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Picking Your Own Mushrooms: Guidelines and websites to get you started

September, 2016

Have you walked around your yard, along the trails or even around your neighbourhood lately? You’ll have noticed a few mushrooms popping up from the soil. As we’ve had a rather wet summer with periodic bursts of sunlight and warmth, this year has been a great one for fungi growth, and, in effect, a growth in mushroom foraging, too. If you’ve had a blooming interest in fungi, there are plenty of clubs, online and book information and even retail outlets to further your interest all right here in the St. Albert area.

A note of caution: several varieties of mushrooms are deadly, so never pick a mushroom you can’t 100% identify as safe

  1. Untamed Feast—Started by Eric Whitehead and based in St. Albert, this company is all about getting back to nature and learning what it has to offer, especially in regards to food. In a society with a growing need to know where its food originates, Untamed Feast allows its customers to eat and learn about wild mushrooms. You can find its products in several St. Albert stores, such as SandyView Farms and D’Arcy’s Meat Market, and there’s a stall at the St. Albert Farmers’ Market.

For more information click here.

  1. Alberta Mycological Society—If you really want to know about fungi, this is the society for you. From its humble beginnings in 1987 with only a few Edmontonian members, this non-profit organization was started by Professor Randy Currah and Helene Schalkwijk-Barendsen and has grown over its 25-year existence. It has approximately 400 members province-wide. It offers public educational programs, forays into the Rocky Mountain Foothills and southern boreal forest, identification workshops and an annual mushroom exposition the society lovingly calls “City of Champignons.”

For more information including guidelines and etiquette on mushroom foraging click here.

  1. North American Mycological Association—This association is a great site that has information on clubs across North America, mycological events (such as workshops and forays), cultivation of fungi, photos, educational events and an art registry. There’s also a comprehensive section on poisonings that lists symptoms, syndromes, identifiers, even what to do if your dog or cat eats a poisonous mushroom.

For more information click here.

  1. Wild Edible Mushrooms of Alberta—This page from the Northern Bushcraft website lists 25 varieties of wild, edible mushrooms. The list covers the areas of Edmonton, Calgary, Jasper, Banff, Waterton Lakes, Elk Island, and Waterton and Buffalo National Parks. The list contains mushrooms that can be reliably identified and have no deadly look-alikes.

For more information click here.

Mushroom Safety

  • Take safety precautions first when foraging for mushrooms. Some varieties are toxic even if you hold them. Don’t go by photos alone for identification—compare all characteristics. If you’re unsure, just take a photo and leave it. If you’re new to foraging, always go out with an expert or a group of experts.
  • If you haven’t previously consumed a certain type of mushroom, always cook it first and eat just small quantities.
  • There are several safe mushrooms that have deadly look-alikes.

Did You Know?

  • Alberta’s official mushroom is the Red Tipped Mushroom.
  • There are over 8,000 types of mushrooms in the world.
  • The largest fungi on Earth is found in Oregon’s Blue Mountains. This variety of Honey Mushroom is 3.8 km across, covers an area of 9.6 square km and is somewhere between 1,900- and 8,650-years-old. The mushrooms above ground are only a small part of it; most of the organism is below the soil.
  • The words “mushrooms” and “toadstools” are used interchangeably, but toadstools are considered poisonous.
  • Some mushrooms seem as though they’ve come straight out of a science-fiction/fantasy movie: Lion’s Mane resembles a frozen waterfall; Indigo Milkcap oozes a purple milk when cut; Veiled Lady resembles a brownish, cone hat with a long, crinoline skirt; and the best of all, the Mycena chlorophos glows in the dark due to its bioluminescence.
  • Sorrentino’s is celebrating its 22nd Annual Mushroom Harvest this month.

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