Everything you need to know to enjoy wild mushrooms

Linda and I love wild mushrooms, focusing on chanterelles and black trumpets. Years ago we attended a seminar on wild mushrooms by a friend in Mt Vernon who harvests them commercially. And several times, after picking our first batches of chanterelles and black trumpets, we took them to her to verify that we’d picked the right mushrooms.

Now we are very confident when discovering chanterelles and black trumpets. We haven’t ever found a lot of trumpets, but last year we picked 8 pounds of chanterelles.

Now, you’ve got a chance to do this too, thanks to my friend Tom Seymour and his new guide, Foraging Mushrooms in Maine, a Falcon Guide published by Rowan and Littlefield.

Tom is an amazing guy, a professional naturalist who has written about everything from fishing to wildlife to wild plants and now, wild mushrooms. He is well known for his many newspaper and magazine articles, and he’s conducted seminars and workshops throughout New England. He’s also a great player of Highland Pipes, and once performed up at our camp for a TV show.

In the lengthy introduction, Tom gives us a lot of great advice, such as “get to know one mushroom inside and out before going on to another species.” From sustainable harvests to avoiding toxic plants, Tom covers everything you must know to enjoy and safely harvest mushrooms. He even covers details like how to keep harvested mushrooms dry and fresh, and includes his favorite recipes for each of the many species he includes in the book. The photos are also very helpful.

He even tells you about some mushrooms that don’t go well with alcohol. Fortunately, those are not chanterelles or black trumpets!

I especially appreciated his advice to always get permission from the landowner before picking mushrooms on his or her property. He even referenced a legislative bill I proposed on this subject. Harvesting without permission is considered theft. Don’t do it.

So, why should you read this guide and begin harvesting wild mushrooms? “More and more people are discovering the advantages of acquiring their own food rather than relying on commercial enterprises to supply it for them,” writes Tom. “And this doesn’t even address the immense satisfaction that comes from finding, identifying, harvesting, preparing, and finally eating your own foraged foods.” Boy, that is so right.

When I spot a new bunch of chanterelles, the excitement is much like spotting a grouse or woodcock in the woods. But I must confess, I’m a much better picker than I am a shot. If only those birds would sit still like mushrooms!

George Smith

About George Smith

George stepped down at the end of 2010 after 18 years as the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine to write full time. He writes a weekly editorial page column in the Kennebec Journal and Waterville Morning Sentinel, a weekly travel column in those same newspapers (with his wife Linda), monthly columns in The Maine Sportsman magazine, two outdoor news blogs (one on his website, georgesmithmaine.com, and one on the website of the Bangor Daily News), and special columns for many publications and newsletters. Islandport Press published a book of George's favorite columns, "A Life Lived Outdoors" in 2014. In 2014, George also won a Maine Press Association award for writing the state's bet sports blog. In 2016, Down East Books published George's book, Maine Sporting Camps, and Islandport Press published George and his wife Linda's travel book, Take It From ME, about their favorite Maine inns and restaurants.