Traipsing through the forest with a basket in your elbow and a horde of wildflowers in your opposite hand can certainly have the capability of fulfilling one’s Cottagecore fantasies. With recent rainstorms came the mushroom hunting season in Northern Arizona, and much of the United States, for that matter. Though, before my boyfriend and I stumbled upon a mushroom hunter’s booth at our local farmer’s market, we had no idea you could go into the forest and come out with dozens of edible mushrooms.
Before deciding to go mushroom hunting, experts recommend conducting thorough research because there is potential for things to go wrong. Understanding some of the species of mushrooms that are prominent in your area is a great jumping-off point. We started by learning to identify poisonous mushrooms we might encounter so we could avoid those—and ones that look like those— altogether. Then, we found out what edible mushrooms grow in the area, like Lobster Mushrooms and Slippery Jacks so that we could keep our eye out for ones that look like those.
Also, in preparation for your mushroom hunt, gathering appropriate supplies is necessary. We made sure we had breathable bags so that while we were storing our collected mushrooms, any leftover spores might spread so that more mushrooms can grow. Another important item to have handy is a knife for cutting out your prized finds as just pulling them out can lead to breakage. Other tools and supplies we found helpful include sunscreen and google maps for dropping pins at prime mushroom spots to come back to after more rain.
And without much more direction, we were off down primitive roads and peering out the windows for spots we thought might be populous in fungi. More clustered areas of trees and lower, more moist land were the areas we tended to want to scope out for mushrooms, though other terrains might also yield mushrooms. Despite our inexperience and lack of hope when we started scanning the forest floor, once we started spotting mushrooms, we didn’t stop spotting them. For three hours, we wandered through the woods, getting bright-eyed and rejuvenated at the sight of every new mushroom. While some mushrooms only needed to be wandered upon to get discovered (such as this MASSIVE Ceaser’s Amanita that I spotted from the dirt road on our way out of the woods), others may blend in or hide much better. Most of the mushrooms we found were tucked under the layer of forest debris that lines the ground and took a little dusting of pine needles and leaves to discover.
However, once having gathered the mushrooms, there’s more research to be done. Experts say to never eat a mushroom unless you have a 100% positive identification. Otherwise, you might be putting yourself at substantial risk—mushrooms come in all shapes, sizes, and capabilities. Even if the mushrooms you gathered all look, at first glances, like the edible mushrooms listed for your area, I would suggest taking the time to be sure. Instead of trusting ourselves—the armatures who kept getting giddy every time we spotted a new mushroom, we decided to entrust our farmer’s market mushroom master who had been mushroom hunting for decades. Utilizing resources such as experts can make the quest for a 100% positive identification much simpler.
Ultimately, our success in finding mushrooms likely contributed to the great time we were having scavenging for them, but if you enjoy the outdoors and a little searching, mushroom hunting is a blast. In between finding mushrooms, I took to wildflower gathering as the rains also brought an abundance of flowers. All the gathering showed me that foraging for useful (and beautiful) items is not as unattainable as I had previously thought it would be. I certainly never pictured I would find much I could use in northern Arizona’s forests, but walking out with bags full of mushrooms taught me otherwise and broadened my horizons for possible future foraging—not to mention the sustainability of sourcing such things locally and responsibly.
Have you ever been mushroom hunting? Do you have any tips for those wanting to go? Let us know in the comment section below!