Fall in New York is amazing for so many reasons. It is finally cold enough to enjoy the city, the fall foliage is breathtaking, you can finally wear those scarves and jackets that have been waiting in the back your closet and *drumroll* you can go mushroom hunting!
Living in China for two years and moving to New York didn’t beat the Czech girl out of me. I grew up picking mushrooms with my parents and I never expected NYC to be mushroom heaven!
In Prague, mushroom hunting is a popular sport and the experts don’t joke around. If you arrive in the forest at 7AM, you’re already late. All you’ll find is stumps of cut off mushrooms that were picked at 4 or 5AM. It’s extremely competitive and almost every Czech does it.
I was so excited to visit Bear Mountain even though it cost a lot on car tolls and the drive was long at almost 2 hours from Brooklyn. I decided to look for mushrooms while we hiked, and the very first tree that I looked at was covered in hen-of-the-woords mushrooms!
This led me to discovering the New York Mycological Society, an amazing group of people who love mushrooms even more than I do! They offer lots of foraging events all over the city and sometimes upstate New York or New Jersey.
So far I joined one event that took place at the Woodlawn Cemetery and Conservancy in the Bronx. For just $5 each (for non-members) we got to join around 20 other people who collected mushrooms for four hours and then came together to identify them. It was really fun despite the horrible weather and I learned so much about local mushrooms!
If you’re coming from Europe like me, please do your research before you go mushroom picking! Certain boletes that are edible in Europe are actually poisonous here in the USA. There are also plenty of edible species here that don’t grow in Europe – that’s why it’s a great idea to start off by going with the Mycological Society, they will teach you the dos and don’ts!
Another thing to be aware of in New York City, is that state parks have strict laws about foraging. Technically, picking mushrooms can get you a fine of up to $250. It is confusing because when you look up the laws, they make it sound like foraging plants and flowers is illegal while mushrooms are an exception, but I keep hearing about people getting fined and pleading ignorance doesn’t always work.
So many people are curious about picking and cooking mushrooms but fear holds them back. It is never risk-free to eat wild mushrooms, but there are certain kinds that are extremely easy to identify. There are also books, Facebook groups and other recourses that can help you. Never eat anything that you’re not sure about or something that has a poisonous look-a-like. I’ve been picking mushrooms my whole life and I still leave anything that is questionable or looks off, even if I’m 99% sure.
Are you an avid mushroom picker and have some tips, stories or want to generously share your favorite spots? Please share in the comments below!