Monday, October 06, 2014

Gathering wild mushrooms

It's something that goes with autumn. Harvesting an assortment of wild mushrooms. Over the years, we've refined our skills -- learned about mushrooms we didn't know about before, explored new places, tried new recipes.

We've also learned a few things about the right and the wrong ways of harvesting.

The photo above shows how NOT to gather them. Those aren't some fat cigarette butts resting around the leaf. The black 'fuzzy' stuff on the cut-off mushroom stems is soil.

The harvester who left these behind has jeopardized the odds of mushrooms growing there again next year. They've pulled them up by what you might want to call their 'roots' -- that critical connection which links them to the mycelium, hidden beneath the earth.

The parts we 'pick' are the bits that poke their heads up through the soil.

It's important to slice the base of the mushroom in such a way that the link to the fruiting body isn't disturbed.

It's also a good idea to not try to clean out the forest, but to leave some for other harvesters who may be coming along in a day or two. A good way to ensure you're doing this is to avoid taking small mushrooms, and only harvesting those that have had a chance to grow into mature specimens.

Of course, it's important to know what you're harvesting. Our friend the Internet can provide many answers, but even Google's images of chanterelles contain at least one look-alike, one you won't want to ingest.

A book with clear photographs can be a useful companion in the forest, and will be easier to use if its focus is specific to your geographic region. An even better way is to tag along with a knowledgeable harvester.

But even if you don't feel like learning which kinds of mushrooms are edible, the experience of walking in the forest this time of year is one that can only inspire wonder. Get out there.

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