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Mushrooms are a popular food for foragers since there are such a large number of species. However, some are poisonous while others can be enjoyed by humans. Before heading out, it’s essential to know what you’re looking for.
Edible Wild Mushrooms
There are over a thousand types of edible mushrooms across the world. Of course, it would be impossible for us to include all of them in this article. But we have put together a list of common edible mushrooms and some useful tips on how to identify them.
Never pick mushrooms that you can not 100% confidently identify. Many edible mushrooms have toxic look-alikes, so it is easy to confuse them. If you’re in any way unsure, do not pick it!
1. Chanterelle (Cantharellus spp.)
The chanterelle mushroom grows all over the world including North America, Europe, and Africa. While it is typically found in coniferous woodlands you may also find it in grassy areas, especially among moss.
These mushrooms have a trumpet shape with wavy edges. In most cases, they have an orangey/yellow hue but there is one species that’s more of brownish-black color. Do be careful not to mistake the chanterelle for the jack-o’ lantern mushroom which looks similar but has deeper, narrower gills.
2. Morels (Morchella spp.)
The morel mushroom is one of the most sought after by foragers and what’s great is that it springs up much earlier than many others. Sometimes as early as March. They’re normally found in western parts of North America, although if you look hard enough, you may find them in the eastern states as well.
Morels typically grow underneath specific types of trees such as ash, maple, apple, and sycamore. They can be identified by their honeycomb pattern. Normally they have a range of colors anywhere from off-white to black. However, they can be confused with some toxic species so make sure you cut them in half to ensure they are totally hollow inside. That said since morels do contain toxins, you need to cook them before eating.
3. Shaggy Mane (Coprinus comatus)
If you’re new to foraging for mushrooms then the shaggy mane is considered one of the easiest to identify. What’s more, there is only one other mushroom that looks like the shaggy mane, and it isn’t toxic, so you won’t need to worry about putting yourself in danger. However, it is important to note that the young shaggy manes may look similar to the common ink cap, which can increase sensitivity to alcohol.
Shaggy mane mushrooms are sometimes called lawyers wigs because of their similar appearance. They have a column-like appearance with sharp gills under the cap. You won’t have trouble finding them as they grow pretty much everywhere, including woodlands and even your lawn! They’ll grow in fall through to early winter and emerge during spring.
4. Chicken of the Woods (Laetiporus spp.)
Sometimes called the sulphur shelf, the chicken of the woods is pretty easy to identify, primarily owing to the lack of gills. These mushrooms also have distinct coloration with a salmon-pink blended into orange. They’re found east of the Rockies and will grow on oak trees.
Normally sprouting in summer, the chicken of the woods has a lovely rich flavor but make sure you pick soft ones for the best taste. Do keep in mind that these mushrooms don’t have any toxic lookalikes, but if they are growing on certain host trees, they could be dangerous. This is why it’s important to make sure you identify the oak before consuming it.
5. Oyster Mushroom (Pleurotus spp.)
You will probably have seen oyster mushrooms in your local grocery store, so they’re familiar to most people and therefore easy to spot in the wild. They grow in clusters, with each mushroom overlapping its neighbor. As you can guess from the name, the cap resembles an oyster and can grow up to eight inches.
You’ll find oyster mushrooms beginning to sprout in mid-fall and they’ll be around well into winter which is quite a unique trait. They normally grow on logs and trees, particularly in hardwood forests. There aren’t any dangerous mushrooms that you could confuse with the oyster although one species, the elm oyster doesn’t taste as good so you might want to avoid this. You can tell it apart because the gills don’t run all the way down the stem.
6. Hen of the Woods (Grifola frondosa)
Hen of the woods is sometimes called sheep’s head or maitake. You’ll find these mushrooms growing around the bottom of trees. While they can be found around various trees, the most common is oak. They are more common in eastern parts of North America, but a few reports have stated that there are some in the west up to Idaho.
The best time to harvest the hen of the woods is towards the end of summer into fall, and they’ll typically sprout after it has rained. They have a coral-like appearance and can normally be found growing in small clusters. The stalk is white, while the cap is a more brownish color. Fortunately, there are no toxic mushrooms that you could confuse with the maitake.
7. Lion’s Mane (Hericium erinaceus)
The lion’s mane is another mushroom with a plethora of names, including bearded tooth and monkey’s head. But whatever you call them, you won’t have trouble finding them since they are common in almost all parts of the world. However, they particularly like Alpine forests.
The lion’s mane has a very unique appearance that has a lot of strands, which some people say look like a series of icicles. They tend to form on rotting wood and are in abundance during the fall. There are no similar toxic mushrooms in North America, and they’re known for their medicinal properties, including lowering the risk of dementia and reducing the risk of heart disease. They’re often sold in health care stores.
8. Giant Puffballs (Calvatia gigantea)
The giant puffball is another of the easiest mushrooms to identify for beginners. It has, as its name suggests, a puffy ball-like appearance, and they can get pretty big. Usually, they’ll grow up to 19 inches (50cm), although there have been reports of puffballs three times this size. Look out for these mushrooms in late summer in fields and forests all over the world.
Make sure to cut the mushroom open and check the color inside. Once they mature, they become toxic, and you can tell this because the inside will be green as opposed to the white color of young giant puffballs.
9. Lobster Mushroom (Hypomyces lactifluorum)
The most interesting thing about the lobster mushroom is that it’s not a true mushroom but rather a parasite that uses other mushrooms as hosts. Because of this, they tend to take on the shape and appearance of their host, which can make them tricky to spot. However, their bright red coloration helps to give them away.
They also have a seafood-like aroma which can help when identifying them. They can be found in older forests under trees particularly in coastal areas. However, do keep in mind that they can often get lost among the leaf litter and moss, so you’ll need to look hard. Keep an eye out from around July, but they’ll be more common as fall sets in.
There are no other mushrooms that you could mistake for the lobster.
10. Beefsteak Polypore (Fistulina hepatica)
It’s easy to see where this mushroom gets its name as it has an appearance very similar to that of a steak. It’s a reddish/brown color with a thick mottled texture. These mushrooms are found growing around the base of trees, typically oak, almost like a shelf, and on both living and dead specimens. Other identifying features include the lack of a stalk or gills. The good news is that there aren’t any similar-looking toxic mushrooms.
They will come out in late summer and can be harvested through into early fall, around October. However, this is one of the more rare types of mushroom so you’re lucky if you stumble upon one. They’re more likely to be found in eastern parts of the United States.
11. King Bolete/Porcini (Boletus edulis)
The king bolete is more commonly known as the porcini mushroom and can be found all over the world. The underside of the cap is quite spongy, and these mushrooms have a thick cap with a clubbed stem, so they’re not too difficult to identify.
You will find these mushrooms growing around hardwood trees, and they particularly like spruce and cedar. You’ll find them starting to pop up in spring, but the best harvest comes in summer and through to fall. While there are more than 300 species of bolete mushrooms, most are not toxic. However, the lilac brown bolete is now considered toxic and does have a similar appearance to the porcini mushroom.
12. Black Trumpet (Craterellus cornucopioides)
Earlier, we mentioned that there was one type of chanterelle with a brownish-black color; that is the black trumpet. It is for this reason that many people call it the black chanterelle. However, since they commonly grow among the leaf litter, you will need to keep your eyes peeled to spot them. They grow in fall but in southern states can be found well into winter.
You can tell them apart from other mushrooms because of the lack of gills and the trumpet-like shape. What’s more, there are no dangerous mushrooms that look like the black trumpet. It does look slightly similar to the black urn, which isn’t very nice tasting but won’t do you any harm.
13. Hedgehogs (Hydnum repandum)
The hedgehog mushroom does go by several other names, including sweet tooth and wood hedgehog. They grow in many parts of the world, including North America, Australia, and Europe, so they’re not difficult to find.
You’ll be able to harvest them in summer and fall and to identify them, you should look for a pale orange mushroom that looks a little like chanterelle from above. However, the hedgehog mushroom has teeth instead of gills with a convex cap. There are no toxic look-alikes which is great news for new foragers who are still learning the differences between species.
14. Cauliflower (Sparassis crispa)
The cauliflower mushroom has quite a unique appearance with lots of folds and crevices. They can get very big, up to around 11.8 inches (30cm), and are white to yellow in color. If you’re foraging for these mushrooms, you’ll want to harvest from late summer through to mid-fall.
The cauliflower mushroom is often found in coniferous forests, especially around the base of pine trees. There are some similar species that you could confuse cauliflower mushrooms with, but most are not toxic. However, some species of coral mushrooms do look similar and are toxic, so be mindful of this.
15. Dryad’s Saddle (Polyporus squamosus)
The dryad’s saddle may sometimes be called the pheasant’s back mushroom, but in any case this is a distinct looking mushroom that’s often found on dead or drying wood, notably the broadleaf tree. They can get quite big; sometimes up to 23 inches (60cm), and have a cream cap with brown scales.
You can also identify these mushrooms by their smell which is quite fresh and not all that dissimilar to watermelon. They’re common through most of the year apart from winter and are a great beginner mushroom as there are no toxic lookalikes. You might confuse it with the tuberous polypore, but this isn’t poisonous, so won’t do any harm if you eat it.
16. Wood Blewit (Lepista nuda)
Before we get into how to identify the wood blewit, it’s important to note that you will need to cook these as they can cause stomach upset when eaten raw. What’s great about the wood blewit is that it is a winter mushroom best harvested in November or December when there aren’t too many other species available.
The wood blewit has a thick brown cap that is translucent. The gills are a delicate violet color and if you want to be sure, give it a sniff as these mushrooms have a perfume-like scent. They’re common in Europe and North America and typically grow in rings among leaf litter.
You might confuse the wood blewit with mushrooms in the cortinarius family. These have a more blueish color, brown gills, and do not smell very good.
17. Wine Cap (Stropharia rugosoannulata)
Wine cap mushrooms are very common in both urban and wild areas, so they’re very easy to find. They have a creamy colored stalk with a deep red cap making them quite easy to identify. You’ll normally find them growing among wood chips and similar materials but what’s really interesting is that these mushrooms are able to catch and feed on nematodes.
Among the stropharius family, of which the wine cap is one, many mushrooms are not edible, so it’s quite unusual that this one is. For this reason, it’s super important to correctly ID it to avoid eating something toxic.
You might find these mushrooms in woodland, but if you use woody mulch, you may even find them in your yard. They’ll sprout after rain or when temperatures fluctuate, usually from spring onwards.
18. Honey Mushrooms (Armillaria spp.)
The honey mushroom takes its name from the color, which can be anywhere between white and pink but does resemble honey. These are relatively small mushrooms with long stems that grow in clusters, but these stems do look as though they have come from one place.
Normally, the honey mushroom will appear after rainfall and can usually be found throughout the year but typically only in warmer areas. They grow on rotting hardwood and are very common in coastal areas. Be aware that honey mushrooms need to be cooked as they are mildly poisonous if consumed raw. There are quite a few toxic look-alikes, so we wouldn’t suggest foraging these as a beginner.
19. Old Man of the Woods (Strobilomyces floccopus)
This is without a doubt one of the more unusual looking mushrooms that is found in North America. You can tell it apart thanks to its scruffy appearance with gray tufts coming from the cap. The long stem is covered in fur, and the underside of the cap is very spongy.
While they do grow all over the USA, they are more common in midwestern and eastern parts and can be found in wooded areas. You’ll be able to harvest them from spring through to fall but keep a sharp eye out as a lot of people confuse them for rotten pinecones. But that’s about all you might confuse it with. Fortunately, there are no other toxic mushrooms that you could mix up with old man of the woods.
20. Enoki (Flammulina velutipes)
You will need to take care when foraging enoki and this shouldn’t be considered a beginners mushroom. This is because it can look similar to toxic species such as the funeral bell, so make sure you are 100% certain before picking it.
The enoki mushroom is a winter species. It’s a smaller mushroom that’s brown in color with a long stem and they grow all over the world. They prefer dead trees like elm and ash but can also be found on gorse bushes.
Poisonous Mushrooms to Avoid
Some mushrooms are incredibly toxic and should be avoided as they can cause a range of symptoms from mild stomach upset through to death. You should always be certain as to what you are picking, and in some cases, mushrooms can look very much like their poisonous counterparts, so you need to be even more careful.
While this is by no means an exhaustive list of all of the toxic wild mushrooms in North America, here are some of the most common.
1. Death-Cap (Amanita phalloides)
Death caps contain a toxin called amanitin, which is made up of various amino acids. Just eating half a death cap mushroom could be fatal, and while they’re native to Europe, they have been introduced to North America.
They are a small white mushroom that looks similar to many others so they can be easily confused. They grow mostly in deciduous woods and have a remarkably similar appearance to the edible straw mushroom. You won’t have any symptoms until around 6 to 12 hours after eating them, and it begins with stomach pain and vomiting. Without treatment, you may experience liver failure, coma, convulsions and ultimately, death.
2. False Morels (Gyromitra esculenta & Gyromitra infula)
The false morel is often mixed up with the morel mushroom, but there’s an easy way to tell them apart. For starters, false morels don’t have a stem and resemble a shrivelled-up walnut or, some say, a human brain!
The nasty chemicals MMH and gyromitrin can cause liver and kidney failure, seizures, and even coma or death, depending on how much you ingest. To avoid them, you’ll need to know where they grow; typically they prefer woody debris around pine trees.
3. Destroying Angel (Amanita bisporigera)
Destroying angels are tall white mushrooms that look incredibly pure, hence the name. But they’re not as angelic as they seem. You should be careful when foraging for button or meadow mushrooms as they have a very similar appearance.
When you eat a destroying angel, you ingest the same toxins found in the death cap mushroom. Look out for these in summer and fall in woodlands or on lawns and around shrubs. If eaten, you may experience vomiting, delirium, organ failure, and potentially death.
4. Jack-o’-Lantern (Omphalotus olearius)
The jack-o’ lantern might have a fun name but it is anything but. There are two different varieties depending which side of the Rockies you’re on but both are poisonous and are commonly confused with the chanterelle owing to their incredibly similar appearance. You can tell them apart by looking at the inside of their stem which is much paler in chanterelles.
Jack-o’ lantern mushrooms grow in clusters on wood and at the base of trees. Some say they glow, but this is widely debated.
They contain a toxin known as illudin S which can bring on symptoms similar to food poisoning. It probably won’t kill you but isn’t something you’d want to eat.
5. Green-Spored Lepiota (Chlorophyllum molybdites)
This mushroom is sometimes called the false parasol or even the vomiter. The problem with the green spored lepiota is that when it is young, it’s almost impossible to tell it apart from the common button mushroom. As adults, they have a flat, wide cap and appear in rings on lawns.
They appear between July and September and while they won’t kill you, they do contain a toxin that will bring on gastrointestinal upset. In the worst cases, this can require treatment in hospital.
6. Autumn skullcap (Galerina marginata)
With a name like skullcap, it doesn’t take a genius to work out that this is a toxic mushroom. The autumn skullcap grows all over the world on rotting wood. Many people confuse this with the honey mushroom, but it can be fatal.
The autumn skullcap contains the same chemical as the death cap mushroom, so you will experience similar symptoms. This may start off as things like nausea and vomiting but can soon lead to more serious conditions like liver damage. If you do not seek treatment, it is not uncommon for the autumn skullcap to kill you.
7. Fool’s Conecap (Conocybe filaris)
The fool’s conecap can be found quite commonly in the Pacific northwest and usually grows on lawns. It’s pretty innocent looking with a long, narrow stem, a pointed brown cap, and prominent gills. However, it contains the same toxins as the death cap mushroom which can cause a variety of symptoms, including death.
What’s frightening about this mushroom is that the symptoms that come on within 24 hours are usually mistaken for food poisoning. It’s only down the line when the patient develops kidney problems that the reality of the situation may come to light, and even then, it could be too late.
8. Sulphur Tuft (Hypholoma fasciculare)
The sulphur tuft mushroom is a little brown mushroom that could easily be confused with many other edible and toxic species. It has a conical cap with a long, narrow, sulphur-colored stem. You will find these mushrooms growing in clusters around the base of trees.
These common mushrooms which can be found in woodlands all over North America contain a toxin known as fasciculol E. This can cause stomach upset, distorted vision, and even temporary paralysis in the worst cases.
9. Fly Agaric (Amanita muscaria)
Many of us recognize the fly agaric as it’s a common appearance in fairy tale illustrations. It has a large red cap with white spots, and while it might look pretty, it isn’t pleasant to eat. The fly agaric won’t cause death or any long-lasting symptoms, but it can make you feel very woozy, drunk, and delirious. There’s no treatment other than riding it out. The chemical responsible for this is a psychoactive compound known as ibotenic acid.
These mushrooms are common in woodlands and sprout between late summer and early winter. You’ll normally find them around pines, spruces, and birch trees.
10. Deadly Webcaps (Cortinarius spp.)
The deadly webcap and its cousin, the fool’s webcap contain a chemical known as orellanine which can bring on symptoms similar to those of the common cold or flu. However, you could go weeks between eating the mushroom and experiencing any symptoms so it is easy to be misdiagnosed. In the worst cases, patients may die from kidney failure.
These tall brown mushrooms are native to North America and can often be found in Alpine forests.
There’s a sad but interesting tale of a British author who accidentally fed deadly webcaps at a dinner party which resulted in several of the guests, including his wife, requiring a kidney transplant!
11. Ivory Funnel (Clitocybe dealbata)
You’ll find the ivory funnel growing in partial rings in grassed areas. These white mushrooms have a wavy, funnel-like cap with short stems and crowded gills. They’re common in summer months up to the beginning of winter.
These mushrooms are some of the most dangerous and contain a toxin called muscarine which is known to cause a range of symptoms. Healthy adults wouldn’t usually die from eating these but might experience gastrointestinal upset, difficulty breathing and blurred vision. However, children and vulnerable adults should be careful as eating ivory funnel could be fatal for them.
12. Common Ink Cap (Coprinopsis atramentaria)
People used to consider the common ink cap, also known as the inky cap, a safe mushroom. That was until we discovered that the chemical coprine, found in this mushroom has adverse interactions if you drink alcohol. In theory, they’re perfectly safe when eaten without alcohol but it’s probably just best to avoid them especially since there are so many safe species out there.
The coprine can cause your reaction to alcohol to be exacerbated and you may experience things like raised pulse, faster intoxication, headaches, and vomiting. You’ll find these mushrooms in grassy areas across North America and they’re sometimes confused with the shaggy mane.
13. Pigskin Poison Puffball (Scleroderma citrinum)
If you are foraging for giant puffballs, then you need to be mindful that there is a toxic species called the pigskin puffball. These rotund mushrooms are common around the base of trees but are far smaller than giant puffballs at just a few inches.
The pigskin puffball has a black interior and no cap. They’re commonly confused with truffles but even just breathing in the spores could cause respiratory problems. Eating these mushrooms can result in gastrointestinal problems as well but it is unlikely that they will kill you.
Useful Mushroom Foraging Equipment
When you’re out looking for wild mushrooms, being able to identify potentially toxic species is just one thing you’ll need to be able to do. However, you also need to make sure that you take all of the correct equipment. Here are our suggestions.
Having a reliable reference to hand when hunting mushrooms is essential. There are several field guides for this, but it’s important to choose one that is specific to your local area. This will give you the most accurate information. Moreover, you will want to make sure that you get the most up-to-date guide, so look for ones that have been recently published.
The Complete Mushroom Hunter – An Illustrated Guide to Foraging, Harvesting, and Enjoying Wild Mushrooms
Written by the late mycologist Gary Lincoff, this excellent reference guide covers common wild edible mushrooms and their poisonous look-alikes. The book features clear full-color photos allowing you to easily cross-check any mushrooms you encounter while out foraging to avoid any accidental mistakes. It also covers advice on preparing mushrooms, including several handy recipes.
A good field guide for mushrooms will have a detailed key that asks specific questions about the mushroom, allowing you to better identify what you’re looking at.
Basket or Mesh Bag
The last thing you want is for your mushrooms to deteriorate before you even get them home which is why it’s important to choose the right container for them. A basket or a mesh bag is breathable and so will allow good airflow, whereas a plastic container or bag could make the mushrooms sweat, reducing their quality. What’s more, an open bag, or basket like this will allow any spores to escape.
It’s worth taking a couple of bags to keep certain mushrooms separate. Or you could use paper or wax bags within your basket to achieve the same thing.
Some mushrooms can be difficult to simply ‘pick’, and you’ll need a tool to help you cut them away. Moreover, many would argue that plucking them from the ground can damage the mycelium preventing further growth as the mushroom won’t be able to absorb nutrients.
Folding Lock Mushroom Knife with Integrated Cleaning Brush
This mushroom forager’s knife with an integrated cleaning brush will allow you to effortlessly harvest mushrooms. The ergonomically designed wooden handle fits comfortably in your hand. It also comes with a handy neoprene pouch to store the knife when not in use.
A mushroom knife is the best choice here as they have a small curved blade that isn’t all that dissimilar to the paring knife you’ll have in your kitchen. They even feature a little brush to get rid of any dirt and just make the job easier.
If you don’t have a mushroom knife with a brush then you can take a separate one to remove any dirt before putting your harvest into your basket. Something like a toothbrush or paint brush will work well and saves you having to tackle the dirt when you get home.
A hand lens is a type of magnifying glass that is used by many different types of people, including horticulturists and of course, mushroom hunters. You will need something with at least 10 to 15 times magnification and this can help you get a better look at the mushroom when trying to identify it.
Some mushrooms look alike to the naked eye but using a magnifying glass means that you will be better able to see subtle differences between them. Look for something portable, lightweight, and preferable that folds away so you can pop it in your pocket when not in use.
How to Harvest Mushrooms – Should You Pull or Cut Them?
There’s an ongoing debate about whether it is best to cut or pull a mushroom. In truth, provided the mushroom is mature enough to have already distributed most of its spores, it doesn’t really matter all that much. In this case, it’s very much down to personal preference.
While many people say that cutting can leave behind a stump which is prone to disease, most people would agree that this is the better technique. This is because cutting the mushroom will not cause any damage to the mycelium which allows the fungus to draw nutrients from the ground.
How to Clean & Store Wild Mushrooms
It’s not a good idea to wash mushrooms as this can bruise them and affect their texture. Instead, you can use a mushroom brush to get rid of any debris. However, if you find that there is more stubborn dirt, you may choose to take a damp paper towel and wipe the mushrooms over, as putting them under running water is what will cause damage.
When you have cleaned your mushrooms, it’s important to cook them as soon as possible. Also avoid soaking them as this can affect how easy they are to cook, especially when sauteing.
If you don’t want to eat all of your harvest right away, you must keep them in the fridge. They’ll last for up to seven days here, whereas they will probably start to deteriorate in quality after a day or so when left at room temperature.
Avoid storing mushrooms in plastic as this stops them from being able to ‘breathe.’ In some cases, a toxin known as botulinum may develop, rendering your mushrooms no good.
If you need to keep them for longer then it is also possible to dry your mushrooms or preserve them in saltwater. Some people also like to cook and freeze them for use at a later date.
One way of preserving mushrooms is to dry them, and this is great because the lack of water stops any processes that cause deterioration. Moreover, dry mushrooms have a much more intense flavor which many people prefer. Additionally, the mushrooms won’t lose any of their nutritional value when dried.
It’s incredibly easy to dehydrate mushrooms, and you’ll need to start by thinly slicing them. Next, lay them out on some baking paper and leave them in a well-ventilated place. If you can put them in direct sunlight, that’s even better. You’ll need to allow at least two days for them to fully dry out, but you can check when they’re ready by looking at how easily they break.
Once they’re done, put them into a sealed container, preferably a jar, and keep them in a cool, dark place.
Alternatively, you could use a food dehydrator or dry them out in the oven. Both of these methods are much quicker, and you can then store the mushrooms, in the same way, using a jar.
Tips for Foraging for Wild Mushrooms
Don’t get caught short when foraging for wild mushrooms. Here are our top tips to ensure success and safety.
1. Never Pick Any Mushrooms You’re Unsure About
We cannot stress enough the importance of only picking mushrooms you are 100% sure about. If you are in any doubt, leave them well alone. There are a lot of mushrooms that have toxic look-alikes, and it’s so easy to confuse them. The results could be fatal, so it simply isn’t worth the risk. Even if they won’t kill you, they can bring on some pretty unpleasant symptoms like vomiting, so just walk away.
Even if you’re certain about a mushroom, it doesn’t hurt to take another look when you get home just to double-check. You can use apps or field guides to help you with this, and it will allow you to check whether you accidentally foraged a toxic species.
There are mycological groups that allow you to become an expert on types of mushrooms and this is worth doing if you’re serious about foraging. We will give you more information on this later in this guide.
2. Discard Any Moldy Mushrooms
It’s not uncommon to find mushrooms with insect larvae, worms, and other bugs inside them. Of course, nobody wants to eat these, so always make sure you discard any like this.
Moreover, it’s important to check for rot or decay and throw out any mushrooms that display signs of this. Look for visible signs as well as a rotten or rancid smell. Even if the species is edible, moldy mushrooms can still make you sick.
3. Avoid Foraging in Contaminated Areas
It is always best to avoid foraging in urban areas as there are more potential contaminants here. Mushrooms easily absorb things like heavy metals from their environment, which you will then ingest. Areas with high levels of pollution, such as those with industrial sites nearby, should be avoided.
4. Respect the Local Environment
Mother Nature gives us plenty to forage, but it’s so important to respect nature and not disturb it too much when we are foraging. Make sure that you cause as little damage as possible to the forest floor. Look out for plantlife and avoid standing on this or interfering with it in any way. Most foragers would agree that leaving the area as though you were never there is the best practice.
Also, make sure not to take more than your fair share. Over harvesting can mean that the next crop will be lacking, so only take what you need and leave some behind for others.
5. Check That You Have Permission to Forage
Depending on where you are foraging, there may be different rules. An example is that state parks may prohibit the removal of plants, but others allow you to pick mushrooms for your own use. Before heading out, it’s vital that you check what you are and aren’t allowed to do.
You may find yourself on private land and so you must seek express permission of the landowner before foraging.
In some government-owned areas, you may need a permit to forage for mushrooms. For non-commercial use, these are normally free of charge and allow you to harvest a surprising number of mushrooms.
6. Never Consume Raw Wild Mushrooms
Some mushrooms contain toxins that could do you harm when eaten raw. However, cooking often removes these toxins and makes the mushrooms safe. Before cooking, take the opportunity to give the mushrooms one final check for things like worms, insects, and decay. Also, remember to clean them using the methods we talked about above.
It’s also very important to make sure that you don’t have an allergy to the mushrooms you have picked. While this is uncommon, it does happen so be sure to try a small amount before eating a lot to see if you have any adverse reactions.
How to Join a Mycological Group
For people that are serious about getting to know about wild mushrooms, joining a mycological group is an excellent idea. This will expand your knowledge and help you meet like-minded people who will be able to offer you realistic advice.
The North American Mycological Association has a website packed with information. What’s more, there are plenty of events all around the country that you can attend as well as courses and classes to boost your mushroom education.
There is a fee to join, but there are different types of memberships depending on your needs, such as a student membership or a lifetime membership which involves a one-off payment of $500.