Who hasn’t dreamed of an enchanting stroll through the forest as the weather starts to get cool? So, this year, let’s go mushroom hunting! However, before you go, it’s very important to properly prepare and be well-informed when the time comes to go foraging for mushrooms.
Therefore, we would like to offer you some bits of advice and other useful information to help you prepare for your excursion!
Get familiar with/Recognize mushroom species
If you happen to know an expert on the subject who can accompany you, by all means, this is the safest way to be able to differentiate between edible and poisonous species of mushrooms. However, there are many books and even some fairly well-made apps for the most technologically adept among us to be able to identify mushroom species.
In any case, we strongly recommend that you go to a pharmacy or mycological association in your region to check whatever you gather.
Secret No. 1: Follow the snails! If you see one of these small gastropods on a mushroom, it is not toxic!
Bring the right equipment
Here are a few tools and accessories that will be useful to you:
- Raincoat, in case of a shower.
- Two wicker baskets: one for your edible mushrooms and the other for those that you are not sure about. (Note: Do not store your harvest in plastic bags, because this will accelerate the fermentation process and make your mushrooms unfit for consumption.)
- Knife to pick your mushrooms (explained below).
Choose the right day
The ideal day is a nice, sunny day, 1 or 2 days after some rainfall.
Secret No. 2: Old pros say that the full moon acts as a stimulant to mushroom growth. Therefore, if the weather is nice 2 days after a rainy full moon, just get on your boots and go mushroom hunting!
A few rules to follow:
If you do not know the species, don’t pick it! Only pick mushrooms that you want and leave the others. The National Forests Office (in France) is clear on this. Each mushroom has its purpose in the local biotope. In other words, do not destroy the mushrooms, even toxic ones, that you cross on your path.
Pick the entire mushroom! Between cutting or removing the stem, there are several schools of thought and no general consensus, but mushroom hunting enthusiasts seem to favor their entire removal. In either case, some precautions apply. If you opt to remove the entire mushroom, hold the stem of the mushroom and gently rotate it to detach it from the ground. Then, be sure to completely refill the hole with soil in order to protect the mycelium. Similarly, if you choose to cut the stem, make sure the cut is as flush with the ground as possible. Mold may attack the stem and then reach the mycelium, destroying your preferred mushroom patch…
What is the mycelium? It is the vegetative portion of fungi (and certain bacteria) composed of an underground mass of branching filaments. This is the vegetative mycelium, which will produce an “aerial” mycelium called a sporophore. What is called a mushroom is actually the sporophore, the reproductive portion formed by the fertile mycelium. Click on this link to view images of the mycelium.
Do not pick mushrooms that are too old (or too young)! Not only do mushrooms that are too old develop a certain toxicity (in addition to having a bad taste), but old mushrooms produce spores and contribute to the growth of other fungi.
Do not pick all of a mushroom in one area! As explained previously, the mushroom is the reproductive portion of the mycelium. If you pick them all, you jeopardize the growth of new mushrooms.
Do not pick mushrooms in polluted environments! Mushrooms act like a sponge and absorb ambient pollution. Therefore, avoid the outskirts of agricultural parcels and roadways.
If mushroom patches are really good, connoisseurs and regulars will keep these spots as secret as possible. It is not always obvious where they are when you are learning where to look.
Many environments are conducive to mushroom growth:
- Forests and woods: This is still the best environment for gathering mushrooms, and if coniferous and deciduous trees are together in the same forest, they will offer a wide variety of species (porcini, morel, russula, etc.). Depending on the species you are looking for, the Internet can offer tips to guide you (for example: porcini mushrooms grow very well under oak or chestnut trees but do not grow under young trees; boletus mushrooms require light and sufficient air circulation, etc.).
Secret No. 3: Early in the season, when the soil has not warmed up yet, you should search the west side of the forest. In the middle of the season, search the east side, and if it is very hot, look instead to the north! Regardless of the season, the south would not be very popular for mushrooms.
- Meadows and lawns are also environments conducive to mushroom growth. If there are any, you will be able to see them more easily. Look especially in flat areas.
Secret No. 4: Use your nose! Inhale the air with your lungs. If there is a mushroom patch, you will know it! Likewise, at the end of the season, if there is a strong decomposing smell, it is unnecessary to continue the search since all mushrooms of a species usually decompose at the same time.
Consuming your harvest
After returning from mushroom gathering (and having your basket checked by an expert), ideally eat what you have gathered within 48 hours. As your mushrooms age, they may become toxic. To store them longer, you can freeze, dry or put them in jars.
Also try our Mushroom Cappuccino recipe with truffle-flavored foam - a real delight!
At the slightest sign of poisoning (nausea, vomiting, trembling, etc.), call the Poison Control Center nearest you.