Sunday, March 30, 2014

Foraging - Luck, Experience and Observation

A bad picture of a good harvest of morels found near Auburn, AL.
      Last year, I blogged about finding morels, but I mentioned that I missed the main flush.  The dried up and rotten morels that I found made me aware that I had missed a good flush, but I was happy to take home the few morels that flushed later and were in good condition.  What I was even more happy about was knowing a new location for morels.  I checked back once more last season with no luck, but I still knew that next year, I could come back to the patch.  In fact, my post from last year concluded with, "Even if the season is over, I am comforted by the fact that morels can be found here, and that I have patches to search next year."  A year sure does go fast, especially when you fill your time with grad school, music, brewing and foraging.  I went back to the same patch today and was rewarded with 4 or 5 pounds of morels.  That is how foraging works.  People are often surprised by the amount of mushrooms, or any other wild edible, I can harvest in short leisurely walk.  I'm often called lucky, and some of my success is serendipitous, but my success is also a result of learning from years before, remembering (or writing down) my observations, patience, and repeating what worked while adapting what failed.  Such is the case with these morels.  Last year I was a little late, but this year I returned sooner and was rewarded.  To say that I only spent a few hours collecting these morels would be erroneous, because it would not account for the countless hours I've walked the woods looking for suitable habitat, the time I spent paying attention to the seasons, plants and weather to determine when I should go searching, and last year's effort to locate the specific patch.  So, if you ever have a "failed" day of foraging, remember that it is not really a failed trip.  Surely, at least some of the knowledge you gain from the trip will be useful.  At the very least, you will learn when and where to NOT forage for whatever it is you happen to be searching for.

*Note:  It is your responsibility to correctly identify any plant or fungi that you plan on eating.  Consult a local expert and/or an accurate field guide.  Do not eat any wild plant or fungus unless you are 100% sure of its identity.