Looking for a fun and fresh outdoor activity? Why not go mushroom foraging!
It can be a great way to get outdoors and enjoy nature, while also finding delicious mushrooms to eat. There are many different types of mushrooms that can be found in forests and other natural areas, so it is important to learn about the identifying features before you start foraging. In this blog post, we will discuss the basics of foraging for fresh mushrooms, as well as some tips on how to identify different species. Mushrooms have many different reputations depending on the region & the native peoples use of them. This mixed reputation has resulted in two very different categories of people: Mycophiles (those who love mushrooms) & Mycophobes (those who dislike mushrooms). Regions such as Southeast Asia, the Amazon, & Eastern Europe have local people who forage for mushrooms to use as food, medicine, & for other beneficial reasons. Foraging for wild mushrooms is gaining interest in the United States, but many people are still unfamiliar with looking for mushrooms other than searching at the grocery store. The most commonly eaten mushroom in the United States is the brown or white button mushroom. You will commonly see this mushroom on pizza or in a pasta sauce. These button mushrooms are even grown in Miami, Oklahoma at a large mushroom farm that produces 25 million pounds a year! JM Mushrooms has been in operation since 1979 producing button mushrooms for Oklahoma & its many other surrounding states.
Foraging for wild mushrooms is a growing hobby for in the United States, but lack of education around wild mushroom edibility is something we are working to overcome. The most commonly foraged mushroom in Oklahoma is the delicious Morchella americana, also known as a Morel mushroom. You can find this mushroom during the springtime (March-May) & it can range in color from grey to yellow. The mushroom has a sponge–like head is conical with hollow pits & bumpy ridges. It is common to find these mushrooms while the redbud trees are blooming. Use the iNaturalist app or website to view the growing population of foragers who are exploring different parts of the state in search of fungi and plants.
While the Morel is the most popular mushroom in Oklahoma, there are other species like Ganoderma sessile (Reishi) & Hericium erinaceus (Lion's Mane) that are worth searching for. The Reishi mushroom has been used in Asia for over thousands of years in traditional chinese medicine to boost immune function & improve liver function. The Lion's Mane mushroom contains compounds that have shown to reverse memory decline in a scientific experiment performed with mice by researchers. Some other wild mushrooms commonly found in Oklahoma are Chanterelles, Oyster, Wood Ear, Maitake, & Chicken-of-the-woods. Many of these mushrooms also have medicinal benefits as well as being delicious!
When going on a foraging adventure it is important to have a couple essential items:
- Identification guide
- Basket or mesh bag (Never put fresh mushrooms in a sealed plastic bag!)
- Knife to cut them from the ground or trees ( A mushroom knife works great!)
- Small brush or cloth rag to clean dirt/leaves off the mushrooms once collected
- Camera (if you want to upload photo to iNaturalist later)
The most common time to go foraging in North America is in the Spring & Fall. The Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Department does have a lot of information about foraging for edible mushrooms other than this video. A way to learn about local, edible fungi is to join the Oklahoma Mycological Society. This awesome group of individuals is working hard to teach Oklahomans about local fungi and their uses. Joining a Facebook group like 'Oklahoma Wild Mushroom Enthusiasts' or 'Oklahoma Morel Mushroom Hunters' is also a great way to learn more about the local fungi. You can also check out our Recommendations page to find a local identification guide for your region.
Thank you very much for reading our Foraging For Fresh Mushrooms guide. Please visit the education tab on our website if you want to learn more. If you have any questions about the process, please feel free to contact us at OklahomaFungi@gmail.com or 405-252-0305