How to Do More Mushroom Hunting Safely

In an earlier posting I talked about mushroom hunting in Alaska. At the end of this article I will add still a few more tips on how to gather these most delectable fungi. First, let me describe to you one special mushroom seeking incident that I neglected to mention in my previous article. It happened to me and my then almost eighty year old Dad along the banks of the Taku River back in the mid 1970’s. My friend, Ron Maas, had invited us to visit him and his wife, Kathy, at their then owned family business, Taku Glacier Lodge. Supplies usually arrived at the lodge by boat or barge, but people usually got there by float plane. Not only was this Dad’s first ever flight in a small plane, it was also one of the few times since arriving in America that he ever strayed more than a few miles from his home in San Francisco. His laughable comment to our hosts was, “My son phones me to say that we are going mushroom hunting together, but I have to fly all the way to Alaska on a jet and then take a float plane to get there – absurd.”

Ron and Kathy operated the lodge and the adjacent roughly 20 acres of heavily forested land as a tourist attraction, but this day the lodge was closed to the public. golden teachers canada So, the four of us were going mushroom hunting. Ron had earlier seen some large white puffballs (calvatia gigantea) and he wanted us to see them and to assure him that they were edible It was along a trail barely wide enough to accommodate Ron’s old jeep truck that we rode along searching for the puffballs but secretly hoping to find the elusive, deliciously famous king boletus (boletus edulis). After hours of fruitless tramping in the bear sign filled woods, I suggested that we should perhaps give it up for the day – the mushrooms just weren’t growing yet. When Ron saw a pile of scat that was still steaming, he agreed. He got back into the jeep in a hurry. The rest of us were close behind – Dad and I now sitting on the open tail gate and riding backwards but still looking for mushrooms. As we neared the open grassy area around the lodge but still within the surrounding forest, Dad yelled out a loud “STOP.” Ron did just that, and Dad hurried off back into the woods. When he returned he had in his hands one of the biggest and prettiest king boletus that I have ever seen before or since. How he saw that mushroom with those old spectacled eyes of his is beyond me. Suffice it to say that one very happy old man took that mushroom to the kitchen of the lodge, brushed it clean (you never wash mushrooms), cut off thick slices, dipped them in eggs and melted butter, and then breaded them. I think he added some garlic or onion salt for extra flavor. The resulting fried up feast fed all four of us until we were completely and blissfully sated. Dad departed for those bountiful mushroom filled forests in Heaven in 1986, but those kinds of remembrances will stay with me forever.

Now, here are some additional suggestions. They are mostly found by using the search engines available here on the web. A few are from personal experience:

1. If you are not sure about the specie, don’t even try to eat any of it.
2. If you don’t heed the advice in #1 above, taste only a little bit of it. If it turns out to be poisonous, you will probably only end up with a bad stomach ache.
3. Read all you can about the various species – the edible and the non-edible. Books with pictures of the various types of mushrooms are most helpful.
4. Avoid the amanita specie. There is one in that family that is delicious and highly recommended. Most of the others of the same specie often look identical, but are either non-edible or downright lethal. Even old-timers have made mistakes with that specie – some deadly.
5. Rely on new texts when reading about mushrooms. Some of the older volumes are not as encompassing when it comes to data on toxicity, etc.
6. Finally, if you are hunting mushrooms in bear country, be alert. Those animals can sometimes do you more harm than the bite of even the most suspect fungi.

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