Before we get into mushroom foraging let’s take a quick look why this activity an lifestyle can help better ground us. Spending time in nature has long be revered for its healing effects. When we need to feel grounded, taking time to be close to the earth can soothe the soul. In yoga, this is referred to as connecting with your root chakra. In Japan, it’s an activity known as Forest Bathing. The power of nature’s medicine is esteemed in ancient healing modalities such as Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine. Today, in a world where we live quite disconnected from the earth, many are feeling drawn to reconnect to mother nature and explore the health benefits she offers in abundance.
With this shift towards nature’s healing, closer attention is being paid to the food that we eat and where it comes from. Based on this demand, food grown from the earth without chemicals or pesticides is now more accessible to consumers. Many have taken this one step further by growing and foraging their own food, just as we all once did hundreds of years ago, creating an even deeper connection between consumers and the earth.
One food group that has garnered a great deal of interest for health-conscious consumers who prioritize connecting with the earth is mushrooms. Mushrooms are recognized as having numerous health benefits. Additionally, the activity of mushroom foraging, heading into the forest to hunt for edible mushrooms, has become an increasingly popular activity. Not only is mushroom foraging spending time in nature, connecting to the earth and getting exercise, but they also gain nourishment from the fruits of their bounty – a winning activity in many aspects. Foragers in North America hunt for a variety of types of mushrooms. Mushroom growth depends on time of year as well as geographic location. That being said, foragers must be incredibly cautious with their findings as some fungi are safe to consume and boast a repertoire of nutrients, while others may look quite similar but are toxic if ingested.
Mushroom foraging in North American venturing out in late summer or fall may be excited to cross paths with a distinct edible mushroom known commonly as Lion’s Mane, and scientifically as Hericium Erinaceus. With an appearance similar to the beard of a lion, this mushroom can be identified by its signature long spines. Lion’s Mane mushrooms have long been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for their powerful health benefits. These fungi are rich in polysaccharides, which are responsible for the anti-cancer, antioxidant and neuro-protective qualities of this mushroom. They also make a delicious side dish when sautéed and seasoned.
Although not the most palatable mushroom in the forest, North American foragers may still be happy to stumble upon the Turkey Tail Mushroom. Known scientifically as Trametes Versicolor, the Turkey Tail mushroom is recognized by its shape and coloring which are reminiscent to the tail feathers of a turkey. Turkey Tail mushrooms are another fungus that packs a power health punch. This mushroom is highlighted in research that suggests it may play a role in immune therapy treatment for patients battling breast cancer. To enjoy the benefits of this mushroom, some suggest making a simple tea and sipping a warm mug full of nutrients.
In addition to hunting for mushrooms that may offer immense health benefits, mushroom foragers are also in it for the flavor. Popular edible mushrooms worth the quest include chicken of the woods, chanterelles, morels and oyster mushrooms. Positive identification is key in these instances, but once recognized, foragers and chefs alike share in the excitement of these bounties.
As we strengthen our connection to the land once again, we are reminded that mother nature offers us nourishment and healing in abundance. It simply takes the time and energy to seek it, and appreciation for our efforts. Of course, with our modern-day culture rich with opportunities for healthy living at the tips of our fingers, there is not a dire need to hunt and forage our own food as there once was. However, for many, the fun and the healing benefits are in the expedition itself, and the reward is just as sweet.