There are a few special techniques to finding mushrooms especially when a person has never found a particular type that they are looking for. The best way to begin to find a mushroom that you have never found before is to go with a person who has found them. There are several reasons for this. First of all if you have never found a particular mushroom before it is likely that you have only seen it in the pictures of mushroom books or perhaps you have never seen it. Even with a reliable mushroom book you will only know the basic habitat like; what does it grow on, when does it grow, etc. These clues are generally not enough to go on. In fact, as many mushrooms have poisonous look-alikes you can end up in the hospital by picking and eating the wrong ones. A person that has found the mushroom before will not only know where to look but also how to look.
The obvious thing to consider when looking for a mushroom is the contrast between it and its surroundings. The color, shape, and size of the mushroom are all factors making it either easy to find or difficult to find. Some mushrooms even hide under leaves or pine needles, in high grass or weeds. All of these difficulties can be made so much easier if you have a companion that has found the mushroom before.
Andrew Weil likes to tell how he was not able to find certain mushrooms until he went with a companion and they ‘showed him’ how to find them. Sometimes he would walk ahead of his companion and just after he left the spot his companion would point out the very mushroom he was looking for but walked right passed without seeing it.
There are two explanations for this. One is scientific and the other is mystical. The scientific explanation says that the limbic system in our brains recognizes patterns when it is important for it to do so and we are familiar with the pattern. Those of you who are old enough to have bought a car will probably remember that when you bought a new type of car you began to see a lot more of them than before you bought the car. That is because your mind registered that type of car as being more important now that you have bought one. Without that recognition, your car would be a lot harder to find in a parking lot that it normally is. It is the same with mushrooms. When your friend points them out your mind makes mental notes on the exact type of habitat the mushroom was growing in. The more of them you find the more input your brain receives and helps you find even more of that type.
The mystical explanation is that mushrooms call to a person. A person will go out with a friend and the friend will ‘listen’ for the mushroom. They might walk a bit until finally a mushroom appears to the friend that is familiar with finding them. After a while, you will hear them too and they will become easier to find.
Take your pick as to which explanation is the best one. The important thing is finding the mushrooms!
Here are a few more helpful hints to help you find the mushroom you are looking for. Not only should you let your subconscious mind make mental notes but also you should actively try to remember everything you can about finding a particular mushroom. After a while, if you spend a lot of time looking for a particular kind, you will be able to find them when no one else can.
As we mentioned before the color, size and shape of the mushroom can make it easy or difficult to find. Some of this will depend on the viewing angle. For example, if a mushroom matches its surroundings in color you will have to see its shape standing out in order to find it easier. There are several ways to do this depending on the habitat. If, for instance, you are looking for morels, you can walk up or down a hill so that they stand out more. This will depend on the amount of foliage and the angle of the sun. You always want to place yourself so that the sun shines on the mushroom in such a way as to make it stand out. This is true whether you are walking through a pasture, in the woods, or in a neighbor’s lawn.
Use the sun and the viewing angle to help you and take mental notes. If you keep at it, you will find all the mushrooms you want.