The First Great Forage

The whirlwind of Andy’s life never stops, rarely slows, and is always ready to start up again. Why? Because he’s insane. Anyhow, the voices urge me onward. Recently I was able to organize and participate in a Slow Food Charlotte event that was with a local forager named Reed.

A rule on foragers. They know the value of a secret and are good to keep their best ones close to their heart (or stomach). I don’t want to give any more than I have to on where we were or Reed’s full name. I respect this self-proclaimed lummox and want to keep the integrity of the wood, per say.

Stay Away from Brown and Whites

SFC Foraging: Reed
We weren’t but a few yards away from civilization when Reed shouted out that we should stay clear of all white and brown mushrooms. Unless of course you know what you are doing. Of course we don’t, and not knowing, this gave us our first framework to work in.

There are plenty of good white and brown mushrooms, there are also plenty that will do you harm from indigestion to liver failure. There have been many families snuffed out by collecting of simple white mushrooms with a death cap mixed in. The difference between a species being identified is of extreme importance.

SFC Foraging: Park Walking
There were six of us, as we got comfortable with the terrain we learned a little bit more about each other. Educators, chefs, executives, and more. One goal in mind, to learn more about the wild around us and how to better scout for the delectable within. We couldn’t have been paired with a better local guide.

Reed is an impassioned man who loves being outdoors. He is a living tome of knowledge that was first catalyzed as a small child. When asked where he got started thinking about mushrooms he recalled a science fair project and how after that he never stopped looking into the natural world around him.

So Much Knowledge!

I wish my mind could have held it all. He pointed at trees that would have different species at different types of year. Bushes that held edibles, and wild roses that might have the greatest little blooms. Everywhere he turned he could practically tell us something else about the landscape around us. It was impressive and inspiring.

SFC Foraging:
We eventually came to a set of stream-beds. Reed found some small red/orange chanterelle and had us all get a good eyeful. We were then instructed to fan out and look for more based off of a kind of grid search heading north along the stream. Slowly we began to spot little patches here, there, all in a fairly juvenille state, but chanterelle’s none the less.

Over the course of a few hours, a couple of miles, and a few of us getting famous left or right, mud-foot, we learned so much. We found good species and bad, the edible and the repelling. Reed even found a few new that might be good. He would take them home for spore printing and testing. We also stumbled upon an old homesite marked by giant oaks and the remnants of the stone foundation for a wood cabin.

Injury Count, Zero^b^b^b

We came, we saw, we got stung. Oh yea, the only real injury of the trip was when Laura and I, third through a wasp nest finally pissed them off enough to send out a full on assault. We danced violently with spurts of run walking before shedding a portion of clothing and asking the wasps to please go home. While we got the brunt and large amount of stingers I think everyone got stung once. (Which for the record wasp stings take up to 6 days before they fully stop itching.. what a drag!)

SFC Foraging: Finders Keepers
While we harvested only a small amount on this trip Reed thought it was a great success. We all now know what to look for on a few edible species. We now know what to not touch from panthers to death caps and a host of bitter bites.

We will try and continue to do this in intervals so that more can become a bit more forage worthy and collectively we can understand more of Charlotte’s natural bioculture.

For more pictures check out my flickr forage gallery. You can also join the Slow Food Charlotte community, find out more about our local agriculture and how you can get involved.

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