placing mushrooms into the wicker
picnic baskets we brought from home.
The best samples were found off the
paths, growing beneath trees and on
their bark. Poison ivy was frequently
evident. With a delicate dance, we
avoided the obnoxious plants.
Afterward, we returned to a designated area to identify our findings,
using mushroom guidebooks provided
by the NJMA. We each entered the
genus and species names of our finds
on identification cards for the whole
group to see.
Some prized finds that summer day
included golden chanterelles, coral
mushrooms and a giant puffball the size
of a toddler’s head. I found a slimy-looking jelly fungus growing on the
side of a fallen tree, as well as a lactarius
piperatus mushroom, commonly known
as the peppery milk-cap, which lactates a
milky liquid when picked. Encouraged by
NJMA experts, I tasted the liquid, which
exuded the flavor of a spicy radish.
“Many people find their way to
mushrooming because they like to eat
mushrooms,” said NJMA president
John Burghardt. But the forays are not
really about finding food. “Attending
one or even a few forays won’t equip
newcomers to eat mushrooms safely,”
Burghardt’s advice: Never eat a
mushroom without first properly iden-
tifying it. “There are no simple rules for
what is safe,” he said, “and many times
choice edibles have deadly look-alikes.”
So what’s the point of hunting mush-
rooms if you can’t eat your discoveries?
“Some people just want to know what’s
in their backyard,” said NJMA member
and foray leader Nina Burghardt,
John’s wife. The Burghardts survey
sites all over Jersey for fungi nearly
Before the foray was even over, Keim
was eager for her next mushroom hunting adventure. “I am determined to find
a Hen of the Woods this fall,” she said.
NJMA is hosting forays every weekend in October—the last ones of the
year—in Lakewood, Woodland Township, Jackson, Waretown and Woodbine. The forays are free and open to
the public. All forays begin at 10 AM. For
more information, visit njmyco.org.
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