Foraging – For Safety’s Sake
Becoming a certified forager isn’t necessary, but it’ll help guide you in the forest
Foraging can be fun, but it can also be deadly if you don’t know what you’re looking for during your adventure. It’s for that reason some people decide to get certified in foraging, especially with mushrooms.
“Chefs don’t necessarily know what to look for, especially in some of the less common mushrooms,” admits Josh Heaton, certified forager and co-owner of Farm restaurant in Bluffton, S.C. “To ensure public safety, some state health departments completely prohibit the sale of wild foraged mushrooms in restaurants. Some states have zero regulation.”
Heaton recommends taking a course, either online or in person if offered in your area. Organizations like South Carolina's Mushroom Mountain, Michigan's Midwest American Mycological Information (MAMI) and Minneapolis-based Gentleman Forager teach one- and two-day mushroom identification and safety certification courses, which many states require if you're going to use or sell wild mushrooms at a restaurant. Naperville, Ill.,-based the Resiliency Institute offers a nearly year-long much broader certification course in edible wild plants.
“Anyone can go out and collect mushrooms,” Heaton adds, “which is a potentially dangerous thing if they are allowed to sell or serve them to others.”
Knowing what you can properly forage is not only a public safety issue, it can literally mean the difference between life and death.