Early Spring into summer is mushroom foraging season! This is an exciting time when a lot happens in the forest and you may notice surprising changes in the forest near you from one day to the next. Foraging for mushrooms can be a serious professional undertaking, hunting pounds of Chanterelles or Morels to supply eager restaurants. Foraging wild mushrooms can also simply be an excuse to get out of the house and play I-spy in the woods while carrying a cute basket. We love any excuse to get out and enjoy the fresh air, especially after being cooped up all winter. A bit of wilderness therapy is just what the doctor ordered! This fun and exciting activity is gaining popularity in the United States, and as more people embark on a exciting foraging forays into the field, there are some sustainability guidelines to highlight. A sustainable mushroom foraging practice is important to consider so that future generations will be able to share in this same joy of finding food in the forest.
DOES TAMIM TEAS WILD FORAGE ANY MUSHROOMS?
This is a great question and the short answer is yes! We forage for chaga mushrooms. Chaga grows predominantly on Birch trees, most often found in winter, and growers worldwide still have not mastered the technique to grow chaga. Our sustainable harvesters forage chaga in the winter and stock up on enough to supply us for the year ahead.
The rest of our mushrooms come from organic family farmers. We stand behind the safety and quality of our mushroom teas because we know exactly what is in them from the moment those delicate little mycelium start running to the final fruiting body. We also rely on a steady supply of fresh mushrooms year round, so it makes the most sense to work with commercial growers for a consistent supply of medicinal mushrooms.
IS CHAGA FORAGED SUSTAINABLY?
This point is where we share space with the foragers. Like any relationship between a finite natural resource and those looking to consume it, we harvest and forage sustainably. Think about bunnies in your strawberry patch. If they eat a strawberry here and there, no problem. If they clear out all of your goods, big problem. And time to build a better fence. When wild-harvesting chaga, or anything for that matter, we stick with the fundamental rule to leave enough behind for the tree to survive and for the chaga to continue growing. This is a basic sustainable harvesting principle, among others, in the “Responsible Mushroom Hunting Checklist” from the Columbines School of Botanical Studies in Eugene, OR.
RESPONSIBLE MUSHROOM HUNTING CHECKLIST
- Who are the indigenous people of this place? What is their contemporary situation?
- Do you have the permission or the permits for collecting at the site?
- Do you have positive Identification?
- Are there better stands nearby? Are you at the proper elevation?
- Is the stand away from roads and trails?
- Is the stand healthy?
- Is there any chemical contamination?
- Is there any natural contamination?
- Are you in a fragile environment?
- Are there any rare, threatened, endangered, or sensitive plants growing nearby at any time of the year?
- Is wildlife foraging the stand?
- Is the stand growing, shrinking, or staying the same size?
- Is the mushroom an annual or perennial?
- Is tending necessary and what kind?
- How much to pick? Is the stand big enough?
- Time of day? Time of year?
- What effect will your harvest have on the stand?
- Do you have the proper emotional state?
- Move around during harvesting.
- Look around after harvesting, any holes or cleanup needed?
- Are you picking mushrooms in the proper order for a long trip?
- Are you cleaning mushrooms in the field? Do you have the proper equipment for in-field processing?
- Which part of the mushroom is food and where is it attached to the parent fungus or substrate?
- Is it already feeding someone else?
- Can I pick without destroying the mushroom’s ability to reappear next season?
- What is the fungus feeding on?
This wildcrafting checklist was adapted from the Columbines School of Botanical Studies in Eugene Oregon.*
Another passage echoing in our minds guiding us to sustaible harvesting is "The Honorable Harvest" from Braiding Sweetgrass
THE HONORABLE HARVEST
“Know the ways of the ones who take care of you, so that you may take care of them. Introduce yourself. Be accountable as the one who comes asking for life. Ask permission before taking. Abide by the answer. Never take the first. Never take the last. Take only what you need. Take only that which is given. Never take more than half. Leave some for others. Harvest in a way that minimizes harm. Use the harvest respectfully. Never waste what you have taken. Share. Give thanks for what you have been given. Give a gift, in reciprocity for what you have taken. Sustain the ones who sustain you, and the earth will last forever.
Collectively, the indigenous canon of principles and practices that govern the exchange of life for life is known as the honorable harvest. They are rules of sorts that govern our taking, shape or relationship with the natural world, and rein in our tendency to consume – that the world might be as rich for the seventh generation as it is for our own.”-Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass
If you want to learn more about mushroom foraging or about the unique mushrooms near you, search for "Mushroom Foraging Near Me" or your local mycology club. It is truly surprising how many there are operating without us even knowing (much like the fungus all around us). Every spring and summer there are hosts of foraging forays in local hotspots and it can be fun just to tag along for the hunt. Go slow, look down, and enjoy the adventure.
*© HB 1995, 2012, HB & HB 2019. Feel free to reprint and distribute this checklist, as long as it remains in tact with the headers and footers attached. For more information, contact us at 541-687-7114 or write to PO Box 50532, Eugene, OR 97405 firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.botanicalstudies.net