OK Michigan. Enough is enough and get nice already! Well, it is crappy and so far this Spring has been nothing to brag about. I’m sure it is lovely somewhere but here on April 14, 2018, it is about 35 degrees and pouring rain. It’s supposed to turn to ice later.
Believe it or not, Foraging weather is coming. It is time to shed off the Cold Weather Blues and get back to Nature. It is time that we begin to partake in her bounty. That means it is also time to think about Foraging safety.
You think that doesn’t pertain to you? Maybe not. Do you hunt Morels? Do you go Blueberry picking or Blackberry picking? Maybe you are a bit more involved and have a few other favorites. Could be you are like me and dive in head first to all that Mother Nature provides. If you fit anywhere in there, you are a Forager.
So with that in mind, the key to enjoy Foraging is being able to make use of your bounty without tossing your cookies and wishing you were dead…or actually becoming dead.
What is then, the most important thing to know when it comes to Foraging Safety? Simple…knowing that you don’t know all that much, but what you do know…know it very well. That is the key to safe foraging.
Here is the truth about wild plants and mushrooms. There are crap loads of them. In Michigan alone, there are about 1800 native species and 800 non-native species of plants. No one really has a clue how many fun guys are running around. That’s fungi for you serious folks. There are some guesstimates that there are over 5 million different species world wide. I don’t have a clue how many are in Michigan. No one else does either.
So what is the point? When it comes to plants and especially mushrooms, being an expert is relative. Doctors in Botany and Mycology are smart enough to know they have a lot to learn. So folks like me, who would be considered an expert to many, know that relatively speaking, I am not very knowledgeable about plants or mushrooms. So if you are just beginning, no offence, but you have a heck of a lot to learn if you are serious about making use of what Nature provides.
You will be way ahead of the game if you just know, what you don’t know. Which is pretty much everything. What your goal needs to be, is to begin to make exceptions in your lack of knowledge. For instance. You don’t know much, but, by golly, you know a Dandelion when you see one. OK…that is great, because if you can Identify a Dandelion 100% of the time, then you have a fantastic free and healthy natural resource.
You have the Dandelion down pat. Awesome. How about Morels? Can you Identify the Morel 100% of the time or do you throw in a False Morel, the Gyromitra esculenta, better known in this neck of the woods as the Beefsteak Mushroom? If you make that mistake, you might not regret it until you do. When that fateful day comes that you succumb to the toxins present, you will pretty much wish you were dead. There has been some cases in which the unlucky souls wish came true. So, is the Morel an exception to your lack of knowledge? If it is, awesome! You will enjoy some great eats.
If you realize what you don’t know and take that lack of knowledge with humility, you will be just fine. Take each plant or mushroom one at a time. Make each one an exception to your lack of knowledge. Maybe you aren’t an expert Botanist or Mycologist, but when it comes to your exceptions, you are an expert. That makes you a pretty safe Forager.