The art of foraging

Learn to forage

Good day to all our awesome readers, today we are discussing foraging for mushrooms. We will start with the basic gear you need and then I will go on to explain the rest. 

You will need the following to harvest your mushrooms:

  • A small paintbrush/toothbrush
  • A knife
  • Nice comfortable basket
  • A cap to cover your eyes from the downcasting light from the sun

 

  • More about the gear:  I prefer using a toothbrush because the bristles are a bit stronger and we use this for cleaning the mushrooms. Take your time cleaning your harvest, one by one as nature has its own time and you get to appreciate nature in all its glory. While harvesting and with your mushrooms in the basket, the mushrooms still give off spores, so as you walk you are inadvertently sowing spores into the air making a way for more mushrooms to settle on the ground. I have recently learnt from readings and tv shows that pulling the whole mushroom out and then cutting it clean is the best way versus cutting. The cutting versus plucking debate is still going on and what I understand about picking is that when you pick the mushrooms you agitate the mycelium which empowers the mycelium to grow more mushrooms. Additionally, the idea behind it is that plucking resembles an animal chomping on them. My understanding of cutting is that cutting mushrooms is like cutting your finger, it will be prone to infection if left open, so when you cut you leave a piece of the stem behind and it will be prone to infection of left open. This intern leads to the mycelium ( which is the root structure of the mushroom) being infected. Well as I said neither one has been clarified, but it does make sense if you think of it. After harvesting, I always make sure to cover the holes left behind. I like using a cap to cover my eyes especially in the midday, when the sun rays hit the top of your eyes, giving half a glare so your vision is automatically impaired when looking down. The cap takes that glare away from your eyes, so you can see better on the ground.
  • Get mushroom foraging books: There is an awesome book (It’s the first book I bought) called – Field guide to Mushrooms & other Fungi of South Africa by Gary B Goldman & Mariela Gryzenhout. Never forage without the proper knowledge of what you looking for, go with a guide if necessary. The rule of thumb is if you don’t know it, then leave it. I recommend taking a picture, marking the spot so you can always come back to it. It’s also very important to be familiar with the mushroom seasons for foraging certain types of mushrooms. Furthermore, get to know or read about what type of mushrooms grow with what trees. In doing this you can associate the trees growing in your area with the type of mushrooms. For example, oak and poplar trees – chicken of the woods, porcini boletes, agaricus mushrooms. Even open grass fields can give a wide variety of mushrooms and pine trees -milk caps (my favourite). 
  • Edible and non-edible mushrooms: There are a few ways I use to distinguish edibles from none edibles (they are not proven so don’t quote me okay). You can take a piece of it and taste it, if it has a slight bitter peppery taste, no good. If you cook it up with garlic and the garlic turns dark – black is also no good. Last but not least you can take a piece of mushroom and rub it on the inside of your wrist, if there is a reaction no good. These are only indicators of bad non-edibles, but I stress this is not proven as such.

Have an awesome time with mother nature, the more time you spend in the wild the more you will destress and walk and your overall health will get better. A fun activity for all ages.

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