Mushroom Madness in the Great North Woods

The Hobby of Mushrooming is Picking Up Across Many Parts of the Northland

DULUTH, Minn. – It’s a mushroom madness in the great north woods right now.

With the foraging season kicking off in May, local mushroom masters say now is a great time to start the hunt.

“It kind of started as a freak accident,” said Ariel Bonkoski, a forager from Duluth.

It’s not a hobby that fits everyone’s forte.

“When I say that I study or hunt mushrooms, a lot of the first responses I get are, and ‘do you find shrooms?’”

These common misconceptions, making for laughable moments for Bonkoski.

“There’s not much of that in our area but that’s the first assumption I get when I tell people I hunt mushrooms,” said Bonkoski.

We recently tagged along for one of her tasteful treks.

“I never liked mushrooms growing up. I never liked the texture, the flavor,” said Bonkoski. “There is some that taste like chicken, and they’ve got different textures and flavors out there.”

With a knack for adventure and an eye for curiosity, Bonkoski recently butterflied into the wide-open world of mushrooms.

“I think the appeal was that there’s wild food around us,” said Bonkoski. “Coming up with an identification for a mushroom was almost like a challenging game for me.”

During the recent forage, Oyster, Chicken of the Woods, and Turkey Tail yielded a plentiful supply.

“A lot of people have the misconception that there are so many harmful mushrooms out there, and they’re so scary when in reality we have very few that can harm you or make you sick,” said Bonkoski.

She says many mushrooms growing in the upper Midwest are inedible, simply because of the texture or taste. However, they’re not harmful if they were to be consumed.

“With the mushrooms that taste like chicken, you can literally substitute it for chicken,” said Bonkoski. “People will make fake scallops with mushrooms and it tastes quite similar to scallops and that’s crazy to me.”

The amount of interest in the activity is rapidly spreading, especially through Duluth parks and trails.

“We do have a lot of interest in mushroom hunting in the area. A lot of times, honestly, I’ll just Google ‘Trails Near Me,’ and just hit a trail whether I’m familiar with it or not,” said Bonkoski.

After all, it’s a hobby that happens to provide substance if you were to get lost.

“Most of the prized edibles are associate with hardwoods,” Bonkoski noted.

She says it’s important to keep the environment in mind if you pick up mushrooming. If you take trash in, take it out.

“Don’t trample any areas, that’s going to be the most damaging to the part the mushrooms grow from,” said Bonkoski.

If you’re new to the game, there’s no need to worry. The mushroom season runs through October, offering the perfect activity when those fall temps return to the great outdoors.

“There’s still so much I have to explore here,” said Bonkoski.

If you’re interested in learning more about mushrooms in the region, a new Facebook group called Lake Superior Mycological Society is now up and running.

Bonkoski plans to teach a class on wild mushrooms at the Duluth Folk School on August 29.

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