Foraging for wild mushrooms is becoming increasingly popular and anyone on a mushroom identification group will know that ‘pick-shaming’ (mentioning that someone should not have picked a mushroom that they won’t use) is guaranteed to attract harsh comments and even a removal from the group! While these groups are wonderful for knowledge-sharing and ensuring that mushrooms are correctly identified, they most often fail to teach any sort of responsible foraging etiquette.
Foraged mushrooms in an inappropriate container for spore dispersal
spread their spores further. On that note: picking mature mushrooms that have released most of their spores is essential.
However, there are other less-obvious effects of mushroom harvesting that should be considered. Harvesters who do not consider the environment around the delicacies they seek will undoubtedly squash plants, other types of mushrooms, emerging new mushrooms and insects in their clumsy search. This may have long-term effects on forest floor dwelling species in popular mushroom-harvesting spots, as well as reducing the harvest for all as the season progresses.
It is considered good manners to leave behind at least half of the edible mushrooms in an area, for other human foragers. But, what about non-human mushroom-lovers?
With minimal studies done on mushrooms in general, especially on their importance in ecosystems beyond the obvious decomposition aspect, it is wise to be careful and respectful when it comes to handling mushrooms. While harvesting mushrooms won’t affect the mycelium, it will affect other species that have relationships with them. If animals and insects don’t have access to their usual nutrient-boosting mushrooms at a certain time of year, this could affect their ability to survive leaner seasons and periods of disease.
We have no idea of the ripple-effect that mass human mushroom-harvesting has on greater ecosystems, so let’s be responsible.
Squirrels are one of the many wild animals that consume mushrooms.
When harvesting wild mushrooms, follow the guidelines below:
*Pick just enough for your own consumption.
*Never pick an entire patch of mushrooms.
*Be aware of what else you are stepping on.
*Use a basket for spore dispersal.
*Do the ecosystem a service by picking up litter while foraging.
*Don’t pick more than one or two specimens before getting them identified – just because we can’t eat them doesn’t mean that other animals won’t.
*Pick relatively mature mushrooms that have dispersed spores, bearing in mind that some are inedible if too mature.