Like magic, mushrooms seem to abruptly pop up in the woods overnight, emerging directly from the earth.
It’s easy to see how ancient peoples may have thought that edible mushrooms were a gift from the gods. Mushrooms are not sought after solely for their complex and earthy flavor, but for their medicinal attributes as well.
Today, wild mushrooms are foraged very similarly to the way they were millennia ago. All you need is some free time and a few inexpensive items to get started.
Mushroom hunting has the potential to be a profitable hobby. Chefs pay top dollar for freshly harvested gourmet mushrooms like chanterelles, morels, maitakes, oysters, and porcinis. And if you have ever tasted a mushroom roasted with butter, herbs, and garlic, you will understand why.
For those who have already caught the foraging fever, relocating to a new location that has a thriving mushroom network and an established foraging community might be their dream move. Here are some suggestions on what foraging fanatics should look for in a new location:
Mushrooms grow well in temperate climates with high amounts of ambient humidity and rainfall. Mushroom season typically stretches from late summer through the fall, but there are exceptions, including the infamous spring morels.
Proximity to Wooded Areas
Mushrooms have a very important job within our forests. If not for mushrooms, fallen trees, leaves, and logs would never decay, and the debris would eventually pile up above the top of the forest.
Parks are the best place to find fungi, just make sure you check with local state officials to confirm they approve of foraging in specific locations. Some parks require you to obtain a permit and limit the amount of mushrooms you are able to take with you.
If you know someone with wooded land, ask them nicely if you can forage in it for mushrooms. A promise to share the bounty will help you to get a “yes”.
Meet up with local mycological societies to see what spaces are open for you to hunt in. Foraging can get competitive and you don’t want to be the newbie who steps on people’s toes. The North American Mycological Association is a solid resource for finding local mushroom clubs to interact with.
5 Best Cities for Mushroom Foragers
For people who want to relocate to an area fertile with fungi, here’s the five best places to call home.
1. Chesterfield, MO
Chesterfield, MO is located just west of St. Louis and adjacent to The Mark Twain National Forest, a fertile hunting ground for many kinds of foragable fungi. The Missouri Mycological Society is very active and has chapters in Springfield, Kansas City, and Southeast Missouri. Missourians are proud of their proficient morel season, which is also known as “morel madness” to locals.
2. Eugene, OR
Eugene is surrounded by old, giant forests, dense with conifers, ferns, and fungi. The Willamette, Mt. Hood, and Siuslaw National Forests are all within a short driving distance from Eugene. The Cascade Mycological Society in Eugene hosts meetings and workshops that can assist beginners in the area to start their foraging pursuits.
3. Hot Springs, NC
Hot Spring’s close proximity to the Appalachian Trail promises the potential of some successful mushroom gathering trips. Drive 45 minutes southeast to Asheville, and you can attend the monthly meetings of the Asheville Mushroom Club, where you can network and get insights from professionals and hobbyists alike.
All along the Appalachian Mountain Range you will find temperate, densely wooded areas. The range stretches from northeastern Alabama all the way up to New Brunswick. In addition to being home to many species of mushrooms, the area is known for other wild delicacies such as ramps, fiddlehead ferns, and wild berries in the spring.
4. Mendocino, CA
A three hour drive north from the Bay Area on California’s coast will lead you to Mendocino. Mendocino’s temperate and moist climate is ideal for mushroom growth. The Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens hosts a Mushroom Walk every Monday from early November through late December. In November, Mendocino hosts a one-week event known as Mushroom Feast Mendocino. Attendees can anticipate mushroom hunts, and enjoy locally foraged mushroom-focused menus paired with Mendocino Wines.
5. Olympia, WA
The Pacific Northwest is a playground for mycologists and mushroom hunters. Olympia is in close proximity to forests lush with decomposing natural materials and ancient trees including Olympic National Forest and Mt. Rainier National Park.
Paul Stamets, the visionary mycologist and entrepreneur, has his business located in the Olympia area. His company, Fungi Perfecti, offers medicinal mushroom capsules, extracts, and cultures to grow your own fungi. You can sign up to attend events and seminars hosted by Stamets and other knowledgeable mycologists on the website.
What You Need to Forage for Mushrooms
Now that you have your new mushroom hunting home base in mind, all that is left is to pack up your stuff, load a moving truck and book a self-storage unit if you need it.
Once you settled in, the following items are essential to your successful foray into mushroom foraging:
- A pocket field guide to assist you in identifying mushroom species. Always get the help of an expert when identifying potentially toxic mushrooms.
- A breathable and handsfree mushroom hunting bag.
- Paper bags or pieces of wax paper to separate the different species you find.
- Mushroom knife
- Food and water
- Proper permits if required.
No matter where you live, never, ever eat a wild mushroom until it is positively identified. If you can’t find a mycologist to accompany you on your hunt, post your findings on an online mushroom forum and an expert will be happy to help you identify your mushrooms. Poisonous mushrooms are deceptive. There are lookalikes such as the jack-o-lantern mushroom which can easily fake out novice foragers.