At It Again
Recently Trent and I ventured to Asheville, NC to complete a wild mushroom food safety certification course taught by Mushroom Mountain’s Tradd Cotter. While we are not planning to step up and start selling foraged mushrooms (it’s a lot of work people!), we wanted to dig in and learn more about our favorite Kingdom: Fungi. Tradd is currently offering certification for NC, SC, GA via a 5 day hands-on or a 2 day weekend course.
I have to say, although we spend hours combing the forests for mushrooms in a lot of different locales, I was pretty nervous to get into the classroom and test my knowledge! And what could be more dry and boring than a bunch of latin species identification, right? Wrong, this was a fascinating class with very little latin required! Certainly mushroom obsession is a pre-requisite, but other than that – a motivated learner willing to study a bit would fit right in. Trent is convinced that Tradd has been a stand up comedian in a former life – he delivered the material with ease and a healthy dose of humor. We learned to identify about 28 mushrooms in conjunction with poisoning information, collection rules and food safety musts. Essentially we were prepared to legally sell wild, foraged mushrooms in three states for 5 years. While this growing cash-based industry is largely unregulated in many states (including our own Colorado), NC, SC and GA take their wild shrooms pretty seriously. You must have a license to deliver wild foraged goods to any establishment selling them to the public. And with good reason right? Wild mushrooms can be very dangerous and sometimes even fatal if misidentified and consumed.
I think one of my favorite take aways from the class was actually adding new mushrooms ‘to our basket’ as we like to say. Many East coast mushrooms do not grow in Colorado or we just weren’t familiar with. While we did discover some mushrooms new to us in the Pisgah National Forest wilds such as Armillaria mellea and Cantharellus cinnabarinus (honey mushrooms and pink chanterelles), we did not find a coveted jackpot of new species.
Trent has been on a home grow mission and we’ve since sampled many mushrooms we have yet to find in the wild (but we now know them nonetheless!). My favorite new fungi? Hericium spp. Commonly referred to as Lionsmane, it’s not only beautiful, but incredibly delicious and viable medicinally.
I am proud to say, despite my worries both Trent and I passed the certification! I have not physically written so much with a pen/pencil since college, my hands are still recovering. If you are mycologically inclined and wishing to take your fungi knowledge to the next step I genuinely can not recommend this class enough! It was a pleasure.
Sidenote: the Pisgah National Forest and surrounding areas are stunning. This was a first time visit for me and I loved every minute of it. Get out there and explore!