Is wild mushroom hunting dangerous?
I know there are plenty of people out there who think that wild mushroom foraging is dangerous because you can easily make a mistake in mushroom identification. Well, I would say you cannot easily mistake a mushroom you know with a mushroom you don’t know. Yes, the key word here is - to know! It means that before starting any foraging activities, a beginner mushroom hunter should get at least basics on the mushroom hunting.
There are plenty of online resources which offer endless mushroom courses for beginners or foraging trips. However there are not so many (free) resources which try to educate people unfamiliar with mushrooms. I think it’s a shame because the more people know about edible mushrooms the less there will be wrong identifications and poisoning cases.
Yes, there are online resources which represent some kind of mushroom encyclopedia of all fungi which exist. I respect experts which write there however for the person who is interested just to make a mushroom soup from wild mushroom probably it’s not the best way to start learning wild edible mushrooms. So, I have decided to put my knowledge on some wild edible mushrooms via this blog hoping that people will learn some basic things on the mushroom hunting without getting into mushroom science. The information on this blog is free (I will appreciate if you put a link to this blog when re-posting info from it) and comes from my personal experience on foraging for years (you see I’m still alive, so I have not made mistakes )
Coming back to mistakes. As I said it’s difficult to make mistake if there is a knowledge. I think that beginners should start with learning one-two particular wild edible mushrooms (where they grow, how they look, what are the criteria to recognize them, what they are good for) BEFORE going on any mushroom hunting. From my point of view, the easiest mushrooms to learn are pored edible mushrooms. There are very-very-very low chances to make mistakes with pored edible mushrooms if the homework is done properly.
Though the expectations should be right. That’s not possible to become a mushroom expert over night or learn dozens of edible mushrooms in a short period of time. It takes years to learn and practice your knowledge in the forest. Nevertheless, don’t be discouraged – you will most probably find wild mushrooms already on your first mushroom hunting trip.
Therefore, from my point of view, most fears in false mushroom identification come from the laziness to learn properly because it takes time to find reliable source of information. It takes time to make a certain plan how and what to learn. It takes time to actually look through the information on one particular mushroom species. It takes time to understand and memorize that and of course, it takes time to practice this knowledge in the forest.
The basic idea is – learn everything about one edible pored mushroom, wait for the season (autumn is a season for mostly all edible pored mushrooms) and go to the forest looking just for this one mushroom (ignoring any other mushrooms on the way). When you succeed with this mushroom (feel comfortable about picking it in the forest and cooking afterwards), learn the next edible pored mushroom. Gradually, few pored mushrooms will be learned and known well. The next level of education could be to learn some edible gill mushrooms (one by one).
The learning process is endless, so I would say that mushroom hunting is a never ending story I wish you a lot of patience and persistency. The one who really wants to learn about edible wild mushrooms, will succeed. I’m sure about it.