Maple recently went to a class at the Folk School (which is just an AMAZING group in Fairbanks that holds all kinds of wonderful and informative classes) on mushroom foraging. He came back all fired up about mushrooms and, after buying the right knife and his mushroom identifying pocket book, has encouraged me to get excited about mushrooms as well. We’ve been having a blast foraging together, though I haven’t been bitten by the bug nearly as bad (Maple will happily spend two hours a night foraging, another hour cleaning and dehydrating the mushrooms and then read himself to sleep learning new mushrooms to forage).
Turns out that our neighborhood is a veritable mushroom store of edible mushrooms (and this year has been a bumper year for mushrooms). We’ve gathered one gallon of dehydrated mushrooms so far this year and we’re hoping to double that before the summer is over.
We’re looking for mushrooms a bit late in the year – many of the mushrooms we’re looking at have been consumed by flies or squirrels. Next year we’ll be starting in June and hopefully get a better jump on things.
For this year we focused on boletes – specifically King Boletes. For the new forager it’s a good idea to stay away from mushrooms with a gilled underside – they can be harder to identify and are more likely to be poisonous or toxic. Mushrooms with a sponge underside are pretty much always safe to eat. King Boletes are a toasted brown on top with a white stalk and, once you know what you’re looking for, very easy to spot.
Mushroom foraging for me has been a lot like blueberry picking; you have to adjust your eyes to see the blue but, once you see the blue, blue is all you can see (and if you’re Maple you end up prying your wife out of a blueberry patch). Once you learn to identify mushrooms, all you can see during walks in the woods are mushrooms. It’s an opening of awareness, of tuning into your natural environment that is the root of this hunting/foraging/gathering/fishing/trapping experience that so draws both Maple and Me in.
Baby GHM is a champ, bouncing along in her carrier. She’s just starting to grab for things with her hands. A born picker/forager if I ever saw one!
We’ve been dehydrating all the mushrooms we’ve gathered so far, and then will rehydrate them in the winter to mix up into soups and salads. I’m thinking that I want to mix foraged mushrooms with store bought mushrooms at the beginning and then work our way up to eating solely foraged mushrooms. Since I’ve never eaten foraged mushrooms, I’m assuming there’s going to be a bit of a learning curve for my body. (Baby GHM is not going to be eating foraged mushrooms until we get our foraging game down cold.)
Some resources we’ve been using to help identify mushrooms are All That the Rain Promises and More… (ignore the cover – it’s a great book) and Common Interior Alaska Cryptogams. If you’re in the Interior there’s also a Facebook group called Fairbanks/Interior Foragers (we’ve asked a couple questions to the page and gotten a stellar response both times). There’s also always Google for that initial foray.
Cheers and Love,
Maple and Me