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Memphis man takes us foraging for mushrooms in the wild

“A mushroom is a fungus. Without them we probably wouldn’t have a life,” said Ben Pruitt. “They’re critical to our existence.”

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — They taste great on pizza and salads. And some Memphians are saving money, and getting a taste for the wild, by foraging for mushrooms in nature, instead of in the grocery store.

“I’ve been doing this about 10 years,” said Ben Pruitt. “I forage for mushrooms.”

Pruitt said there’s a lot one can learn about mushrooms.

“A mushroom is a fungus. Without them we probably wouldn’t have a life,” said Pruitt. “They’re critical to our existence.”

He said mushrooms have all kinds of purposes as well.

“So, mushrooms are useful as food. They are useful medicinally. Some mushrooms have been used in ceremonies since the dawn of man as psychedelics.”

He said foraging for mushrooms is about more than saving money.

“You possibly could find a lot and have a mild saving at the grocery store. But more so, it’s a culinary appreciation of a wild mushroom that you’ve harvested in your dinner.”

But beware – not all mushrooms are safe to eat.

“There are some mushrooms out here that will absolutely kill you,” said Pruitt. “I would not encourage people to go out and use their phone to find a mushroom and eat it… You’ll have less than a week of life left if you eat the wrong mushroom.”

He said there’s a lot to learn before using wild grown mushrooms in everyday life.

“You don’t take mushroom identification casually. You come out, you make certain you know what you’re looking at,” said Pruitt. “It takes coming back multiple times and kinda getting a feel for it.”

And don’t expect a big harvest all of the time.

“The worst day of foraging for mushrooms, you, you find absolutely no mushrooms, but you spent your afternoon, your evening or morning, whatever, out here wondering around in the forest,” he said. “It’s stress free. It’s exercise. It’s a good way to spend a day.”

Now Pruitt did not want his mushroom hunting location revealed to the public. But there are two Memphis Facebooks groups dedicated to mushrooms and teaching people all about them – The Memphis Mushroom Festival and Memphis Mushroom Foragers.

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