Expert Tips on How to Forage for Mushrooms and Not Die

Mushroom foraging, like hunting for anything (except for hunting the most dangerous game), can be both a hobby and a professional necessity. On one hand, some restaurants use foraged mushrooms to increase the amount of food they are sourcing locally simultaneously adding a new level of terroir to their dishes (like chef Drew Adams does at Bourbon Steak in Washington, D.C.). On the other hand, for people living in different pockets of the world, foraging mushrooms is a way to add to their food stores without having to go to a grocery store.

foraging mushrooms basket
Nick Grappone/Unsplash

The thing about foraging mushrooms, though, is that it can be deadly. We’re not kidding. Ever eaten a poisonous mushroom in Super Mario? It’s like that, but for real. You don’t just get to start the level over again. The thing about poisonous mushrooms, too, is that they don’t necessarily look any different than edible varieties (like in Super Mario).

To find out some tips and tricks for not dying while learning how to forage mushrooms, we spoke with Seadon Shouse of Halifax in Hoboken, New Jersey. Shouse, who got into mushroom hunting through his wife’s family, has foraged around the world, from his wife’s homeland of Estonia (where he says that “choice edible mushrooms grow there like weeds”) to Long Island and beyond.

“I think that the biggest mistake that beginner foragers make is to think that it is easy to find lots of mushrooms. Sometimes you find a great patch and other times you do not get anything,” Shouse says. There will be days when you come home with enough to make a meal for your entire family; other times, you’ll be lucky to find one or two fungi.

foraging mushrooms hand
Nico Benedickt/Unsplash

When foraging, Shouse says, there are a couple of tips and tricks you can employ to ensure a successful (and health-preserving) excursion.

Tips for Mushroom Foraging

  • Do not be afraid to use an app (such as Wild Edibles) or a book (such as The Complete Mushroom Hunter).
  • Do not pull the mushrooms up by the roots; cut them.
  • Do not take more than you plan to eat.
  • Do be 100 percent certain of what you’re picking.
  • Do take pictures of mushrooms that you cannot identify to ask others and to gain knowledge.
  • Do make sure to enjoy being in the forest even if you do not find any mushrooms.

Will you be 100-percent successful every time? No, of course not, but that is the beauty of the hunt. The thrill of finding a new type of edible mushroom can be just as satisfying as actually eating the fruits of your labor.

Speaking of eating mushrooms, we also asked Shouse how he liked the prepare the mushrooms he finds. Depending on the type of mushroom, he said, he enjoys mushroom mashed potatoes, veal stroganoff with chanterelles, or any number of pasta dishes with mushrooms.

Now, get out there and you, too, can be a fungi. (And no, we’re not spored of these puns.)

For more foraging tips, head here.

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