Wild Mushrooms Hunting
Humanity has gathered wild mushrooms since the beginning of our historical record. Ötzi, the iceman mummy who lived around 3100 BCE, was discovered with two species of polypore mushrooms in his possession. One was a common bracket fungus, Fomitopsis betulina believed to have anti-inflammatory and fever-reducing properties. The other was a tinder conk used as a firestarter. This early use of fungi highlights their astounding versatility and value to humanity.
Today there are many reasons why mycophiles to venture into the forest in search of fungi. Whether a hobby or career hunting mushrooms is akin to exploring an alien world. The colorful miniature landscape is full of surprises. As the highly respected mycologist Paul Stamets said in the movie Fantastic Fungi, "Mushrooms can heal you, they can feed you, they can kill you." That being said, it is wise to prepare yourself ahead of time. While hiking and seeking mushroom is tranquil and relaxing, many dangers also lurk in the woods.
Food and Nutrition of Mushrooms
The most obvious reason to hunt wild mushrooms is for choice edible mushrooms. They are packed with vitamins, minerals, and a fair amount of fiber. Different species may contain vitamin-B, vitamin-D, selenium, potassium, magnesium, copper, zinc, iron, and much more.
Mycorrhizal mushrooms maintain a symbiotic relationship with some plants, making them extremely difficult, if not impossible, to cultivate in a lab. They include chanterelles, matsutake, porcini, morels, and truffles. Forging is the only way to obtain these culinary delicacies, and a respectable income can be made by selling them to restaurants. However, a special certification is needed to sell mushrooms. This is to ensure you have the knowledge to accurately identify edible species.
Common Types of Choice Edible Mushrooms
- Oyster Mushrooms(genus: Pleurotus)
- King Oyster(Pleurotus eryngii)
- Cremini/Portobello(Agaricus bisporus)
- Chanterelle(genus: Cantharellus)
- Porcini(Boletus edulis)
- Chicken Of The Woods(genus: Laetiporus)
- Wine Cap(Stropharia rugosoannulata)
- Morel(genus: Morchella)
- Enoki Mushrooms(Flammulina velutipes)
- Beech Mushrooms(Hypsizygus tessellatus)
- Shiitake(Lentinula edodes)
- Hen of the Woods(Grifola frondosa)
- Lion's Mane(Hericium erinaceus)
- Giant Puffball(Calvatia gigantea)
- Black Trumpet(Craterellus cornucopioides)
- Nameko Mushrooms(Pholiota microspora)
- Chestnut Mushrooms(Pholiota adiposa)
There is a common saying amongst mushroom foragers:
"There are old mushroom hunters and bold mushroom hunters, but no old, bold mushroom hunters."
This speaks to the dangers of poisonous mushrooms. Some of the most poisonous organisms on earth belong to kingdom Fungi. Never eat any mushroom without being 100% certain of its identity. It is beneficial to learn the different morphology of mushrooms to aid in identification. Also, learn if there are any look-alike species in your area. For instance, the deadly galerina is often mistaken for the edible honey mushroom.
Medicinal Benefits of Mushrooms
Your inner shaman may lure you into nature, seeking remedies for ailments or natural preventative medicines. Some of the most life-saving medications derive from fungi such as penicillin. Common mushrooms with medicinal properties are Reishi, Turkey Tail, Lion's Mane, Chaga, Shiitake, Maitake, and Cordyceps.
Below are some of the benefits associated with fungi:
- Cancer Prevention
- Energy & Stamina
- Healthy Blood Pressure
- Heart Health
- Immune Support
- Lowering Cholesterol
- Memory and Focus
- Muscle Recovery
- Regulating Blood Sugar
- And many more
Mycologists search for mushrooms for a variety of reasons. Their quest is primarily for science, they meticulously document every possible detail of a specimen from morphology to habitat to its genetic code. They often take species back to their labs to clone or study under a microscope. The mass majority of fungal species have yet to be documented, and there are opportunities to discover new species that could change the world.
No matter your expertise in mycology, photographing fungi is a hobby enjoyed by all. Mushrooms tend to be very photogenic, so a camera phone to an expensive SLR can produce outstanding results. In fact, my interest in fungi was sparked by the single photo below.
If using a camera phone, you can take your photos to the next level with the purchase of a detachable macro lens and lighting source. This addition was a game changer!
As they say, ...do it for the gram! You can follow my photography at @MycologyStart on Instagram.
Some of My Favorite Instagramers
Fungi Related Hashtags
How Do You Start Mushroom Hunting?
If you are starting out, it is best to take it slow. Go for a hike in the woods and see how many different mushrooms you could spot. Take photos and try to identify them when you get home. However, not all treks into the forest are successful. The season, weather, and habitat are significant factors for a successful mushroom hunt.
Fall/autumn is typically mushroom season. However, some species like morels are found in the spring-time. Depending on your location, summer is also a time to find particular varieties of fungi. You may be surprised, but some mushrooms even grow in winter. The majority of mushrooms prefer dark, cool, and damp conditions. Your luck should increase after a few days of rain. In contrast, you may have a more difficult time during a dry heatwave.
Purchasing a field guide for your area will significantly aid in locating and identifying mushrooms. They are packed with high-quality photos and detailed information regarding ideal conditions, forest types, substrates, and more.
Dangers to Avoid While Mushroom Hunting
Always be on alert when mushroom hunting. The forest is full of dangers, large and small.
Become versed in identifying poisonous mushrooms. This skill is invaluable as it could save your life. To start, learn how to identify these species:
- Death Cap(Amanita phalloides)
- Destroying Angels(Several Amanita species)
- Funeral Bell(Galerina marginata)
- Common Lawn Mushroom(Conocybe filaris)
- Webcaps(Cortinarius species)
- Deadly Dapperling(Lepiota brunneoincarnata)
- Poison Fire Coral(Podostroma cornu-damae)
Learn how to identify and avoid poison ivy, poison oak, poison sumac, and other plants. It is also helpful to know what to do if you come in contact with them. You'll have time to wash off the oils before your body reacts to them. Time is of the essence!
Many dangerous animals lurk in the forest, especially the deeper you journey. Keep your senses sharp and learn the native wildlife in your area. Snakes, bears, wolves, mountain lions are just a few to be on the lookout for.
Primarily ticks and mosquitos as they have to potential to spread disease. If you can, dress to cover up any exposed areas to prevent them from biting you.
Sense of Direction
When hunting mushrooms, you're often looking down while on the move. It is easy to get lost doing this, especially if trekking deep into the woods. A compass or some sort of way to get your bearings is very handy.
- What Is the Health and Nutritional Value of Mushrooms? - New York Times
- Ötzi the Iceman's Tattoos May Have Been a Primitive Form of Acupuncture - Life Science
- 7 of the World's Most Poisonous Mushrooms - Encyclopaedia Britannica
- Ötzi - Wikipedia