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Berried Alive and Under the Shroom | Notes from the North Woods

Fresh oyster mushrooms are a mainstay of autumn, and are often found in the deep woods, especially in a beech forest.

Fresh oyster mushrooms are a mainstay of autumn, and are often found in the deep woods, especially in a beech forest. Photo by Joe Hackett.

By nature, humans are foragers. However, over the course of thousands of years our species evolved from foraging as hunter gathers and advanced to the stage of farmers, and herders. Over the years, the majority of humans have largely forotten about the fruit of forest and the field.

There were many processes and hardships involved as our species made the transition from gatherers to hunters and finally to farmers and herders.

Possibly, the greatest tool used in the process was the domestication of the wild dog, which eventually provided humans with protection, companionship, increased hunting abilities and most importantly herding capabilities.

But despite all of the advancements we have made in cultivation and nearly complete mechanization of the agriculture industry, humans continue to seek out opportunities to forage. Quite simply, it is in our nature.

We will still travel to apple orchards or a strawberry farm to pick our own, if such opportunities are available. By and large, these are quaint, old fashioned activities that are now considered a part of ‘heritage tourism’, rather than subsistence efforts.

However, there is also much to be said for the charm, and pure enjoyment of spending a morning or a full afternoon just pickin’.

Although the season’s heavy rains are partly responsible for driving hordes of mice into our homes, the rains also have an positive upside. They served to keep our area rivers flush with cold, freshly oxygenated water, and they also kept the area well watered.

In turn, we have been on the receiving end of lush foliage and fantastic crops of blueberries, raspberries and blackberries, some of which are the size of a ‘fat lady’s thimble’.

Berry picking is an activity that is likely as old as mankind, and yet while I am participating in it; I always feel like a kid again.

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