While we certainly are “for the birds” around here, our lifestyle and interests actually go well beyond just our feathered friends. The truth is, we love everything about the natural world that surrounds us, including wild places and all the wildlife, flora and fauna it encompasses.
If you have been following us here on our blog, any of our social media channels or on YouTube, you already know our love for the outdoors goes well beyond birds and each and every day we aim to make improvements in the way we live to help preserve the world in which we live.
We were fortunate enough earlier this year to have been hooked up with The Wild Yam, a talented and smart young lady who takes living naturally quite literally. As we quickly became friends, we have enriched each other’s lives with information and resources neither of us might have otherwise never have known.
Last week, we had the opportunity to sit down with The Wild Yam (Jen) and chat about foraging for wild edibles – specifically mushrooms. In addition to living in an off-grid cabin in the wilderness, The Wild Yam has perfected the art of foraging for wild edibles and shared some of her knowledge with Bob in one of our new long-form video episodes on our YouTube Channel.
When it comes to foraging for mushrooms specifically, The Wild Yam had some extremely helpful tips. Here’s the Cole’s Notes version of our conversation on how to get started in foraging for wild mushrooms:
Get a Good Field Guide
Much the same as entering the world of bird watching, a good field guide is a must-have. With so many different species and varieties of mushrooms on the landscape, having a trusted reference guide is your first step in getting acquainted with mushrooms.
The Wild Yam suggests having a look at North American Mushrooms: A Field Guide to Edible and Inedible Fungi by Orson and Hope Miller as well as the National Audubon Society’s Field Guide to North American Mushrooms both available at your favourite book store.
Additionally, she suggested seeking out region-specific field guides to better understand the fungi growing in any specific area of the country or province.
Concentrate on Three Species
When we speak to new birders, we often tell them to start small and learn how to generally identify different classes of birds such as finches, sparrows, warblers and so on. The same is true for mushrooms. While they do have similar characteristics, choose two or three easy-to-identify mushrooms species to begin with and expand your knowledge from there.
As most of us know, there are dangerous mushrooms on the landscape as well, so learning a few species to shy away from is also an important starting point for new foragers.
Learn About Mushroom Habitat
Plants and wildlife take on very different appearances depending on the time of year and their stage of growth. Mushrooms are the same. Learn how to identify not only what stage of growth they are in but also what type of habitat they are found in. Some mushroom species grow on leaf litter, others on grass and some on trees and tree stumps. By associating mushrooms by where they are located, you are that much closer to identifying that particular species.
As with anything, this endeavor take time and a fair bit of knowledge to undertake. If you are unsure or just learning, always try and head out with someone that has experience or at least consult with them before consuming any wild mushrooms. As they old saying goes; “when in doubt, throw them out!”