With the freezer full of juicy September blackberries, it’s time to turn my eye to the forests in search of wild mushrooms.
Humans have been gathering wild foods since the beginning of time. Today in BC most of us count on the grocery store and perhaps a home garden patch to supply our daily food. But, whether living in the city or the country, there are wild foods around us.Chanterelle mushrooms, pictured here, are one of the wild edible mushrooms you can find in BC.
Foraging is a term used to describe searching out wild foods and is practiced by many British Columbians. For example, Aboriginal people traditionally harvest many wild foods, such as berries, herbs and roots. I find foraging is a great way to be active outdoors, while also learning about food and nature.
NOTE: Did you know that some mushrooms are poisonous? It is important to make safety a top priority when foraging. This way you can be sure the wild foods you find are safe to eat.
When I first started mushroom hunting, I went with an experienced guide and a good mushroom book. For the first few years I didn’t actually harvest any mushrooms at all - I just looked and practiced identifying mushrooms for fun. I quickly learned to leave my expectation of finding edible mushrooms in my backpack next to my water bottle. Edible mushrooms are not always easy to find!
With more people becoming interested in harvesting wild foods, it’s important that we each do our part to protect the forest and mushrooms. I have used the resource “Harvesting Edible Wild Mushrooms in BC” published by the BC Ministry of Forest and Range for starter information on where mushroom harvesting is allowed, responsible methods of harvesting mushrooms, and safety information.
If you’re interested in trying some new types of BC mushrooms without foraging, check your local grocery store or specialty market. My favorites are chanterelles for their rich flavour and colour. You can also look for pine, morels or lobster mushrooms.
Do you do any foraging? Are there other wild foods you harvest?
Recipe: Wild chanterelle mushrooms on pumpkin polenta with garden herbs
250 mL (2 cups) vegetable or chicken broth (no salt added) or water
250 mL (2 cups) pumpkin puree
½ tsp. salt
200 g (1 cup) dry polenta flour (whole grain ground corn)
1 tsp. chopped fresh or dried oregano (I use fresh from my herb garden)
160 g (2 cups) roughly chopped chanterelle mushrooms
- In a medium sized sauce pan, mix the broth (or water), pumpkin puree and salt. Heat over medium-high heat until simmering.
- Pour the polenta flour slowly into the simmering liquid, stirring constantly.
- Turn the heat down to medium and continue to cook for about 3 minutes, stirring regularly.
- Add the mushrooms and herbs. Continue to heat and stir for another 12 minutes or until the mixture is thick and fully cooked.
Serve immediately. Add a sprinkle of parmesan cheese and a side of steamed chard and beans to make a complete meal.
Place a sheet of parchment paper on a 12 inch x 9 inch baking pan. Spread the hot polenta on the parchment filling the pan. The polenta should be about ½ inch thick. Allow to cool. The polenta will set. Once cool, cut into triangles or rectangles and serve.
You can store the polenta in the refrigerator for 2-3 days. I take left over polenta to work for lunch with greens and beans.
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Ministry of Forests and Range: Harvesting Wild Edible Mushrooms
Royal Roads: Harvester Handbook
Royal Roads: The Sustainability Question
Royal Roads: Good Wildcrafting Practices
Straight.com: Research Before you Harvest