mushrooms People have long foraged for wild mushrooms in Michigan’s forests, and the Wild-Foraged Mushroom Harvesting Certification Program is helping ensure safety of modern-day harvests used by food retailers, chefs and everyday consumers. Rules for wild mushroom sales have been in place in Michigan since 1999, says Sandra Walker, food program manager with the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD).
“At the start, we would only receive one or two inquiries per year about selling mushrooms, but now there is more interest in wild-harvest, locally grown foods and healthy eating,” Walker says.

Expertise and Certification

A mushroom expert is certified by passing an exam given after a day-long workshop taught by mycologists, or mushroom experts. The workshop covers mushroom biology and scientific classification, as well as dangers of mushroom poisoning, and safe harvest and handling. “A certified mushroom expert has to be able to describe the 21 types of mushrooms approved for sale in Michigan,” Walker says. This includes the ability to identify species approved for sale in the state by both common and scientific names. Since the Wild-Foraged Mushroom Harvesting Certification Program launched in 2014, MDARD has certified 139 foragers as mushroom experts. “Experienced foragers are happy that they can now have more credibility and a structured training course,” Walker says. “And many of the firms buying wild mushrooms now ask for proof of certification.” The certification program allows state residents to safely enjoy the tastes of properly harvested and handled wild mushrooms. It also helps mushroom foragers generate extra income from forests and farms. “This program helps promote commerce within the state of Michigan,” Walker says. mushrooms

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Mushrooms Galore

The most common kinds of wild mushrooms sold in Michigan are hen of the woods, honey, oyster and common morel mushrooms. There is also high demand for wild chanterelle mushrooms – especially from chefs.

As interest in eating wild mushrooms gained popularity, the need to develop a stronger process to certify mushroom identification experts became clear. With this in mind, a partnership was developed among the Michigan Farmers Market Association, Midwest American Mycological Information and Institute for Sustainable Living, Art & Natural Design (ISLAND). The organizations, in cooperation with MDARD, then developed a certification program funded by a Food Safety Education Fund grant from MDARD.

Happy Foraging

Full of flavor and nutrition, wild-foraged mushrooms also have unique food safety concerns. Of the wide variety of mushrooms found in Michigan, 21 of the most foraged, identifiable and marketed wild mushrooms have been included in a certification program. Unapproved wild mushrooms may be toxic to eat, and consuming these unsuspectingly could result in illness or even death. Another safety concern is that mushrooms may become contaminated or unsafe if improperly stored. “Foragers also have to be aware of proper ways for harvesting, storing and handling the mushrooms,” Walker says. Michigan’s Food Code requires that wild mushrooms for sale must be inspected by an approved mushroom identification expert, as well as properly labeled with both common and scientific names. Additional record keeping is also required to document the mushroom’s path of travel to the consumer.

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