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What is a Wild Mushroom?

By April 4, 2015 Wild Food

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANot all Wild Mushrooms are Wild

Strange right? So many of the ‘wild’ mushrooms on the market and on restaurant menus misuse the term wild. Prime examples are oyster, shitaki, and portabello. These are mushrooms that were once collected in their natural environment but are now successfully farmed on a grand scale and have somehow retained their sexy adjective. It’s a widespread nomenclature error that bypasses most consumers. Let’s clear that up today: a wild mushroom comes from the wild. Clearer yet: a wild mushroom is not farmed or grown.

The ‘not so wild’ wild mushrooms that are in your grocery store or in your mushroom soup are the species that grow easily on dead, decaying matter. Pretty cool that some smarty pants came along and figured this out!  Now there are companies who grow huge, continual crops of these products, usually by inoculating hardwood logs with mushroom spore. By a similar method, almost anyone can grow mushrooms in their closet  these days by ordering a kit on-line. This is not a bad thing. Even your plane old button mushrooms can have lots of health benefits and can be really tasty. Butt, ‘wild’ vs ‘not wild’ is more than a matter of origin.

Does Wild Salmon come from a Farm?

Let’s juxtapose the mushroom to Canada’s most celebrated fish. Is it fair to label and sell farmed salmon as wild salmon? Can you taste and see the difference between the two? Are you willing to pay more one? Do you consider the history of the fillet when deciding whether to put it in your cart? Do you have higher regard for the restaurant who states the distinction?

Another maybe slightly less complex comparison is the berry. Have you ever had the pleasure of eating a wild strawberry? That tiny, brilliant red berry is bursting with flavour. It even has different stages of flavour. It’s as though your whole body recognizes its nutritional contribution while it’s still in your mouth. Wild strawberries are hard to get though, especially for urban dwellers, because they are so seasonal and location specific. So, we buy tetra-packed, mass produced, jumbo, pinkish, imported strawberries on occasion because we love strawberries and we hope that they are going to be as good as we know strawberries can be. Alas, we are left with a muted, mediocre substitute for true strawberry potential.

Nature Does it Best

Inspired by quality, flavour, nutrition, environmental impact, and logic,  Wild is Untamed Feast’s modus operandi. The logic is that Nature does it best.

Every mushroom that Untamed Feast harvests and distributes is collected from the wild, that is, in remote wilderness areas, without the use of irrigation, fertilization, innoculation, etc.  The vast majority of the species we collect are the fruiting bodies of an underground organism called mycelium that has such an intricate relationship with live trees that it has not been successfully replicated by man. The prime examples here are morels, porcini, chanterelles, matsutaki, hedgehog, etc. So not only are our mushrooms not farmed, they can’t be. Biologists and mycologists have tried and failed to grow these kinds of mushrooms and the day one of them succeeds is the day that that the world gains its next millionaire smarty pants.

Like any tamed vs untamed food*, you will find more flavour and more nutrition in every bite of a wild mushroom compared to its cultivated counterpart. There is a deep, nourishing quality to wild mushrooms that you don’t get from conventional store bought ones.  A series of microscopic events must unfold, in soils of a particular composition, alongside certain species of trees of the right maturity, at an ideal elevation, exposure, and latitude, in accordance with the seasons…wheew…in order to set forth the treasure of a wild mushroom. There are few things more satisfying than hiking in Nature and being reminded of THAT!


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