Mushroom hunting (foraging) may seem slightly ominous at first but can be so much fun once you get into it. An outdoor activity where you get to walk away with a basket full of goodies, and who among us can resist free goods.
Mushroom foraging and collecting is also good for the environment. Why? Because collecting the mushrooms releases spores into the air that then settle in different areas -germinating the trees and allowing more mushrooms to sprout up. So you see, there really is no downfall. Wrap yourself up in a jacket and grab your baskets. But before you go, there are a few things you need to know about the mushroom community.
1. Know your mushrooms
The most important thing to be aware of before you go mushroom hunting is to know your mushrooms. Some species are poisonous and will cause discomfort or in serious cases, may even be fatal. This shouldn’t scare you off. You just need to make sure you know which mushrooms are edible.
There are many specialists who can tour you around some of their favourite spots while also showing you which mushrooms are edible and which are poisonous. You could go along with someone who knows what they are doing and can show you the ropes. As a last resort you could get yourself a South African mushroom field guide that informs you on the edible varieties of mushroom but just make sure that the mushroom in question is not poisonous! At first you may have trouble identifying them so get a second opinion before you ingest them until you feel confident.
2. Get a mushroom permit
Believe it or not but there is such a thing as a mushroom permit and I would advise that you get one. This just allows you to legally pick mushrooms and it’s quite an easy task; you just have to apply for one at your local park’s department.
3. Be aware of your competition
You may not be aware of the competitive nature of mushroom hunting and like any sport, there will always be someone who takes it very seriously. Some of the more established mushroom gatherers are very territorial. We still have the right to forage where we want within reason so if you come across these mushroom-men or women just be polite, but hold your ground!
4. Have something to put them in
Carrying baskets to go foraging might look a little cliché and it is, for good reason. Using a basket is important because they need to breathe and they have to stay loosely packed so that they don’t crush each other on the way.
5. Carry the right tools
Bring a small pocket knife to cut the mushroom at the base of the stem. This way you get a clean edge and the mushroom remains undamaged.
6. When to go
The best time to go mushroom hunting is in Autumn and early Winter. You will find the most mushrooms after it has rained and it warms up during the day. Mushrooms like it damp and warm.
These are the most important facts to know before setting out to find some beautiful mushrooms. Getting started may seem like a daunting task but the more you do it, the more enjoyable it will become. Like any activity, practice makes perfect. Soon enough you will be a weathered forager whipping up creamy porcini pasta with your very own harvested mushrooms. All it takes is a little patience and determination!
By: Camilla Reinhold