My name is Don, and I’m a Mushroom Hunter
The Old Forest
Many years ago, I was watching a cooking show on PBS. The chefs were an Irish husband and wife team, and at one point they hiked into the forest to search for wild mushrooms. I watched in awe as they both searched for and collected several varieties of fungi. Bright orange chanterelles, delicate black trumpets, and beefy porcinis filled their baskets, and I wondered if there was a chance that I could follow in their footsteps.
A Short Cut to Mushrooms
Soon thereafter, I received The Audubon Field Guide to North American Mushrooms as a Christmas gift. I spent the remainder of the winter studying all of the beautiful images and accompanying descriptions, and I patiently awaited the coming of spring and began looking forward to putting my knowledge and enthusiasm to practical use.
Over Hill and Under Hill
Soon I was hiking far and wide, searching for the strange and wonderful bounty of fungi that Ohio has to offer. At first, I collected fresh morels and puffballs, which are a very safe bet for amateur mushroom hunters. Each year I added more species to my knowledge base as I became increasingly secure in determining proper identification. I was amazed by the variety of flavors and textures that wild mushrooms had to offer, and soon they became a staple in my cooking endeavors. I was hooked, alright!
Now, I can safely collect and consume dozens of edible and medicinal species of mushrooms, as well as many other wild foods…and I made it a mission to share my love and respect for these natural gifts with the rest of the world. I have made many videos that explain how to find and identify wild edibles. I also lead mushroom hunts to give people the hands-on experience of searching for and identifying wild-foraged foods with confidence.
Out of the Frying-Pan Into the Fire
My love for cooking with wild edibles has helped me to become an award-winning chef. I am a three-time winner of the Vegan Iron Chef Competition, sponsored by Standing Rock Cultural Arts. My winning dishes have included black trumpet and ramp ragout with crispy polenta, morel and black rice fritters with wild greens pesto, and wild mushroom larb wraps with pickled ramps and Jerusalem artichokes. This exposure has afforded me the opportunity to cater private events, including several dinner parties and a wedding reception.
Not at Home
I have also been featured on local media outlets, including an edition of Quick Bites with Vivian Goodman. The program aired on WKSU, my local NPR station. I have also appeared four times on Fox 8’s New Day Cleveland.