Going foraging for edible or medicinal mushrooms? Read our guide first! We cover the bases of what to bring, how to pick/how not to pick mushrooms, sustainable foraging tips and notes about how to properly and sustainably source Chaga from the wild while being respectful to the Birch tree.
What to bring
The Sustainable Forager
- Respect and honour nature, first and foremost!
- Don't over-forage. Always ensure you leave more behind than what you are taking
- Don't take more than one sample of the same mushroom if it's not necessary
- If you see a grouping of mushrooms, don't pick them all. Allow others to enjoy the mushrooms during their walks in the woods
- Cut mushrooms with a knife and don't rip them from the ground, you don't want to damage the mycelium
- Using a basket allows any spores to spread as you walk through the forest. You are a mushroom vector!
- Look but don't touch, you don't need to pick them all
Preparing for a foray
- Mushroom knife (or any sharp knife safe for travel)
- Whistle (in case you get separated from the group or need assistance)
- Wax paper or paper bags to keep fungi separated and preserved (optional)
- Hand magnifying glass (for the itsy-bitsy teeny fungi)
- Clothing appropriate for the weather - good coverage to protect from poison ivy, insects and ticks (be sure to do a tick check when you get home)
- Insect repellant
- Hiking boots or rain boots
- Mushroom field guide, book, or identification key
- Lunch - garbage and waste free is always better
- Best to walk the woods with 2-3 others rather than alone
- Be mindful of time and have a watch or your phone on you, be sure to meet the group back at the assigned time
- Take your phone off silent and put it to vibrate or ringer in case a foray leader is trying to get a hold of you
Awareness and popularity of Chaga mushroom and its benefits have been growing in recent times, and the foraging of wild Chaga is rising in North America. Disregard for ethical harvesting practices, over harvesting, and mistreatment of Birch trees are all causes for concern! If foraging wild Chaga for personal use please use sustainable practices:
- Properly identify the white or yellow Birch tree and Chaga mushroom (there is another mushroom that grows on Birch called the Birch Polypore - this is not Chaga).
- Try to harvest from larger, mature, living Birch trees.
- Do not cut off Chaga chunks close to the tree trunk - leave the surface of the tree protected!
- Only cut off small chunks of the fungus and vary the tree source, leaving most behind.
- Make sure to clean and thoroughly dry out your Chaga chunks before brewing homemade tea.
- Use caution when foraging edible mushrooms. It is your responsibility to get a 100% positive identification from a mycologist or expert before ingesting any mushrooms found in the wild.
- Always cook mushrooms well before eating!