Foraging Mushrooms for 60 Years


My studies in mycology are diverse and engaging. Fungi are powerful organisms; they are the best recyclers in the world.

I've been foraging for over 60 years. From the age of four, I accompanied my grandfather into the woods where he taught me much of what he knew about harvesting wild fungi and plants. By the time I was ten, I was comfortable identifying four types of edible mushrooms and at least three deadly poisonous species.

My grandfather was a mountain man, roaming the Lower Tatras of what is now Slovakia in the late 1800's. He was a gamekeeper for the Slovak nobility and lived on the land while following animals that they hunted. There was no education, and minimal mentorship from elders during his brief stays in his home village. He taught himself how to survive through trial and error, often with ill effects from ingesting toxic species.

I owe my love of, knowledge and respect for the wilderness to his willingness to take my infant hand and patiently pass on his knowledge.

- NWT Voyager

Editor's Comments

This story is brief, due to my inability to read my chicken-scratch handwriting. I suspect this person’s strength comes from her abundant consumption of mushrooms but I was struggling to write and keep pace with someone almost triple my age. Regardless of length, I am eager to share this notable message of the heritage of hunting and foraging.

The interviewee has requested to go by the name of “NWT Voyager”. I had served her a plate of lamb fettuccine with cauliflower mushrooms, during my quick stint in the restaurant industry. Ironically, the establishment is called Forage and their award-winning Chef, Chris Whitaker is a significant influencer of the farm to table movement and a moose hunter.

Next thing you know we've hit it off, and she's agreed to sneak me into an exclusive wild mushroom identification course with Mycologist Sharmin Gamiet. Since I was a complete newbie, NWT Voyager was doing her best to give me a crash course on foraging mushrooms. More often than not, she was taking my notebook from me and scribbling down the complicated Latin names of the fungi we were finding.

I've learned you can become sensitive to certain types of mushroom due to over-consumption. When eating your pick, it's important not to mix them right away and try a few and wait 24 hours before eating more. NWT Voyager even taught me a fun cocktail concoction of chanterelle mushrooms soaked in vodka. Apparently, effects of the peach-colored infused liquor are quite "nice".

That was the first time I experienced the feeling of someone willing to take me under their wing and showing me the ropes. That was the feeling of heritage: something that is handed down from the past.

- Jenny