Guilt Free Mycology

By , September 28, 2016

The cartoonist, Charles Shultz, may have summed up the the human condition in one comment when he had his character, Charlie Brown, complain: “Everything I do makes me feel guilty!”

When we became mushroom foragers almost 10 years ago, we basically started  from scratch, relying heavily on the knowledge and guidance of family and neighbor-friends who collected mushrooms. As our knowledge and experience grew, we continued conferring with those who knew more. Still two critical questions continued to arise:

  1. Is it better to pick mushrooms whole, or to cut the stems?
  2. Is it possible to over pick mushroom patches?

Answers to these questions varied, but inevitably, it boiled down to “I don’t know.”

I just found an article that seems to lay both these questions to rest in very satisfying ways.

The article, Agaracidal Tendencies: Settling the Debate Over Cutting Vs. Picking, and the Sustainability of Mushroom Collecting, basically provides data from a couple of long-term studies that indicate that it’s slightly better to pick mushrooms rather than cut the stems, and that it is not possible to over-harvest mushroom patches. Mostly, though, it shows that it really doesn’t matter either way. I highly recommend reading the article if you’re at all interested in hunting mushrooms.

In other words, as far as picking vs. cutting, do what you prefer—picking is slightly better than cutting, but it really doesn’t make any difference. And, pick all you want, Nature will make more.

I came upon this encouraging information at precisely the right point of our current mushrooming season. Blooms of our favorite mushrooms ebb and flow for reasons known only to the mycelia beneath our feet. I’d just come up the swale into our dooryard, thinking about how our favorite mushrooms, the king boletes, had not been apparent lately. As I consoled myself that these lulls come and go in the course of the season, I glanced over and saw a beautiful, prime bolete emerged from our most reliable patch on the edge of the dooryard! A brief, lazy ramble through the woods brought me more of the mushrooms, enough to make more ketchup (see Mushroom Ketchup), which Aly and I did that same evening.

I’m relieved to find the answers to these questions. Although they had not been pressing, they had nagged gently at the back of my mind. I prefer my pleasures free from guilt, particularly when it comes to mushrooms.

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