Written by Marissa Sulmeisters, ESLLC 2016-2017
Mushroom hunting, or as my family and I like to joke, ’shrooming, is a European tradition that spans centuries. Despite the implications in the name, Mushroom Hunting does not involve chasing deviant mushrooms through the forest any more than it involves getting high. However, it should be noted that the activity can occasionally involve athletic maneuvers like squatting down to get a mushroom and that the mushrooms most commonly used to get high can be spotted growing out of animal feces.
Mushrooming is a great skill to have. Not only does this knowledge increase your likelihood of surviving in the wild, but through basic knowledge of mushrooms you can identify other aspects of nature. For instance, for fungi to grow, rain, soft ground, and warm weather are imperative. Like any other plant or fungi, mushrooms can only grow in an ideal climate. There is a short season during the summer where fungi will grow in abundance and any other time they simply cannot be found. Furthermore, animals like deer and worms eat mushrooms too. Unidentified mushrooms that haven’t been touched by other organisms in the forest can be assumed to be poisonous. This applies to other aspects of nature. Barren places without evidence of animal presence or untouched foods in nature should raise warning signals to you.
Some mushrooms that I hunt along with their descriptions and their Latvian names are:
Baravika (bot-a-vick): Brown top, spongy underside of top, white stem. Grow best in moist, shaded areas like the forest around Echo Lake.
Apsu becka (ob-shi-back): Slimy/brown top, spongy underside of top, white stem, turns blue when cut. Grow best in moist, shaded areas, (near baravika).
And the English-named mushroom that I hunt:
Puffball: white, round ball, no stem. Grow best in semi-moist climates with sun. Do not eat if any yellow coloring on the inside of the mushroom.
I realize that not everyone began Mushroom Hunting before walking. Please note that although there is much information presented above, do not hunt mushrooms alone. Have a guide until you feel confident in your ability to identify edible mushrooms. Always error on the side of caution. If, however, you believe you consumed a toxic mushroom, watch for these symptoms: headache, dizziness, nausea, cold sweat, and jaundice. To avoid this, only eat mushrooms you have positively identified and know to be edible.
I believe Mushroom Hunting is a skill in a sub-category from knot tying, tracking, and fishing. If you want to survive in the wild, you should brush up on skills like these before setting out. By knowing skills like these, you can feel more prepared to set out into the wild with minimal supplies which would allow you to use less disposable products and leave less of a footprint on your adventures. By using what nature supplies you, (but be sure to leave the spoors of the mushrooms so they can grow back) you can be more in sync with nature and the environment around you which helps minimize disruption to the natural environment. This will help ensure that our beautiful forests are around for years to come and that our planet will be cleaner and healthier as a whole.
Also, just an FYI, October 15th is National Mushroom day.