The room is packed for the Foraging workshop at Boise Public Library. It’s not standing room only because there are more chairs, as Librarian Alex Hartman says.
Before you read this, think about whether or not you should eat things you find in parks. No, you shouldn’t. Only eat them if you know exactly what they are and someone trained has shown you and helped you. Now, onto the show!
“In my limited free time I like to find food,” says Alex, who is not actually a mycologist. He’s an “enthusiast.”
Genille Steiner is also present. She is a leader in the Sourthern Idaho Mycological Association and organizes the mushroom hunting forays.
Foraging is “tracking down food that can’t run away,” says Hartman. And we’re interrupted because now it really is standing room only. The room is packed and everyone is eager, whispering around the room about what mushrooms they found, or didn’t find, in which places.
Dandelion greens are higher in potassium than bananas and have more iron and calcium than spinach, we learn.
We’re learning about plants that grow wild in the Boise area that we can eat, that are more nutritious than the rest of the foods we eat, and locally found.
Right now asparagus is in season. It’s high in vitamin A, C, E and K, folate and potassium. It’s found in ditch banks and apple orchards.
Morels are on the Boise River right now. You can also find oyster mushrooms.
Stinging Nettles you can find right now also, Hartman says. You need to handle them with gloves, but you can eat them fresh or cook them. “High in protein, interestingly,” says Hartman. These are found in damp areas along stream banks.
Purslane is commonly found in your garden as a weed and is high in Omega 3 fatty acids!
Apparently cattails are edible – the white parts of the early shoots and the green seed heads boiled like corn on the cob! Who knew?
We also talked about crawfish, huckleberry, camas root (have a purple flower and dig up the bulbs when the flower has died away), wild rice (shallow lakes of Northern Idaho), pinyon nuts (harvest them by laying a tarp down and shake the branches), and walnuts.
Genille Steiner heads up the Southern Idaho Mycological Association and teaches classes in January out at the Idaho Fish ad Game. You can take her class yearly, or join SIMA: http://simykos.org/
Steiner talked about Bob’s 10 Best, a reference to SIMA’s Vice President Bob Chehey’s 10 Best Edible Mushrooms presentation.
Identifying mushrooms is a difficult process. You never want to judge a mushroom based on appearances. Images in field books are often off color and have no depth. The best way is to start by taking a spore print and using a key – in the front of the book – to go through the key to identify properly.
You have been duly warned! I would never eat anything without an expert opinion. Steiner always says, “I’m about to scare you to death,” but she has to, because we could get very sick from eating things we know nothing about. Many mushrooms have chemicals in them that go away when cooked, but you shouldn’t breathe the vapors. Some can’t be eaten with alcohol of any kind or you will die a few weeks later.
Isn’t nature awesome? Living on the edge with foraged foods.