Foraged and for sale: what to know about selling wild mushrooms and other edibles
Can you sell food that is foraged at a local farmers market? Guidelines for selling un-cultivated food.
While Michigan has the 2nd most diverse agricultural production in the nation, our state also benefits from native fruit, greens and fungi that grow wild as well as cultivated fruit and vegetables that are on public property but not regularly harvested. Some of these edible wild plants, like morel mushrooms, are delicious and highly valued. If you are foraging for yourself, find guides and resources for foraging safely by searching on the internet or library. But if you are going sell wild plants, especially mushrooms, you must make sure that you know what you are selling and that you can identify, verify, and label each plant appropriately.
For those selling at farmers markets, the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) is responsible for enforcing the Michigan Food Law through their local food inspectors. Selling foraged food may or may not be allowed under the rules of the farmers market – check with the market manager before you offer foraged food for sale. MDARD has created a set of “Farmers Market FAQs” with answers to specific questions from farmers’ market managers and vendors. The following is an excerpt from that document:
“Q. A vendor sells wild mushrooms at a farmers market. The mushrooms were harvested in a forest. What concerns are associated with the practice and what requirements apply?
A. If the collector is not an expert at identifying edible wild plants and mushrooms, there is a danger that poisonous varieties were harvested. Consumption of certain varieties can lead to illness or death.”
MDARD explicitly addresses the requirements to sell wild plants or mushrooms in Michigan. “To be approved to sell wild mushrooms, wild herbs, or other wild plants in Michigan, the vendor must satisfy all of the following provisions:
- The seller must be recognized as appropriately trained and competent in the identification of safe botanical and mycological varieties. Alternatively, the seller may employ a recognized expert.
- The seller shall submit a written statement to the MDARD Food & Dairy Division identifying the person who will verify the species and the procedures for safeguarding against the sale of potentially injurious mushrooms. The statement shall include a description of that person's education, experience and expertise.
- Each individual wild mushroom shall be inspected and identified by the recognized expert. Only those identified as safe may be sold.
- Each storage container of mushrooms shall be labeled with the scientific and common name of the mycological variety. Packaged mushrooms may be identified by the common name only and shall bear additional labeling in full accordance with current state and federal requirements.
- Written records that indicate the quantity, variety, expert identifier, and buyer of the mushrooms shall be retained by the packer for a period of not less than two years. These records shall be made available for MDARD examination, upon request.
- Wild mushrooms shall be handled and protected from contamination in accordance with all current state and federal regulations associated with the handling and processing of foods intended for human consumption.
- The vendor is not presently required to hold a license from MDARD for any given farmers market; however, slicing or other processing or warehousing of wild mushrooms must take place in an approved food establishment licensed by MDARD or a local health department.”
The rules are strict for a reason. More than 50 species of wild mushrooms are found in Michigan and many of these are poisonous to humans. Michigan State University Extension has information about mushroom hunting in the bulletin “Don’t Pick Poison: When Gathering Mushrooms for Food in Michigan.” False morels can be very harmful-even deadly; therefore they must be identified by an expert in mycology or fungus identification. Other plants can also be foraged may be more easily identified like dandelion greens, wild asparagus or wild blueberries. These may not pose the same danger but must also be clearly identified.
Check with your market if you are allowed to sell them and be prepared to answer questions about where and how they grow. Most markets reserve the right to approve types of products for sale. If you are able to sell foraged foods, make sure you label them so that your customers know what they are getting and where these products are coming from.