Have you ever wondered what it would be like if you got stranded in the wilderness? Do you have the knowledge, skills, and courage to survive? Where would you sleep? What would you eat?
I got a taste for what it would take on a foray with the Monadnock Mushroomers Unlimited
. This club of fungus fanatics explores the region's state parks and forests for the fun of finding, identifying, learning more about (and sometimes eating) its mushrooms. It's a great way for fledgling foragers as well as experienced collectors to share a love of mycology.
After a brief meeting at the trailhead of Brewster Forest in Dublin, we were off down the trails scanning the forest floor for chanterelles, hedgehogs, oysters, and boletes.
Who knew there could be such diversity in just one forest? Red, orange, yellow, white, brown, and even purple mushrooms? Some grew like shelves up the trunks of decaying snags, and others had hundreds of long protrusions like a sea coral or a church's pipe organ. Even within the familiarly-shaped parasols, some had gills while others had pores beneath their caps. Here's a look at some of my favorite finds:
We returned to the trail head with baskets overloaded with specimens. Puzzling out the identities of each was a group task. Veterans shared their perspectives, guidebooks were consulted, and some of us set a few of our finds aside to take home to the kitchen.
Eating wild mushrooms is a dangerous business if you don't know what you're doing. Many varieties are poisonous enough to kill you in a slow, painful, adrenal failure kind of way. I made sure to collect for consumption only those that were easily identified. And I also asked the experts in the group. Some edible mushrooms look exactly like their poisonous cousins, so it's important to double check every identifiable feature.
When I picked these two mushrooms, I thought they were the same kind. Upon cracking open their caps, one of the mushrooms immediately oozed a blue ink. It was poisonous, although the other was edible. Case in point!
I was, however, very curious to find out what these wild mushrooms would taste like. So I brought a few of the choicest specimens home to my cutting board. There's a king bolete, a two-colored bolete, and some sweet tooth mushrooms.
Chop, chop, chop and then into the frying pan with a little butter. I tried just a bit of each species first to make sure I wouldn't have a reaction.
They were a bit crunchy on the outside, juicy on the inside, and they had a full nutty flavor. Delicious!
Interested in learning to forage for mushrooms? Start with these tips:
8 Tips for Safe Foraging
Special thanks to MMU!
- Stick to the mushrooms indicated for beginners. These are the ones less easy to mistake for another species that could be poisonous.
- Always check your identification against at least two sources, and if you're a beginner make sure one of those sources is an experienced collector. When in doubt, don't pick.
- Pick mature, but fresh, mushrooms. Mushrooms that are still budding out of the ground or opening their parasols are harder to identify.
- Check for worms, slugs, or other bugs that may have burrowed into the mushroom before picking.
- Forage away from roads or areas that may have been sprayed with fertilizers or pesticides.
- Keep edible species in separate containers from unknown species to avoid cross-contamination.
- Clean and cook your mushrooms thoroughly before consumption.
- When trying a new species eat just a little to start. Even for edible mushrooms you may have an allergic reaction.