Social media brings out the worst in people and pick shaming is common in mushroom picking or foraging groups. Just like anything that you post today, you may experience backlash. It happens if you post a photo of a dog, baby, recipe, literally anything can set off a keyboard warrior. Two days ago, my blog post about The New York Mycological Society got some hate. This so-called “Concerned Mycologist” shamed long-time mushroom experts for picking mushrooms instead of cutting them at the stem. Not only was she unnecessarily rude, but she was also incredibly incorrect.
Prime Pick Shaming in Action
Just in case you are interested, experts have researched this and the conclusion is:
“Turns out that in the cut plots, yields have decreased (but only very slightly) over time. And, more surprising to the group, in plots harvested by simply pulling out the mushrooms, yields have actually gone up during the 25 years of this study.”Britt A. Bunyard
Mushrooms reproduce via spores and have wide underground networks that span beyond their roots. Most mushrooms will not grow out of a cut stump. This Concerned Mycologist lady is not the only person I know who thinks that there is a right or wrong way to pick mushrooms. That is what inspired me to write a blog post – based on 20+ years of mushroom picking experience plus attending various classes. The thing is, I only have two “don’ts” when it comes to mushroom picking.
DO NOT Pick Shame
Pick shaming isn’t just hiding behind an anonymous name and leaving rude comments regarding cutting a mushroom at a stem when harvesting. Unfortunately, there are may forms of pick shaming. Harvesting large amounts of mushrooms and not leaving any for others is a common form of pick shaming. My take on this is – pick as much as you want, as long as you know how to preserve it.
I would only shame mass picking if it ended up going to waste. If you plan on freezing/canning/drying the mushrooms for future consumption or want to throw a giant mushroom party for your entire village, by all means, PICK EVERY SINGLE MUSHROOM. Wasting food, on the other hand, should be a crime in my opinion. But assuming that someone will waste food just because they picked a lot is rude and offensive. A month ago I picked 16 pounds of chicken of the woods. My husband and I eat it daily plus we gave some to a friend. It will definitely not be wasted!
DO NOT Take Risks
Obvious? Yes. But this is my only other don’t when it comes to mushroom picking. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again – wild mushroom enthusiasts are either bold or old, not both. I aspire to be the latter and so should you. If you don’t take risks and drive blindfolded, why eat a mushroom that you’re only 80% certain about? If you’re not 100% sure, DO NOT EAT IT.
How to be 100% sure that you’re being safe? Join a local mycological society. Fees are usually $10-20 per family and they organize trips as well as classes. There are also Facebook groups, which I love because I am already very knowledgable. You wouldn’t trust strangers on the internet with your credit card, so why trust them with your life? These groups are great if you want to learn more, but do not rely on a stranger saying ‘yes, it’s edible.’
DO Learn, Forage and Grow
I cannot begin to express the awesomeness of mushroom picking and foraging. I’m not one of those paleo people who is obsessed with mimicking cavemen… but I am big on the whole, humans were supposed to be connected to nature. We are supposed to eat fresh foods that come out of the ground, not a plastic container. Walking through the forest and discovering natural foods is empowering.
Learning to fine tune your senses to be able to see mushrooms from a distance is an amazing feeling. Then, using all your senses to determine wether a mushroom is edible or not is even more fascinating. I bet anything that if you put me in an MRI machine and had me ID mushrooms, my serotonin levels would skyrocket. Even if you don’t end up taking them home to eat, it feels great to connect to the natural world on that level.
You don’t become a mushroom or foraging expert overnight. It takes a lot of learning and growing. Like I already said, and will bring up in every single mushroom post: join a local mycological society. That is the best way to learn about your specific landscape (mushroom species differ around the world and even climate.) It is also a great way to spend more time outside and even meet new people.
Take classes! I have taken various classes on foraging, mushroom picking and tree identification. Right now I am saving up to do a beginners mushroom course by my absolute favorite mushroom hunters. He has a YouTube channel called Learn Your Land and he is fantastic. The course costs $375 but can be paid in four installments of $105.
“A portion of all proceeds will be donated to the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy — a nonprofit organization whose mission it is to protect and restore exceptional places and forests for the benefit of present and future generations.”
DO Respect the Law
Part of the learning process is researching the law – another area where a society can help you out big time. There are some really stupid sounding laws out there, such as it being illegal to forage in city parks in NYC. These laws make no sense and don’t seem to be reinforced. However, you could potentially get a fine for picking mushrooms in Central Park.
It is very important to respect people’s private property. Living in Rhode Island, you could be in a remote forest and see ‘private’ signs in certain areas. Do not pick mushrooms on private property without asking. Some landowners may not care but others may be checking on that chicken of the woods daily, waiting to harvest it at the right moment. Picking on someone’s private property is theft as well as breaking and entering.
DO Keep The Forest Clean
One of my biggest pet peeves when I’m trying to enjoy the forest is trash. One of my favorite spots, John L. Curran State Park happens to be one of the grossest places in terms of human waste. It is home to your usual suspects, plastic coffee cups and beer cans. But there are also tires, bottles, wrappers and even an abandoned sofa… people commonly use this sofa as a marker when talking trails… Is this convenient? Yes. Is it at all acceptable? No.
Feel free to pack a lunch, bring a snack and beverage. Once you are done, take the trash with you! Even better if you take someone else’s trash too. It may not be your responsibility, but it is your planet. Let’s help it stay healthy! The most aggravating thing I see, and I see it often, is abandoned dog poop in a plastic bag.
Dog poop will decompose quickly in a forest and benefit the plants growing there. If you’re in a remote area, it’s totally okay to take a stick and flick it into some bushes. As long as it is off the path, it is better off decomposing in nature rather than filling a landfill. Putting poop in a bag and then leaving the bag simply means that it won’t decompose, plus you’ve wasted plastic and ruined the atmosphere for anyone who comes across it.
Summary: Pick Shaming
Wait, but I barely covered how to pick a mushroom and how many to leave behind? Yes, that is the point. There is no right or wrong way to pick a mushroom. Science is on my side when I tell you that cutting, pinching or pulling the entire thing out of the ground is perfectly okay. Some mushrooms need to be pulled out completely for ID purposes. Other mushrooms are better off cut to avoid them getting dirty. The bottom line is, be respectful, think before you act and stop shaming others. Respect the laws, respect the earth and respect other people. Let’s stop putting other mushroom pickers down and lets bond over this unique exciting hobby.
Other Shroomy Articles:
- Birch Polypore Mushroom: Disgustingly Healthy Tea
- Chanterelle Mushroom: Foraging Guide
- Chicken of the Woods: Easy to Identify Mushrooms
- Why Pick Wild Mushrooms?
- Bolete Mushrooms: Foraging Guide
- Morels: Easy to Identify Mushrooms
- Back to the Roots: Grow Your Mushroom Food Kit
- The New York Mycological Society
- Giant Puffball: Easy to Identify Mushroom in NYC