Fall is here and it is an excellent time to try your hand at foraging for mushrooms.  Grow Sustainab-LEE had guest speaker, Adam Boring, come in to talk to our participants about mushrooming in Southwest Virginia.  Adam is a Virginia Master Naturalist Volunteer with the High Knob chapter and he often does walks and talks on mushrooms.  (You can find our more about their chapter at https://vmnhighknob.wixsite.com/vmnhighknob.)

If you are interested in learning about foraging, you first should consider safety and survival techniques.  Make sure when you are in the woods to take basic survival equipment and that you know how to use it.  If you have all the equipment in the world and don’t understand what to do with it, you are simply wasting your time.  Secondly, know a bit about the wildlife in the area and how to avoid triggering an attack.  Third, there are many other factors to consider before you decide to head out.  In Adam’s words, “Other things to look out for are loose ground/boulders, widow maker trees, weather patterns, hunting seasons, etc.”

  • Loose ground can cause you to lose footing and fall.
  • Loose boulders can be a crushing hazard.
  • Widow maker trees are where a tree has partially fallen and may catch you underneath if it continues to fall, so make sure to go around.
  • Getting caught out in a storm could be a fatal mistake as well, and knowing weather patterns can help avoid that issue.
  • If you are foraging during hunting season, wear bright colors so you are not mistaken for prey.

Next, we have to find a place to forage.  In southwest Virginia, you can not forage in a State park.  National parks vary from place to place.  Your best bet for being able to forage successfully while respecting the law is on private property.  You also want to take into consideration things like chemical use and traffic patterns.  If chemicals are being used on the property, it may not be safe to eat the foraged mushrooms.  Same thing for mushrooms that may grow near where a lot of traffic passes through as the exhaust can also leave undesirable substances in the mushrooms you gather.

Okay, so you have taken steps to be prepared and are ready to head out.  What now?  You have to make absolutely certain that you know what you are doing.  Not all mushrooms are edible.  In fact, some are down right deadly.  The best way to learn is by finding an experienced mushroom forager and having them teach you.  Second best would be to find a good guide book and make sure you know how to use it.  Never eat anything that you are not one hundred percent certain you know what it is.  In southwest Virginia, there are several types of mushrooms you can forage.  Some of these are: Honey Mushrooms, Blewits, Yellowfoot Chanterelle, Hen of the Woods, Lion’s Manes, Chicken of the Woods, Puffballs, and Oyster Mushrooms.  The taste and nutritional values may vary.

So, now that you know just a bit about foraging would be a good time to grab your gear and a good guidebook or an knowledgeable friend and head to the woods.  You can get exercise, enjoy the fall weather, and maybe grab some tasty morsels to have for dinner.  Just make sure when you go that you are doing things sustainably and safely, and above all else, enjoy the hunt!

If you want to learn more, Adam has a YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/c/TheWildernessPerspective.


If you want to find out more about Grow Sustainab-LEE or the Lee County Virginia Master Gardener Volunteers chapter, visit our website at https://sites.google.com/view/leemastergardeners/home.