Sustainable Mushroom Hunting & Etiquette
Updated: Apr 20
It’s mushroom season, and with all the wonderful rain, it should be a great season too! If you are new to foraging or just need a refresher, this is a great read to keep you safe and our foraging sustainable.
Rules to Forage By
1. When finding a patch of mushrooms, be sure to leave at least a few there. This is not only respectful to other mushroom pickers who may discover the patch, but it also gives the mushrooms a chance to drop their spores and continue on their course naturally, ensuring that more will come within the season or next season. If the patch is large, leave a little less than half of the mushrooms in place. Don’t be greedy and take an entire patch because this may prevent mushrooms from returning to that area.
2. When picking mushrooms, make sure to pick them from the stem and not pull out the entire mushroom from the ground. This prevents messing up the mycelium network by sheer force and thus allows for the fruiting bodies to return. It’s best to slice the mushrooms off cleanly at the base with a small knife, although you can use your hands if you are careful about it.
Some people like to ‘pluck’ or tap the mushrooms while they’re in the ground to release loose spores back into the area for recolonization. You can tap the stem of the fungal body with your finger a few times before you collect it.
3. Try to respect not only the mushrooms themselves but also the surrounding area. Oftentimes people hunt on private property such as farms and cow fields. Always leave everything as-is, and it is wise to seek the landowner’s permission rather than trespass. You shouldn’t damage or destroy any fences in the process. Also, try not to disturb any cows/other animals in your hunt—it can be dangerous. Likewise, these rules also apply to public places—it is everybody’s land. Take care of it.
4. When wild mushroom hunting, carry your finds in a mesh bag. Wild mushrooms spread through the dispersal of spores, and the more spores you allow to drop the better the chance of more mushrooms in the future! Baskets or paper bags don’t allow spores to spread, so find something with large holes in it.
5. Be respectful of other mushroom hunters you encounter. While public land is there for all of us to share – just like any other public land activity – be respectful of others and their space. Perhaps one of the worst things you can do if you see someone picking mushrooms along a hillside is to rush over and invade that space. Best case is to speak politely, wish them luck, and make a note of the spot for future forays.
6. Lastly, when you find a hot spot or a treasure trove of mushrooms, keep the area secret. Tell only close mushroom enthusiasts to help keep the area from over foraging.
By Terri Clements
Folks, I have a very important announcement, especially for those who are new to mushroom foraging. In one weekend we had four mushroom poisoning’s reported to Poison Control in Arizona.
In at least one case, the poisoning was due to eating unidentified mushrooms! In another case, the poisonings were due to eating a large quantity of various species at one time.
Rule 1. Never eat a mushroom that YOU cannot identify the species. If someone tells you what type of mushroom is from a photo online, do not rely on the ID but treat it as a suggestion. You need to verify the type by looking at multiple reputable online resources or guide books. If you are still uncertain, do not eat it.
Rule 2. When eating a mushroom for the first time, try a small portion, say a tablespoon. Make sure it is well cooked. If you have no reaction, the next day you can then eat a normal portion. Try only one new mushroom a day, or you won’t know which one is causing the problem if you have a problem.
Rule 3. Most experts advise that you don’t eat large quantities of wild mushrooms at one time or the same mushroom continuously over a period of days. The key is variety and moderation.
Rule 4. Only fresh mushrooms should be eaten. Just like you wouldn’t eat rotten meat you shouldn’t eat old mushrooms. If the smell or taste is off putting don’t eat it.
If you want to learn more about mushrooms and foraging, a great Facebook group is the Arizona Mushroom Forum, operated by The Arizona Mushroom Society. There you can learn and share information with fellow mushroom hunters.
Sautéed Lobster Mushrooms
A Munds Park Favorite
Look for heavy, dense Lobster Mushroom
A proper lobster mushroom should be heavy, like a paperweight. If the mushroom feels light like Styrofoam, has a strong fishy odor, or a pronounced purple color, they’re too old, leave them be or cover them with leaves in a futile effort to keep your spot secret. You wouldn’t eat a moldy piece of meat, so don’t eat an old, crumbly lobster. Ewe.
Cleaning You Harvest
Lobster mushrooms can often be vase-shaped, serving as homes for small creatures, rainwater reservoirs, and all around stuff you don’t need to eat. When foraging, slice them from the base to remove from the ground, brush them as clean as possible, and shake out detritus from the inside. Then carve out the middle and any soft tissue using your knife.
Sautéed Lobster Mushrooms
Recipe adapted from Kevin Meehan
1 tablespoon butter
1 shallot, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound lobster mushrooms, cleaned and diced
1 teaspoon minced thyme leaves
Ground nutmeg, to taste
Salt and pepper
In a large frying pan over medium heat, melt the butter and add the shallots and garlic. Cook until the shallots have softened, about 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms and thyme and cook until tender, about 4 minutes. Add a pinch of nutmeg and season with salt and pepper.