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In Search of the Wild Mushroom

In Search of the Wild Mushroom June 12, 2024
Ed Braley leading a Mushroom Walk in Thurman on June 1.
Ed Braley leading a Mushroom Walk in Thurman on June 1.

Nearly every wild mushroom is an immunomodulator, said Ed Braley, who was shepherding a group of visitors through the woods in Thurman, discussing, as he walked, the art and science of foraging.  

“If your immune system’s not running at par, there’s a mushroom that will regulate that for you.  They can help you maintain a healthy white blood cell count during chemotherapy. Lion’s Mane is said to be helpful to people with traumatic brain injuries. Those are just a few of the medicinal benefits of the mushroom,” said Braley, who was among those participating in this year’s Woods Walk and Artisan Market, held at Martin’s Lumber on June 1.

Braley, a Capital District native who now lives in Thurman, became interested in mushrooms for their medicinal properties.  Most people, however, are more curious about their edibility – a curiosity Braley is happy to indulge.

“There’s no one or simple way of knowing if a mushroom is edible. You have to do your research.  Join every mushroom group on social media you find. Start connecting with mushroom growers. Also, stay alert to upcoming Wild Dinners, which are sometimes sponsored by groups such as the Chef’s Consortium as charity benefits,” he said. You’ll learn which mushroom is known as “the chicken of the woods,” which taste like beef jerky or crab cakes and how best to prepare them.

Of course, which mushrooms might be toxic was also a matter of interest to the group.

“Before popping anything in your mouth, be 110% certain that it’s safe. Some poison mushrooms can take you out pretty quickly. By the time symptoms start to develop, it may be too late,” he said.

At least a few people were interested in whether any mushrooms likely to be found in Warren County would have psychotropic properties.

“If you have a friend who happens to be a farmer whose animals are raised on natural feed, there may be some magic mushrooms sprouting in the fields,” he said.

In general, mushrooms are not limited to any particular environment or substrate; they can grow practically anywhere, in vacant lots, on logs, even in buckets and coffee cans.

Back in the barn at Martin’s Lumber, Andy LeBlanc was teaching visitors how to grow mushrooms on logs and in five-gallon buckets.

Gary Martin was discussing sustainable forestry, a master gardener was offering tips on spring planting, artisans were selling handcrafted items and homemade baked goods, all orchestrated by Wini Martin, who has hosted the Woods Walk and Artisan Market for more than ten years.

It will be back next year, same place, same time.

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