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Foraging for mushrooms this fall? Here are some dos and don'ts

"Focus on the ones you know, and harvest those properly." 

Dylan Eyers of EatWild, a Vancouver-based company that offers workshops on mushroom foraging, says mushroom hunters should harvest carefully to leave roots intact.

With mushroom-picking season upon us, experts are offering tips on how to forage safely and sustainably.

Mushroom-picking has been a great pandemic activity for many, says Dylan Eyers, owner of EatWild, a Vancouver-based company that offers workshops on hunting, butchering, wild meat and fish preparation, and mushroom foraging. 

"People are discovering adventures close to home and trying to find a way to connect with nature, and mushroom-hunting is one of those things." 

Eyers noted that mid-August to November is ideal growing time for many mushroom varieties in B.C. 

"You wander around the woods … and you're on this treasure hunt ... then you come home and you get to have mushroom risotto ... it doesn't get any better right?"

BC's damp spring could translate into bountiful wild mushroom harvest

Eyers says there are plenty of common, easy-to-find, edible mushrooms in the Lower Mainland, such as boletes, chanterelles and morels.

David Walde, president of the South Vancouver Island Mycological Society, also looks forward to foraging this year. 

"As the temperatures decrease and the moisture increases, our favourites start coming up."

Mushroom Caution

However, foragers need to be careful to ensure that the mushrooms they are picking are safe. 

Walde's first experience with mushroom picking was in England, when he came across a group of people that were foraging. After briefly chatting with them, he picked some mushrooms, took them home and cooked them. 

"I have learned since that is a stupid, stupid thing to do." 

Although they turned out to be harmless blewit mushrooms, Walde cautioned against foraging without sufficient knowledge or research. He noted mushrooms vary from place to place. While mushrooms in different locations might look identical, they can be completely different.  

Eyers of EatWild says that for those foraging for the first time, it is best to stick to identifiable mushrooms.

"Some mushrooms are toxic. If you throw a bunch of chanterelles in your bag and you throw a bunch of toxic ones on top, those toxic elements might leach into the mushrooms." 

Eyers noted if he sees a new mushroom that he is curious about, he makes sure to keep it isolated after picking, until he can get home to do further research.

"Focus on the ones you know, and harvest those properly."

Pick Sustainably

Eyers also stressed the importance of foraging sustainably, such as staying on marked trails, treading lightly to avoid tearing up soil and moss, and harvesting correctly. 

"How we harvest is important, we want to make sure we are just slicing the stem off and leaving the root attached and not disturbing the soil." 

Eyers also advised to harvest in small quantities — what you can eat in a night or two — as mushrooms don't last very long. This is also necessary in order to leave some for animals that rely on them as a source of food. 

"It's nice to leave a few for the ecosystem, and if you're really nice you can leave a few for the next picker that comes along."

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