Hikers find mushrooms during Upper Peninsula Land Conservancy event
NEGAUNEE — Fungi foraging takes skill, a good eye — and knowing when to say no to something that might make you sick.
Dozens of participants took part in an Oct. 2 guided mushroom hike put on by the Upper Peninsula Land Conservancy at its Vielmetti-Peters Nature Reserve in Negaunee Township.
Local mushroom enthusiast Adam Berger led the hike on a warm autumn day, a time when many mushrooms — edible and inedible — can be found.
Before the hike began, Berger gave what he called his “favorite mycology joke for kids.”
“Are mushrooms plants or animals?” he asked.
The correct reply?
“No is the right answer,” Berger said. “Of course, fungi are their own kingdom in the biological development on Earth.”
He also had a piece of advice for the newbie hunters as they embarked on their trek: Go mushroom foraging with people knowledgeable about different locations.
“This has been such an unusual year with the lack of rain early in the fall,” Berger said. “Golden chanterelle season was kind of bad this year, and right now there’s things happening that are just different from normal.”
Berger also had a few tips for people taking photographs of mushrooms.
“When you’re putting up pictures to ID mushrooms, take a picture of the top, but also the bottom,” Berger said. “You have to see the underneath to identify them because a very important identifying feature is whether it has gills, spines or pores.”
Whether a mushroom had gills, spines or pores, he had enthusiastic words for the fungi found at the nature reserve.
“There is so much out in the woods out here in terms of edible and medicinal mushrooms,” Berger said.
Things to know
One of those edible mushrooms is shrimp of the woods.
In a handout distributed at the hike, it was explained that in a process not fully understood by science, an encounter between honey mushrooms and Entoloma mushrooms causes the “strange phenomenon” known as shrimp of the woods, which often looks like pearly paste or packing peanuts.
Berger showed the hikers an actual Entoloma specimen, which wasn’t shrimp of the woods.
“Classically, they have pink gills a little bit,” he said. “Toxic, not edible. You don’t eat this.
“When they go to war with honey mushrooms — or who knows what’s happening with honey mushrooms? — they produce Entoloma abortivum, which is called shrimp of the woods,” Berger said. “This is a delicious edible. It has a really interesting aroma.”
What does it taste like? Shrimp, of course.
The hikers also got a chance to see a shrimp of the woods up close during the event.
They also saw honey mushrooms.
And according to Berger, they have a unique trait.
“It’s all edible,” he said. “The stems themselves are a very powerful and very gentle laxative.”
He has first-hand experience of this phenomenon.
“It was better than the stuff they give you for colonoscopy,” Berger said.
If anyone is considering getting artistic and making spore prints, he has a few suggestions.
One is using a white piece of paper and a brown paper bag.
“Sometimes spores are brown and sometimes they’re white,” Berger said. “You want to be able to capture them, even if it’s not the right color.”
The gills, he said, should be tapped so they’re facing downward, with a bowl placed over the mushroom and left overnight. The colors of the spores should be noted, which often is an important identifier, especially when honey mushrooms are picked from a patch for the first time.
“That’s really good advice just to be sure you’re not getting anything that could be toxic,” Berger said.
Other choice edible fall mushrooms found in the Upper Peninsula include yellowfoot chanterelles, black trumpets, tubes, hedgehogs, little hedgehogs, lobster mushrooms and oyster mushrooms.
If learning about mushrooms is overwhelming, Berger has at least one recommendation: Study one species at a time.
“Learn the heck out of it, and next year, add another species,” he said.
The hike also served as an opportunity for the participants to experience the nature reserve, which has waterfalls at the confluence of Midway and Spring creeks on their way to the nearby Dead River.
UPLC Executive Director Andrea Denham said the reserve, a 123-acre property with trails, was donated by Kathy Peters — who went on the mushroom hike — and her family in 2016. The reserve is located at 699 Brickyard Road.
“It’s gorgeous property,” Denham said. “It’s highly diverse.”