Learning to Forage

I love to learn new things. I think it makes me a better and certainly, more interesting, person. Earlier this spring, we got a course flyer from an organization offering a variety classes in sustainable living. My husband was interested in the DIY dehydrator class and I was interested in the Spring Foraging class. By the time we looked into signing up, both classes were filled. I got on a waiting list for the foraging but was informed that I was 14th in the queue.

Then, last week, I got an email stating that the instructor of the foraging class was going to offer an Intro to Foraging this Friday because the Spring Foraging was so overbooked. I saw this notification at our cabin on Saturday and jumped on the hot spot to sign up.

In the meantime, I found a bunch of very interesting mushrooms on a dead log in the woods where our cabin sits. It was on our property. I’ve seen shelf fungus before, numerous times in our woods and last fall saw the unique Indian Pipe in our “yard” as well. But, the fungi I saw Saturday were different…very different. At first, I thought they were some variety of turkey tail fungus. But, after arriving home Sunday night and doing some research, I realized quickly that I was wrong. The jury is still out on the fungus we saw. My foraging friend, who happened to be with me, also did some research after she got home (you can see why we are friends) and sent me what she found and thought it was – a reishi mushroom or Ganoderma tsugae. It’s a strong possibility this is what the fungi is, but I’m still not thoroughly convinced. I figured I would ask the person teaching the class on Friday.

In the meantime, it’s given me some pause – maybe foraging isn’t the “thing” for me. Certainly, there is a lot to learn. I love learning new information. So that is not the problem. But, one needs to be very careful with fungi – some are deadly. Therefore, since I lack confidence in my knowledge – I won’t be eating any of my “finds” anytime soon.

My eldest son is interested in foraging as well and we plan to go on Mother’s Day weekend when he is home for a visit. We share many personality traits so I am not worried about whether he’ll want to try some along the way.

The weekend also provided a glimpse of the proliferation of wild ramps in a county park and what has been identified by a reliable source as red elderberry. Ramps (wild leeks) cannot be picked arbitrarily, as there are “rules” to follow on public lands. We cannot pick the earth clean if we want these wild edibles to reproduce and survive, as this article in a Vermont publication states.

The elderberry identification led to some disagreements on a FB naturalist page to which I belong with some stating it was sumac. Then, things appeared to become slightly nasty, so I turned to a biologist/conservation director I know and trust and she confirmed it was elderberry – but odd that it was budding so early. Brief readings of the extensive amount of information on elderberries yielded the caution that red elderberry is not edible, but poisonous instead.

Two years ago, I led a foraging hike for our local land trust – well, I coordinated the hike. It was very popular and luckily we have a local mycology club at our resident university. Eight enthusiastic students led the hike. I was along for the ride.

But, I am learning something new. And, I am enjoying it!

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