Reishi Mushroom Hunting

The Search for Immortality in an Urban Food Forest

June 16th, 2014


This week, the Urban Farm School learned about the kind of topic that might make your mother nervous: wild mushroom hunting.

On Monday, local mushroom guru and self-proclaimed “philosoforester” Alan Muskat of No Taste Like Home took UFS students “out to eat” in a patch of forest about thirty minutes from downtown Asheville.

Alan has spent the last twenty years getting to know the local flora of our region and, as a result, rarely relies on buying his food. A skilled forager, Alan has developed a knack for identifying the mushrooms which are safely edible, a very important skill to have mastered before eating a foraged find. After years of honing his skills, his mother eventually stopped worrying and and his meals are always bountiful and tasty.

In our region, there exists enough edible mushrooms and plants to please even the most sophisticated palate. Though the principles of permaculture offer earth lovers tools to implement sustainable agriculture, Alan believes we should be focusing just as much energy on delighting in the abundance of forests. This way, we can alter even less of the earth’s terrain and rely on the established regenerative systems that forests already have in place.

Alan covered ten of our area’s most common edible mushrooms before students were set loose to try their hands at foraging for some of these treats. Currently, it is reishi season in our region, which means that now through the end of the month is the ideal time to harvest this highly sought-after medicinal mushroom. After a few hours of foraging, UFS students were able to go home with, collectively, about ten pounds of reishi, also known to Western Carolina locals as “the White Butt Rock.”

While reishi is, quite comically, overlooked by Carolinians as a funny-looking growth resembling a butt, in other areas of the world it is considered the herb of spiritual potency and wonder. In China, it is said to hold the key to immortality, as it has over 160 catalogued medicinal uses. Recently, reishi has gained a reputation as one of the go-to herbal medicines that benefit cancer patients.

Read more detailed information about ways to prepare and use reishi here.

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