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 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.