mushroom hunters (Mycophagists) are people who collect mushrooms to eat. Foraging for wild mushrooms is a popular activity particularly in Europe, Australia, Japan, Korea, and in some parts of Canada and the US. Some mushrooms are difficult to find (such as porcinis) yet highly desirable because they are delicious to eat, they can fetch a high price if sold.
The Mushroom Forager
The most important trait a mushroom hunter needs to have is excellent knowledge of his or her field, buy a good book on mushroom identification first. Foraging for mushrooms can be fun and rewarding once you get back into the kitchen to cook them up, but it can be very dangerous. Knowing your mushrooms is vital before picking, cooking and eating them. Before going out mushrooming learn to recognize the main poisonous mushrooms first(such as the Death Cap) and then make a list of those that cannot be mistaken for a deadly species (such as Beefsteaks). If you inexperienced or still unsure perhaps consider foraging with an experienced mushroom hunter.
A good mushroom hunter will also need patience in this field, mushrooms (particularly some species) are not always easy to find, you also need to learn the seasons they grow, which mushrooms grow in which reason – so you may need to enjoy traveling as well.
As mentioned already, a major concern when foraging is picking only edible mushrooms. Always be 110% sure that you are picking a safe mushroom. Don’t rely on the internet or friends thinking it is ok. Edible mushrooms can be confused with poisonous. A few tips on defining a poisonous mushroom from a safe to pick one are:
- …mushrooms with a red coloring on the cap or stem are either poisonous or hallucinogenic,
- …if the mushroom has a ring around the stem or a volva, or if they have white gills they are most likely poisonous.
- Many of the world’s most deadly mushrooms have fearsome names:
The Death cap is widely considered the most world’s most deadly mushroom, and it is very common. There is no known antidote to the poison and is responsible for the most deaths from mushroom poisoning across the globe. It can cause kidney and live failure, eating just half a cap can cause death.
The Destroying Angel is a white, deadly mushroom. Just eating a small piece in a soup that contains edible mushrooms can kill everyone who eats the soup.
Please DO NOT be frivolous with the dangers. Do your due diligence…don’t be too proud to take a book or have your phone set on a knowledgeable website with clear and distinct pictures and descriptions. And, if you have any doubt, bring the mushroom home and get a second opinion before cooking it or opening it up to its internal fluids. Personally, I would err on the side of caution every time.
Finding your own mushrooms can be exciting and satisfying, but only if you’re alive to enjoy it!
That all being said, foraging for mushrooms is tremendously satisfying. Eating anything fresh, straight out of their growing space will beat store-bought any day.
There are still plenty of delicious, edible mushrooms to forage for in the wild. In the UK the safest mushroom to hunt for is The Giant Puffball which grows into a foot-wide, white ball. When younger it is possible to mistake them for other puffballs or other mushrooms so only pick them when they are mature to be 100% sure.
Chanterelles are a sought-after mushroom particularly by chefs because they are particularly tasty. They can also be quite beautiful due to their golden color.
The Porcini (penny bun, cep, porcino)is one of the most popular mushrooms to be found in Europe, desired for their texture and flavor. The cap looks like a brown bread roll, and they have nutty flavor.
Mushroom Foraging 101
Here are some tips from the experts:
- As suggested earlier, be sure to use references that you can take along. An app such as Wild Edibles and a book such as The Complete Mushroom Hunter are essential resources.
- Refrain from pulling the mushrooms up by the roots; instead cut them.
- Take only what you plan to eat.
- Be certain of what you’re picking and taking with you. (Have we emphasized safety enough yet?)
- Enjoy the excursion into the forest even if you come out empty-handed of mushrooms.
Foraging for mushrooms can be fun and can help you to produce some fantastic dishes in the kitchen, if it is undertaken with care that is. Please, forage with sustainability in mind. Large scale foraging can destroy natural habitats for other inhabitants of the wilds and woodland who rely on mushrooms as a vital source of food and can also damage trees and natural habitat.
Enjoy the journey (and the mushrooms)!