Thursday, August 29, 2019

mushroom hunting- safety tips

It’s monsoon and mushroom season is in full swing. If you have never dared to hunt for wild mushrooms before, then you definitely are missing out on all these delicious flavors. However, as the saying goes- "All mushrooms are edible. But, few are edible only once !". So, it is important to take some precautions, especially if you are foraging mushrooms on your own. 

It is advisable not to consume a wild mushroom without complete identification. However, here are a few instructions that I always prefer to give before proceeding with any mushroom hunt: 
  1. Always wash the mushrooms before consuming them (to remove dirt, soil & other debris).
  2. Avoid eating raw mushrooms (as they are difficult to digest raw).
  3. Stay away from gilled mushrooms (if not identified properly, gilled mushrooms can be poisonous).
  4. Touching & smelling a mushroom does not cause poisoning (its a myth that smelling/ touching a wild mushroom can cause poisoning).
  5. Always carry a cell phone (in case you get bit by wild animal/ get lost in woods or other emergency).
  6. Use knife to cut the mushrooms, do not pluck them (plucking the mushroom damages the organism underneath. Cutting with a knife ensures that the mushroom will pop up from the same spot in the years to come!)
If you have any questions or queries regarding mushroom hunting, please feel free to comment below.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Foraging, identifying and harvesting wild mushrooms in the himalayas

Hunting for wild mushrooms is a very rewarding experience, but knowing which mushrooms are edible is a key skill you must have before going into the woods. Mushroom hunting takes hiking to a whole new level. It excites both nature and food lovers alike.

As a microbiologist and a nature lover, I have been foraging and enjoying wild mushrooms for years now. So, on the lovely morning of 4th August, 2019, I along with the team of "EarthJust Ecosystems" and a few hikers went for foraging wild eatable mushrooms.While no Morel mushrooms are found in the month of August. But, these are the best monsoon months to enjoy other eatable wild mushrooms.

Helpful tools

Some other tools that we found helpful along our way were:
  • Magnifying glasses (to observe the fascinating mushroom specimens)
  • A knife/scissors for cutting mushrooms (plucking the mushrooms damages the organism underneath. Cutting with the knife ensures that mushrooms will show up next year as well)
  • Baskets to carry your harvest out of the forest
  • Waterproof clothing/ raincoats and gumboots (optional)
Eatable, poisonous & medicinal mushrooms collected by our team of hikers on 4th August, 2019

Mushroom Identification- eatable, poisonous & medicinal mushrooms

While some mushrooms are eatable, others have medicinal properties. Poisonous mushrooms are also very common in these months. So, no mushrooms should be consumed without proper identification. Most cases of mushroom poisoning, however, are caused to rotten or spoiled mushroom and not by consumption of poisonous one!

After foraging these gorgeous beings, we sat down for identifying and pick the edible species, discussing the various types of fungi and their role in the forest ecosystem. The group was then informed about how to recognize and avoid various poisonous mushrooms. We also found a few medicinal varieties during our hunt. 

Team identifying poisonous, eatable & poisonous mushrooms

Here are some of the edible mushrooms that we found:

Lycoperdon pyriforme

This mushroom is commonly known as "pear-shaped puffball". They are found in dense clusters on decaying woods. There occur from July through November in the Shivalik hills (the lower Himalayas). The longitude section of this mushroom reveals plain white surface. Gills never occur in puffballs.

Spring orange peel fungi

This pretty orange colored mushroom is commonly found at higher elevations, often near melting snowbanks. It grows in clusters on leaf litter or mossy ground.

Spring orange peel fungi (caloscypha fulgens)

The common puffballs

These puffballs are not edible at all stages. They are only edible when the internal tissue is white & uniform in appearance. The internal tissue of this mushroom bears sports. And with time it turns from white to brown & then powdery when mature. After complete maturity, these puffballs puff there spores through the central hole.

As a general rule, any kind of puffball mushroom is only edible when the internal tissue is pure white in appearance.
Common Puffball Mushrooms

White & grey oyster mushrooms

Oyster mushrooms get their name from their oyster shaped cap. They have a very short or no stem at all. They are come in a wide variety of colors. We were able to collect atleast 5-6 different varieties of grey, brown and white oyster mushrooms. Oyster mushrooms are the second most cultivated mushrooms in the world, just after the white button mushrooms commonly found in the grocery stores.

Different varieties (all eatable) varieties of oyster mushrooms that we foraged 

We also found some medicinal mushrooms:

Most of the medicinal mushrooms are identified by there woody texture. They are tough to chew and swallow. So, they are consumed in the form of tinctures & teas. Here are the medicinal mushrooms that we found:

Gynoderma species

Different types of Gynoderma mushrooms grow throughout the world. However, there identification is not very difficult because only few other mushroom species rival its iconic beauty!

These mushrooms grow on different kinds of hardwood logs like elms, maples, beeches, oaks and others. Fortunately, there are no poisonous lookalikes of Gynoderma.

To reap its health benefits, we made a tea out of it. As they are too woody & cellulose rich to eat, unlike other mushrooms that we harvested.

Gynoderma species

Codyceps tuberculata 

Codyceps is an interesting fungus that parasitizes and colonizes the insect and gradually kills the insect in a slow and lengthy process. The fungus then fruits from the dead, colonized insect. These mushrooms however, have a great medicinal value. Among the various Codyceps varieties, cordyceps sinensis is the most commonly harvested mushroom.

Scientists are still investigating Codyceps tuberculata  for the bioactive polysaccharides found in this mushroom.

codyceps tuberculata

Inedible mushrooms that we found:

Other than eatable & medicinal mushrooms, rest of them fall in one of the 2 categories:
  • Inedible 
  • Poisonous
Eating an inedible mushroom is just bad for the stomach and may cause diarrhea and vomiting. On the other hand, consuming a poisonous mushroom can be dangerous & even cause death.

We found the following mushrooms that were either inedible, poisonous or unknown edibility.

Arcyria ferruginea

This is a small and erect slime mould, often found in large colonies. It is pinkish red in color and crowded with small stalks. Total height is only 1 or 2 mm. Its habitat is dead wood (especially broad leafed trees). The edibility of this mould is not known yet!
Arcyria ferruginea

lepiota cristata

Lepiota cristata, also known as "Stinking Dapperling" is inedible and slightly poisonous. It may cause gastrointestinal irritation. Hence, it should always be avoided. This mushroom has a central umbo, which nearly becomes plane with age. It has a reddish brown concentric ring surface at center, shading lighter towards margin.

lepiota cristata
Inocybe fastigiata

Inocybe is categorized as a poisonous mushroom. This mushroom was first described in 1774 by Jacob Christian Schäffer, a German naturalist. Its cap (5-8 cm wide) is conical in shape with a prominent central knob, edges upturned, often split. It is yellowish brown in color with fibrous stripes.

Inocybe fastigiata

Cooking them up!

Once home, we soaked all the eatable mushrooms in lukewarm water to remove the dirt, and sliced them lengthwise. For small mushrooms, we left them whole. Then we sauted them with butter and garlic for 10 minutes on medium-high heat.

Another way to enjoy wild mushrooms is roasting them on fire for a few minutes. Then, you can add salt to taste. However, my preferred method of cooking is to saute them! Once done, eat them as a side dish to wild game your meat, soups or salads. You can also directly incorporate them into any recipe that utilizes mushrooms.

Stir fried spring orange peel fungi, wood-ear mushrooms, puffballs & oyster mushrooms

If you end up scoring more mushrooms than you need for a couple of days worth of meals, you can always sundry them for long-term use. Sun drying can be done on racks or trays in bright sun for 6-8. Once completely dry, they are good to use for 8-12 months, if kept in an airtight container.

I rarely ever have surplus mushrooms from mushroom hunts, so mine get eaten right away. This time I had a few surplus mushrooms that I sun-died.

Sun-dried medicinal & eatable mushrooms, herbs and green algae collected during mushroom hunt
As we are learning more about mushroom hunting, foraging and identification, our hunts are yielding interesting specimens, and, also, a delicious bounty. What do you guys feel about our mushroom hunts? Would you like to join us on our next mushroom hunt? Please let us know in the comment section below.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Grow Your Own Mushrooms Workshop- 7th & 8th September, 2019

Do you know that you can grow mushrooms at home in just a day & reap its harvest in 1 month! You do not need soil, chemicals or any fancy equipment for this. We'll teach you how to do this in a 2 days hands-on GYOM workshop.

 You don’t need any prior knowledge in gardening or farming, just an excitement to grow your own organic mushrooms at home.

 If this interests you, please click here to register.


Reach out at 8894486066 or for any queries.

EarthJust, Near New Bus stand, Kather Bypass, Solan-173212

Click here for our location on map.

Creating young Agro-Entrepreneurs at Himpicked

Jhamtse Gatsal is a home, school and community for around 90 children from the local Tibetian Monpa tribe. This year, two of their students (Shanti and Tenzin) decided to drop out of the education system after grade 10th and want to start a sustainable enterprise of their own. 

Himpicked organised a 3 day workshop, providing the complete information on oyster mushroom cultivation and post harvest processing of the mushrooms & substrate. 

The mushrooms were grown on paddy straw which is easily available from the fields. In addition, training was also provided on growing mushrooms using saw dust. To ensure profitable harvest, the key topics like environment cleanliness, humidity, protection from disease in the crop and precautions (do’s and don’ts) were also covered.

At the end of the workshop, the students were able to come up with the following project plan that they will be replicating at their school:

Paddy Straw 10 Kg 30-80
Water 20 Liter -
Buckets 5 -
Soapnut 1 kg 80-100
Black Plastic sheet 2 rolls (24 meter each) 200-300
Water 20 Liter -
Stove 1 -
Plastic bags 20 (bread packet sized) -
Empty room/Cob House 1 -
Notebook for accounting 1 20
Pens 2 20
Mushroom seed 1 Kg 80
Rubber Bands 20 pcs 2


Following is the presentation given by the children at the end of their training: