Foraging: Secret of the ages / by Derek Christensen

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talk to most

foragers for some odd three minutes and you’ll think they sold their soul to the devil in exchange for a map- a single map drawn just for them leading to the only mushroom patch in the hinterland of golden geese and leprechauns they live in.

Well we're here to say it: this ain’t no Yukon Gold Rush and this ain’t no rhino poaching party- we’re walking through nature and looking for mushrooms and we believe it should be enjoyed by all, even you.


Here’s our list of ten tips for the amateur, the expert and everyone between.

1. FORAGE, by definition: (of a person or animal) to search widely for food or provisions.

Wtf that means: Beyond identification skills, learning the landscapes and spotting techniques- you have to search, and search widely and explore, and then explore further. For us on Moonrise Standard, foraging is not about going to the exact same "secret" spot to cash your nature check and run. Its about connecting with the elements, observing the conditions, training your eyes and inner compass. It's about losing yourself all the while navigating the forest led by internal intuition. (And if your unfamiliar with your surroundings, or in deep wilderness- a real compass never hurts either)



Sure, a lot of folks find their economic livelihood foraging for markets and restaurants, but most forage for their personal livelihood and in most instances will survive without depleting a whole patch of mushrooms. Take only what you can eat or utilize. There's no reason to take 'em just to take 'em- because you’re there and they’re there. A good rule of thumb floating around is to leave the smallest mushrooms that make up around half of the patch.

We get it though, sometimes you stumble upon a smurf like village of porcupine sized porcinis, and you harvest them because you think that picture you post on instagram will impress folks and make you lots of new friends. Spoiler alert, that wont work! (well, it might) But if you really want to impress your friends and find a few new followers, pass those porcinis around the neighborhood! Let it be known, mushrooms deteriorating in the fridge is the worst luck you can create for your next hunt! (just made that up but we like it)



Whether you come across a full patch or a picked over hillside, be thankful for the foragers who practiced the tip above. If coming across this scene doesn’t inspire you to do the same the next time you hit the jackpot or mushroom Valhalla, you're doing it wrong.  


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#4 A proper harvest

Some cut, some twist, some rip out the whole damn thing. While the debate may last forever it's been determined that with a majority of mushroom varieties, the method doesn't matter and the mycelium (giant web-like branching “root” system from which the mushroom fruit) are not affected. More important is the way you store your harvest while foraging. Collecting the goods in a basket or a mesh bag will allow loose spores and those shaken from your woodsy stroll to drop atop the forest floor, spreading the love for the following season.


When your out and about and come across a fully picked patch or your about to harvest to the max, keep in mind both scenarios you're not the only one searching for these delightful edibles- you’re in the likes of bears, deer, just about every forest rodent, numerous birds, and the most disheartening  discovery, bugs bugs and more damn bugs. We’re all in it together and remember, there's enough bounty to go around.



Legend has it ol’ Man Jenkins, the infamous forager who spent his days wandering Oregon forests, killed over 22 men and women by way of foraging knife. Jenkins testified he was simply protecting his secret spot and if word got out- hipsters, hippies and corporate dingbats would come take all his gold and freedom and maybe his funny-bone. 

Our takeaway:  Don’t follow other foragers. Eventually you come across one or a group, give a wave and walk the other way out of curtosy, there’s plenty of forest. Read the body language, maybe they want to chat and talk about how awesome mycology is and how much fun foraging is and share some recipes, but don’t count on it. Sure, you’re both on public land and they have no more a right to the area then you, but you never know when you might come across ol’ Man Jenkins and end up feeding the mushrooms instead of eating them.



This land is your land, this land is my land, from the yada yada yada, we all know that’s a load of rubbish! So is saying “I didn’t see any of the twelve no trespassing signs.” Look, we’re not fans of walls and borders in nature but a lot of folks are. Go public or go about asking the land owner before jumping any fences. Also, National Parks are way off limits...we learned that the hard way. 


8. DON'T HATE THE PLAYA - HATE THE GAME (but really just love both)

There will be days when you find absolutely nothing. Be it weather and soil conditions, animals, bugs, other foragers- you will simply be in the wrong place at the wrong time and there is nothing you can do about it. The good news- no matter how bad a forage goes, you still spent time hiking in nature, and that’s always a win in our books.

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#9 Can't identify it?

Don’t f*cking eat it! 

Yeah, half the fun of foraging is discovery. If we can’t identify it in the field, we’ll take a picture or sometimes collect it to bring home for some online research. When collecting these specimens we use a separate mesh mentally labeled as unknown and make sure they don’t come in contact with our edible basket. Overly cautious? Maybe, but just like Wooderson we wanna just keep livin’ - L I V I N .



Hold yourself to the Moonrise Standard- treat the land and foragers and inhabitants with respect, spread the love and share the word.