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The Quest
Acquisition Tips from the World of Mycology
by Fire Erowid
Oct 2002
Citation:   Erowid. "The Quest: Acquisition Tips from the World of Mycology". Erowid Extracts. Oct 2002;3:22.
As most amateur mycologists will tell you, mushroom hunting can be a fun, rewarding, and potentially lucrative activity. Whether hunting for photogenic, edible, or psychedelic mushrooms, the process of learning to identify and find the mushroom of your choice takes time and patience.

Guidelines for safe mushroom hunting have been developed and published by many mycology groups. While we were staffing a table at one of the recent San Francisco Mushroom Fairs--answering questions for people about the history of psychoactive mushroom use--it occurred to me that the process of hunting wild mushrooms shares many similarities with searching for psychoactive plants and chemicals in the underground market. Perhaps the welldeveloped guidelines for mycology contain a lesson or two that would be useful in this context. They may also provide some insight into the way people naturally search on the street.

If you aren't sure, don't eat it. This is the first and last point in mushroom hunting and should be for psychoactive hunting as well. Don't let desire, desperation, or fear of missing an opportunity lower your standards of identification. Anything that almost matches what you're looking for could very well be something else. When first starting out, it's hard to know what small variations matter and which ones are normal variations of the target. If you're not sure it should be pink...don't eat it.

Know what you're looking for and how to identify it. Do your homework ahead of time. Learn the formal name and the common names. Learn as much as possible about the different forms it can come in. Does it have an identifiable taste, smell, or look?

Go with an expert you trust. Have them show you how and where to find what you're looking for. Ask them for tips and common errors to avoid. It is extremely important that the expert knows what they're talking about. There's no substitute for having your first few identifications be confirmed by someone with more than a few years of experience in the field. Don't let your friends convince you they know what they?fre talking about if they don't. Doublecheck their knowledge.

There are old mushroom hunters and there are bold mushroom hunters, but there are no old bold mushroom hunters.
-- An Old Mycophile Saying
If it's your first time, eat only a small amount. If the mushroom you picked turns out to be the wrong one, or the ecstasy turns out to be PMA, you'll run far fewer risks and be happier in the long run if you do a test with a small quantity first.

Learn what the dangerous look-a-likes are. One of the first questions that should jump to mind when picking an edible mushroom is "What looks like this that is poisonous?" Find out what the worst-case misidentification is for the substance you'e looking for.

Never mix two species you haven't tried separately before. There's enough risk involved in eating a single new mushroom or substance. If you have an unexpected negative reaction to what you ingest, it is much harder to determine the cause if there are several variables with which you have little familiarity. Save some of what you ingest. If someone experiences a bad reaction to a mushroom or a chemical, it can be useful to have a sample of the material to analyze or re-identify later.

Take careful note of the source of good and bad material (location, habitat, or individual/company). Good sources are valuable, bad sources are best avoided. Remember which sources or contexts yield bad material and try different avenues when next on the hunt.