By Daniela Lilly Rodiles, Contributing Writer.
Mushroom foraging is a fun way to get a true taste of the local outdoors of the Farmington area. It is an activity that whether alone or accompanied can bring thrill and glee to those who do it responsibly and respectfully. However, foraging can be intimidating, considering all the stories we have all heard in regards to mushrooms and the negative effects they can produce if picked and consumed by a person with an untrained eye. Nevertheless, mushroom hunting can be a remarkable pastime even when not consuming any of the findings.
The State of Maine contains a plethora of wild edible mushrooms growing between June and early November. In Maine’s foraging world, we are able to find a group of mushrooms often referred to as the “foolproof four”: puffballs, chanterelles, morels, and chicken of the woods. These are often considered easily identifiable genera and species. Make sure to remember that unless you know what you are doing, it is best to avoid eating any foraged mushrooms. Nonetheless, it is safe to say that any physical encounter with any fungi is safe as long as it is not orally ingested — thus meaning you can freely “boop” every mushroom in the book without the fear of being harmed.
There is something exceptionally satisfying about hunting for fungi during the fall season in locations around UMF. You get to experience Autumn to its fullest potential in getting to enjoy a stroll across woodland paths found in places such as Bonney woods, savoring the crunch of the fallen leaves on a damp surface, and the whiff of earthy smells from plants hunkering down for the winter.
Bonney woods, Flint Woods, and Abbott Park are all great places to begin your journey as a mushroom forager and a mycology aficionado. Within these woods, which are at walking distance from campus, you will be able to find numerous types of fungi — Polypores, Coral fungi, waxcaps, Laccaria, Milkcaps, Rustgills, Amanita, and my personal favorite: Brittlegills. These all vary in size, shape, color, and edibility.
Margaret Judge, a senior at UMF who took on her first journey in mushroom hunting a few weeks ago, states that although she does not usually go mushroom hunting she loves to look at all the different kinds of mushrooms while hiking: “It’s pretty amazing how many different types you can see once you start paying attention, and they’re all so different from one another.”
For the little elves who have never gone mushroom foraging before but have keen interest in making it one of their new pastimes, remember a few helpful tips. The best time to hunt for shrooms is usually after a heavy rain. Search at the base of trees, areas with dead wood, or moist surfaces where the mycelium — the vegetative part of the fungus — gets a better chance at colonizing the soil and thus creating more fruiting mushrooms. Pick the mushrooms from the “root”, when the mushroom stem is not big enough to cut, in order to help avoid leaving a severed mushroom stump that could get infected with foreign pathogens.
Go for a walk and learn something new. Most importantly, have fun in the woods, and enjoy your time outside even if you don’t find any fun fungi!