Wednesday, March 30, 2022

by Alana LaBeaf

A predicted trend for 2022 is mushrooms, and while I don’t consider myself to be a trendsetter, I did get super interested in mushroom foraging last year. I got into it during the summer, though, significantly diminishing my chances at finding any morels, which thrive in the spring. So, this year, I am ready for it, if the weather would only be just a little bit more cooperative.

What’s so great about mushrooms and foraging, you might be wondering? Well wonder no more and instead check out these recommendations!

Tales From a Forager’s Kitchen by Johnna Holmgren gets at the heart of what is so appealing about foraging. The author is a blogger who lives in the woods of Minnesota and who delights in being able to find delicious grub right in her own backyard. I appreciate the Midwest perspective here as well, since I’m somewhat new to the state and still learning about the local flora. There’s plenty to delight Wisconsonites here!

For those seeking edible mushrooms in particular, please be responsible and arm yourself with the knowledge necessary to avoid trouble. How To Forage For Mushrooms Without Dying by Frank Hyman follows through on its promise to present information about 29 wild, edible mushrooms in a beginner-friendly format. I would also recommend getting positive identifications from those who know more than you do about mushrooms – there are plenty of mycology enthusiasts on Facebook who make it a point to help others learn.

We have several mushroom field guides to choose from, including several that are specific to the Midwest. My favorite, however, is the Peterson Field Guide to Mushrooms of North America by Karl B. McKnight, Joseph R. Rohrer, Kirsten McNight, and Kent H. McKnight. I appreciate the way it is organized, but its greatest asset is the illustrations – they are gorgeous and capture detail and unique qualities better than photography, I find. 

Did you know that fungi can break down toxic pollutants? Merlin Sheldrake explores this and  many other scientific possibilities that mushrooms hold in Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds, and Shape Our Futures. I love hearing interesting, mind-blowing facts, and this book delivers. I also hold a bleak view of the earth’s future, so I welcome anything that points to how life can occur even amongst death.

Please forgive me if this one takes the whole mushroom thing a bit too far for your taste. Nevertheless, I think that How To Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence by Michael Pollan is an interesting bit of participatory journalism from a writer who knows how to tell a story. And, as more buzz begins to generate over the use of psychedelics to treat major medical disorders, you are bound to hear more on the topic sooner or later.

Sometimes while foraging, you luck out and find pounds of edible mushrooms that you can’t possibly finish eating while fresh. Good thing there’s The Beginner’s Guide to Dehydrating Food by Teresa Marrone to help you get a start on this time-tested method of food preservation. Dry mushrooms to use in soup stocks later, or make mushroom jerky for a simple and lightweight backpacking snack. Did you know that the library even has a food dehydrator that you can borrow? It’s one of the newest additions to our circulating collection of equipment, so check it out!

This blog post is, at its core, about the joys of being outside and in tune to the details surrounding us in nature. In Praise of Walking by Shane O’Mara takes a deeper look at what most of us probably already knew, which is that walking is beneficial to both the body and the mind. Reminding yourself of this will help on those foraging trips that yield little to eat or identify – it’s all worth it just to be moving around outside.

Alana LaBeaf is the Information and Outreach Services Coordinator for the Fond du Lac Public Library.