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.
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.
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.