Pleurotus citrinopileatus and Artomyces pyxidatus in a vine and leaf basket.

Contents

Introduction

This guide is designed to help the novice enter the world of mycology, mushroom identification, and foraging wild fungi for the dinner table. My experience in mycology consists of a handful of years of self-guided study including field observation, foraging, amateur mushroom cultivation, online and book study, and tutelage by experienced mentors via internet forums. The information here is intended to be used as a supplement to one’s own study and the reader assumes all risk involved in foraging and consuming wild fungi. All images in this article are my own.

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Mushroom Myths: Rules of thumb are wrong

In my experience, the only rule of thumb I’ve found to hold true in fungi foraging is that rules of thumb are wrong.

The survival, foraging, “bushcraft”, and other internet forums are full of misinformation, anecdotes, old wive’s tales, and flat-out dangerous advice when it comes to hunting fungi. This can make it very difficult for the novice mushroom hunter to suss out accurate, safe, reliable information and quickly advance their familiarity with mycology. For this reason I’ve chosen to begin this article by addressing the most common myths regarding the topic that I see regularly.

Myth #1: Only experts can safely forage

Learning to safely collect and eat fungi growing in the wild is not a hobby to be taken lightly. It requires diligent and careful attention and research, an inquisitive attitude, and a willingness to let go of old ways of thinking and outdated beliefs. That said, I think most folks will find the process very accessible, and with a bit of focused study and a handful of hikes in the woods, you’ll soon find yourself approaching familiar species like old friends. It should go without saying that one should never consume a mushroom they aren’t 100% sure is safe. Never rely on a hunch, an educated guess, a dare, or a rumor. If there’s a nagging doubt about some ID characteristic of a specimen not matching quite right, listen to that doubt and don’t eat the mushroom. However, I feel confident that you’ll soon be able to identify several edible wild fungi with the confidence you’d know a banana from a tomato in the produce aisle, with just a little effort. I hope to temper the unfounded fear around mushroom foraging, and encourage a healthy level of respect, humility, and caution. On a related note, be aware the well known “Universal Edibility Test”, commonly found in many survival manuals including the US Military’s FM 21-76 (in which one applies small samples of an unknown, potential food source to the skin to test for irritation), absolutely does NOT apply to fungi. Amatoxin and other mycotoxin poisonings may not show symptoms for some time after ingestion.

I often hear “even experts get poisoned!” I always ask “which experts?” I’m familiar with the case of Julius Schäffer, but one incident isn’t really concerning.

Let me clarify one other thing here- when I say it’s a myth that “Only experts can safely forage”, by “forage” I don’t mean “Go into the woods and find every edible mushroom in the area, distinguishing toxic from palatable species with perfect accuracy on every specimen”. What I mean is “Be able to go into the woods and sometimes, when luck is with you, walk out again carrying something for the dinner table that you are certain is safe to eat.” You can forage too, and it can certainly be done safely with varying levels of experience. Obviously, the less experienced you are, the more limited you’ll be as to what you can ID with enough confidence to eat.

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Myth #2: “It looks poisonous”

There’s no correlation between the color, shape, growing habits, or other general characteristics of a mushroom with that mushroom’s suitability as food. There are plenty of beautiful, brightly colored mushrooms that are great eating. Also, this myth suggests the opposite and dangerous conclusion that dull, ordinary mushrooms tend to be safer. In fact, some of the deadliest species among Galerina, Amanita, and others are plain and innocuous. There’s no shortcut but to learn the species and characteristics of the specimen.

A flush of colorful & delicious, cultivated Pleurotus citrinopileatus

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Myth #3: Picking myths

People are often afraid of accidentally poisoning themselves from picking and handling the wrong fungi. While there are some anecdotal reports of contact dermatitis from touching some species, these cases are rare. Deadly mushroom toxins can’t absorb through skin or mucus membranes in any significant amount. It’s not only safe to handle any mushroom with bare skin, you can even chew up a deadly species without a problem, as long as you spit it out. In regards to discouraging picking mushrooms in general, it’s important to keep in mind that the mushroom is merely the fruiting body of the mycelium, which is the actual organism, living underground. The common comparison is to apples on a tree. There’s no evidence that harvesting mushrooms has an impact on future fruiting, and might even encourage the spread of spores. There’s nothing wrong with picking unfamiliar samples to photograph better or take home for further study. Also, there’s no difference made to the mycelium between cutting the mushroom at the base versus pulling it out. Cutting off the base is recommended to reduce dirt in your container.

An afternoon harvest of Pleurotus and Entoloma abortivum

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Myth #4: Medicinal mushrooms

Lately, it seems just as many people are heading to the woods to find mushrooms for the medicine cabinet as for the dinner table. I understand the view that no harm is done in folks attempting self-treatment for their ills, but in some cases I disagree and believe it can lead to harm. Also, I feel this recent change is both a cause and a symptom of growing anti-scientific sentiment and the devaluing of evidence, and the wild enthusiasm for medicinal fungi could use some tempering.

Are mushrooms medicinal? Maybe. Probably, even. Some show a lot of promise. But, the evidence so far is very limited, and doesn’t support many or most of the claims made by enthusiasts. I hope that in the future, studies will be funded to demonstrate a significant therapeutic activity in live human models from these fungi. Many folks disagree strongly with my view on the subject, and I’ve had the debate on forums more times than I can remember. They nearly always go the same way.

First, the person I’m debating will provide a long list of links to various scientific studies into medicinal mushrooms. The overwhelming majority, if not all, of these studies will be in mice and petri dishes. While promising results in these tests is a great first start, they’re not the evidence we need to support the claims being made, and activity in a petri dish or mouse doesn’t automatically mean there’s any application in humans. It also doesn’t mean that drinking reishi tea or chaga tincture will do anything to help your illness.

Cultivating Ganoderma lucidum

Next, they’ll often point out that these preparations have been used for centuries, and the history of use should be compelling. They may invoke native or shamanic insight somehow lost to the modern age. I’ll reply with a list of treatments and medication used for ages, that are now obviously ineffective or harmful. Holes were knocked in skulls to release demons. Epileptics were dunked in freezing water to cast out spirits. Babies were given cocaine for teething. It was even once believed an unconscious person could be revived by blowing tobacco smoke into the rectum with a bellows, leading to the well-known phrase that now means “to deceive”. Just because it was used for a long time, doesn’t mean it worked, or was safe. People centuries ago didn’t understand germ theory or human physiology as it’s known today.

I sometimes get accused of being a shill for “Big Pharma”, and people say that drug companies aren’t interested in natural cures, because they can’t be patented or they can be easily gathered from the wild. Then I’ll provide a list of dozens of modern medications that were based on plants and fungi (Penicillin, anyone?), that have turned enormous profits. If it works, pharma companies will find a way to squeeze a dime out of it, and naturally occurring compounds are certainly not off limits. Or they’ll say these companies are not interested in cures, which is easily dismissed by Googling “curative medications” and reviewing the results.

Finally, it usually ends with a personal anecdote about themselves or a loved one being cured from a disease that doctors had given up on. They’ll cite one mushroom or another as the cause of the miracle. Of course, I’m always happy to hear someone’s beat an illness, but one unverified, anecdotal case does not meet the bar of evidence needed. The debate will continue until one of us grows tired of it, all the while no citation will be offered to support the initial claims.

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Myth #5: toxicity “tests”

Every so often, someone offers a trick they learned from their grandfather, mom, or someone else close to them who never got sick from fungi. A silver spoon in the soup, floating tests, watching wild animals or insects, avoiding certain colors or specimens growing from certain things, and all sorts of old wive’s tales are repeated. None of them work. There’s no shortcut aside from learning the species and how to identify them confidently.

A pretty flush of Omphalotus illudens. Nice to look at, not to eat.

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Myth #6: Mushroom nutrition

The nutritional content of mushrooms varies widely by species. Many have significant amounts of protein, fiber, carbs, vitamins, and minerals. Not to mention the psychological benefit of a varied diet in an otherwise unpleasant situation.

Laetiporus sulphureus, a decent source of protein.

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Myth #7: Spore prints

A spore print is a collection of mushroom spores (the DNA-bearing reproductive material) gathered on a sheet of paper or glass. The mushroom stem is cut off, cap placed gills-down over a surface, and covered with a bowl to prevent drafts. This is left for several hours or overnight, and the spores will reveal their color on the viewing surface.

Spore prints are fun. It’s neat to reveal the print and they can help those just learning fungi ID to have another data point to boost their confidence. Some folks believe spore prints are absolutely necessary for every specimen, to be sure of any identification at all or to rule out toxic look-alikes. This is untrue. Once you become more familiar with the more obvious characteristics of fungi, you’ll find more and more that spore prints are almost always unnecessary. Many times, the spores of the suspected species and a potential look-alike are the same color and wouldn’t have ruled out anything. Frequently, spore color is easily noted by observing caps and the ground nearby in situ. Most often though, a very confident ID can be offered using ID keys, substrate, location, and other easily-observed factors. For some groups like Russulae, a spore print may be the only way to determine a specific species, but in this case, edibility can be determined without it.

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Myth #8: Too many look-alikes

A frequent response to the suggestion that mushroom foraging is accessible to beginners with a sensible amount of study, is the notion that there are too many potentially dangerous or deadly mushrooms that closely resemble the edible species being sought.

It’s absolutely true that there are some dangerous or deadly species of mushrooms that resemble edible varieties. The problem with this myth is, it’s difficult to define what qualifies as a “look-alike”. It’s impossible for me to know how you see a mushroom, what your experience level is, and how willing you are to ask questions. There are around 10,000 species of mushrooms in North America alone, and no one can guarantee there isn’t one out there that you might think resembles an edible, just like no one can guarantee a pineapple will never be confused for a cantaloupe.

Some folks think Laetiporus and Omphalotus look close enough to be considered look-alikes. I’ve been fooled by the two from a hundred yards, but it’s hard to imagine anyone making that mistake close-up, after nothing but thirty seconds spent reviewing photos of each. If you think every mushroom looks identical, and you’re not inclined to spend time or energy beginning the learning process, then maybe wild mushroom foraging isn’t for you. It’s worth pointing out that every person has their own comfort level, and it should be respected. There are certainly groups and species I continue to struggle with, and so, I don’t eat them. The six beginner species listed below were chosen for being common, easy to recognize, and have few if any look-alikes, and no deadly ones.

Enough folks thought this Gyromitra brunnea

…looked close enough to this Morchella esculenta to call the first, a “false morel”. I just don’t see it.

On the other hand, a beautiful and delicious cluster of Flammulina sp….

…looks close enough to this deadly Galerina, that it bears reviewing the differences carefully…

…and make sure you’re not picking Mycena leaiana either; it’s not deadly, but not going to treat your dinner as well as Flammulina. And, all three grow on wood.

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Countless more myths run rampant in survival and foraging forums, and it often just takes time studying reliable resources to weed out misinformation. “White mushrooms are poisonous”, “mushrooms are plants”, “gilled mushrooms are poisonous”, “no poisonous mushrooms grow on trees”, “any mushroom is rendered safe by cooking”, bad advice is common.

How do I get started hunting edible mushrooms?

One of the most common questions is what field guide to buy and study. There are lots of excellent books out there. All the Rain Promises and More is a great west coast guide. The Book of Fungi has lots of gorgeous photos, but is becoming outdated. The Audubon Society’s guide is very popular, but again, the information inside grows increasingly inaccurate as mycology develops. I own quite a few mushroom books, but to be honest, I bring none of them into the woods, and usually only crack them for casual offline reading or checking certain notes.

I learned the most and fastest by far, through lurking internet mushroom identification forums. Spend time browsing old posts, noting which fungi tend to pop up frequently, at which times of year, and in what locations. When you go for a hike, bring a camera (or just your phone), and take high quality photos of mushrooms you find. Include the top, underside, and base of the mushroom. Ideally, photograph it before and after you pick it. Visit the forums, and post your ID requests after reviewing the posting guidelines for the forum. Include your location, and be as detailed as possible.

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Understandably, concerns are raised about the quality of information offered in a public, online forum. It’s definitely true that the quality of different forums is as varied as the truth of any printed word. You should frequent forums administrated attentively, by professional mycologists and other well-experienced users, and run with a set of guidelines that promotes accurate ID’s and helpful discussion while discouraging wild guesses and anecdotes.

Please keep in mind that many of these forums are frequented and/or run by busy folks who are experts in their field, and generously offer their knowledge for free to those learning the ropes. Be courteous, follow the guidelines, and make an effort to offer as much information in your requests as possible. Below are some of the best Facebook forums for fungi ID requests.

Cerioporus squamosus in great shape for eating

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There’s another Facebook group available for emergency cases of suspected fungi or plant poisoning. This forum is administrated by over eighty skilled fungi and plant identifiers around the world, each vetted by the team. A dedicated, private alert chat is set up among admins to notify any team members able to assist, and a confident identification is usually returned within seconds or minutes. Some members are also medical professionals and/or work for poison control centers. This is a free public service and is not intended to be construed as medical advice. If you choose to join the group, please be aware that posting to the page is reserved strictly for emergency cases only, and commenting on active cases is forbidden until a confident ID has been offered by an approved team member. Please review the forum rules in detail, as violation of them can result in immediate ban. These firm rules ensure the highest quality information as quickly as possible.

Three more of my favorite online resources are MushroomExpert, Mushroom Observer, and the North American Mycological Association. Each site is full of excellent information for learning identification.

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DO:

  • Take lots of clear photos of all angles of your finds
  • Pick specimens to take them home and study more
  • Note every detail you can- appearance of the mushroom, texture, odor, taste, bruising, substrate, location, notable patterns or color, etc.
  • Learn your Latin names! Common names for mushrooms aren’t standardized, vary by region, and can be shared between two very different species. Learning the Latin names is easy. They’re unique to each mushroom and serve as a common language for describing them worldwide.

DON’T:

  • Gorge yourself on your first wild mushroom find. People can be sensitive to certain species, and it’s a good idea to try just a couple bites first, then wait 8-12 hours for adverse reactions before digging in.
  • Rely on a hunch or “pretty sure” when eating a mushroom. Be certain of your ID, and explain to yourself all the reasons the mushroom you’ve found is what it is, and why it can’t be anything else.

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Learning the fungi

My approach when first learning to forage wild mushrooms was to learn one species, becoming very familiar and comfortable with it. Then, I’d move on to the next, slowly adding to my list of fungi I was very confident picking and eating. I found this method adequately cautious, and prevented an information overload from trying to learn too much at once. As your list grows, you’ll find yourself understanding general characteristics shared by different groups, and learn to associate the Latin with these groups and characteristics. Experience will develop this way and the more you learn, the better you’ll understand fungi in general.

Alternatively, some folks prefer to learn by gathering as many specimens as possible on a hike, and bringing them home to key out and learn various characteristics and species in a more parallel approach.

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Mushroom anatomy

Lurking the internet forums, you’ll find folks often using terms to refer to different parts of a mushroom, and you’ll want to learn these in order to understand and give proper details when requesting your own ID’s.

Not every mushroom, of course, will have every anatomical feature. Many have a pored or toothed surface instead of gills. Not all have a volva, annulus, or clearly defined stipe. Some look nothing at all like a typical mushroom and it might be tough to find any of these structures on them.

A pored surface

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“Keying out” a specimen

“Keying out” is a term used to refer to comparing a found, unknown specimen against “ID keys” in a reference. Once you’ve familiarized yourself with mycology terms, you can compare your found specimens to a resource guide, and check the list of species characteristics against the one you’re holding.

Beginner’s Species

Following is a list of several of the easiest edible species to identify. They’re common and/or difficult to mistake, with few to no toxic look-alikes. I’d recommend choosing one of these or similar as your first species to learn.

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Cerioporus squamosus

This extremely common bracket fungus grows across the Midwest from spring through fall and into early winter. Also known as “Dryad’s Saddle” and “Pheasant Back”, it’s easily identified and has no poisonous look-alikes. This mushroom is always found growing from wood; usually hardwood. The top is covered in brown, feathery scales and the underside has a pored, off-white surface. No gills are present. The base of the stem often has a hard, black outer layer, especially when older. When freshly cut open, this fungus smells like watermelon rind. Exactly like watermelon rind.

Opinions on palatability of Cerioporus squamosus differ. Some regard it as barely worth mentioning, others list it as high among their favorite finds. I have a feeling unpleasant experiences might often be due to poor preparation. This species should be harvested when young, preferably no bigger than the palm of the hand. Somewhat older specimens can be trimmed for the tender edges. Slice into thin strips. Sautee on high heat in butter, until brown and crisp. I haven’t tried drying them, but have heard some folks enjoy powdering dehydrated slices and adding to soups & stews.

I’ve seen mention of people making paper from this species as well. I’m not sure if they’re peeling off the papery top, drying it, and using as-is, or blending it into a pulp and pressing on a screen as with wood. If anyone knows, I’d be thrilled to learn.

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Pleurotus citrinopileatus

Pleurotus species (“Oyster” mushrooms) are another excellent group of mushrooms for a beginner to learn, and P. citrinopileatus (“golden” or “yellow oyster”) is particularly easy to spot among them. Having escaped cultivation just a few decades ago, this mushroom is extremely common in the midwest and likely to continue expanding its range. Fortunately, it’s good looking and good eating.

Pleurotus citrinopileatus, much like most Pleurotus species, always grow from the sides of trees, or sometimes from exposed or superficial roots. The species of the host tree can vary, but is usually hardwood. They grow in clusters, and remain a bright golden yellow from just after pinning through maturity, fading to off-white and then brown as they age and rot. This mushroom has decurrent gills, which run down the stem and gradually taper instead of stopping abruptly. P. citrinopileatus often has a distinct odor, sometimes described as anise-like, and often becoming fishy with age.

I like to prepare these mushrooms by trimming off the stem, and sauteeing in butter until browned. They go well in soups, stews, casseroles, or on their own with salt & pepper. They dry and store well and can be tossed into soup, or sauteed and frozen.

Pleurotus in general look and taste great in soup.

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Laetiporus species

Commonly known as “Chicken of the Woods”, this well-known group includes Laetiporus sulphureus, L. cincinnatus, L. gilbertsonii, and others. This species grows from hardwoods, conifers, eucalyptus, and others. They can be found growing from the sides of trees or from underground roots. The top of this shelf-like fungus begins pale, and soon develops beautiful shades of orange, red, and pink. The underside is bright, sulfur-yellow to pale white and porous, without gills. Pull one off and tear it open. You’ll notice the namesake fibrous interior reminiscent of chicken breast meat. In my opinion, this mushroom doesn’t taste like chicken as some report, but definitely resembles the texture.

Young Laetiporus sulphureus. I gave them a few more days before harvest.

“Look-alike” species for Laetiporus are few. Some folks find Omphalotus illudens or similar, and post ID requests believing it to be Laetiporus, so it bears mentioning.

Omphalotus sp. Not deadly, but definitely not a good time.

While both mushrooms are found near trees and are visible from afar with bright orange coloring, a quick closer look should easily distinguish the two. The most obvious difference is that Omphalotus has gills underneath, and Laetiporus doesn’t.

Hapalopilus croceus
Underside of H. croceus.

Hapalopilus croceus is another inedible species that may resemble Laetiporus at first blush. Picking and examining one should immediately turn you off attempting to eat this tough, woody mushroom. Bondarzewia berkeleyi is sometimes confused for L. cincinnatus, but they’re easily distinguished with a closer look, and both are edible anyway.

Laetiporus sp. are known for higher-than-average rates of intolerance. Until recently, it was believed that specimens growing on conifer and eucalyptus absorbed toxic compounds from their hosts and caused these reactions. The current understanding is simply that species that prefer conifers and eucalyptus just happen to have higher rates of intolerance. There are definitely folks who eat Laetiporus from these hosts without issue. Regardless, it’s a good idea to take a small bite when first trying this species or when trying it from a new host, and waiting several hours to be sure you tolerate it.

Breading and frying strips of Laetiporus is a popular way to prepare. It can be sauteed, dusted with enchilada seasoning and served on tortillas. It generally goes well anywhere chicken breast would. For long term storage, I prefer to vacuum-seal and freeze.

Spotting that orange flash in the distance is thrilling
That flash turned into a great haul

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Entoloma abortivum

With common names ranging widely in pleasantness at the dinner table, this tasty species is known as “Shrimp of the Woods” and “Aborted Entoloma”. The latter being somewhat of a misnomer- it’s long been known this fungus was often associated with Armillaria mellea. It was once believed the latter parasitized the former, but it’s now believed to be the other way around. These fleshy, fuzzy, popcorn-like clusters are found under rotten wood and in lines along dead, buried roots in deciduous woods in the autumn. Unfortunately, they tend to be found covered in dirt and can take some work to clean, and maybe embrace what I like to call woodland seasoning. A dash of dirt and a bug or two isn’t going to hurt you.

I find the shrimp comparison apt; browned in butter, they pair well with cocktail sauce and have a mild flavor and moist, seafood-like texture. I’ve never tried preserving them- they’re very popular and don’t tend to last long at home. I’d imagine they’d freeze well, especially after cooking.

Skewer one and roast it over the campfire

I can’t honestly think of anything I’d consider a look-alike for this species.

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Hericium species

This group includes Hericium erinaceus, Hericium americanum, Hericium coralloides, and others. Common names are “Lion’s mane”, “Bear’s-head tooth”, and “Coral tooth mushroom”, the last being confusing since it’s not a coral mushroom (this is why you learn the Latin!). They all grow on hardwoods, they all are varying shades of off-white, tinged from pink, to burnt orange, to brown. All have a toothed surface, all are edible and delicious but may get bitter as they age and darken.

Look-alikes I’ve seen confused include Spongipellis pachyodon and Climacodon septentrionalis, though both bear only a passing resemblance and the texture and bitterness should be a clue as well.

A cultivated Hericium erinaceus

Slice thin or tear into pieces, sautee. Excellent texture and flavor, this is one of my all-time favorite gourmet mushrooms. Store by freezing after cooking.

Hericium coralloides on the side of a hardwood

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Grifola frondosa

Known commonly as “Hen of the woods” or “Sheepshead” in the US and “Maitake” in Japan, this mushroom is enjoyed as food around the world. It generally occurs in the fall in deciduous woods, frequently associated with oaks but also found under or near maples, beeches, and other species. You’ll typically find them at the base of the tree as a dense cluster ranging from pale off-white to shades of brown, grey, and nearly black.

Bondarzewia berkeleyi and Meripilus sumstinei are sometimes seen being confused for G. frondosa. The former having much broader, fewer lobes and the latter staining black on bruising as per the common name, “Black-staining polypore”. Both are edible regardless.

Tear the lobes apart, brush off the dirt, and cook. The texture and flavor of this mushroom is amazing. It can be frozen or dried. The Japanese name means “Dancing Mushroom” and is said to refer to the reactions of those lucky enough to find it.

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I Lied About the Rules of Thumb

Okay, most rules of thumb are wrong, but there are a handful, with some important caveats, that can let you safely consume a specimen with confidence, while not necessarily knowing the exact species you’re eating. Pay very close attention to the ifs, ands, and thens in each entry. These rules, if misapplied to the wrong group, may be dangerous.

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RoT 1: “Puffballs”

A haul of Lycoperdon pyriforme

The edible “puffball” groups include the genera Calvatia, Calbovista, and Lycoperdon. They range in size from an inch to a foot across or more. The skin can be smooth, cracked, scaly, studded, or faceted. The stipe will be short and blunt to nearly indistinguishable. Puffballs may grow on wood or from the ground. Familiarize yourself with the various puffball species, then apply the rule of thumb.

The rule of thumb: If you’re sure what you have is some species of puffball, and you’ve cut it in half top to bottom and the flesh is consistent, white, and uniform throughout with no internal structures, then it is edible.

The immature, “egg” stage of some mushrooms, including deadly species in the genus Amanita, may resemble puffballs. When cut open, the inner structure of the young mushroom can be seen developing. This is absent in an edible puffball.

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RoT 2: Off-white corals on wood

Artomyces pyxidatus

…are edible. This one’s pretty simple. If you’ve got a coral mushroom and it’s white to off-white and it’s growing directly from wood, then it’s edible. The only thing you might confuse it with is Hericium coralloides, which is itself a great edible.

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RoT 3: Taste and spit Lactarius, Lactifluus, and Russula

Lactifluus volemus

These three share quite a few similarities. They usually grow individually or in small clusters across the forest floor. They’re usually brittle, and break like chalk when bent. Lactarius and Lactifluus usually ooze a milky latex when injured. But not always. Familiarize yourself with these three through independent study, then you can apply the rule of thumb.

L. volemus, milky sap visible as droplets on margin

The rule of thumb: If you’re sure you’e got Lactarius, Lactifluus, or Russula, and you chewed up a piece, spit it out, waited ten minutes, and had no bitter, spicy, peppery, or otherwise unpleasant taste, then you can safely eat the mushroom.

As noted before, it’s safe to chew and spit any mushroom, including deadly species.

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Final Notes

Some people rinse or soak their mushrooms in water or brine before eating. I do not do this. Mushrooms are already mostly water, and I don’t want to have to cook off even more. I also would prefer not to dilute the flavor. Brush, flick, tap, blow, shake, wipe, pick, or otherwise mechanically remove the dirt and avoid washing whenever possible. On occasion I’ll give G. frondosa a quick rinse if it means saving an otherwise mud-coated piece of meat, but otherwise I’m happy to munch the occasional piece of grit or grub to avoid sullying my finds. It also helps to cut off the dirty ends of specimens when you pick them, to keep your basket clean.

A fistful of Agaricus campestris

There are several common names, terms, and phrases I hope to see fall out of regular use. “LBM”, meaning “Little Brown Mushroom”, is most often used as a dismissive response to an ID request of a small, nondescript earth-toned fungus. It’s a useless term that doesn’t communicate anything that a child couldn’t already see. What it implies, though, is “I don’t know what this is and I’m not inclined to find out”. If that’s the case, better just to say “I don’t know” (or maybe just refrain from commenting entirely) instead of a comment that offers no useful information and casually discourages learning. Just because you don’t know what it is, doesn’t mean nobody does.

“False morel” (or “false” anything, really), is another common name for a wide range of mushrooms, and its use varies by location. Some fungi called “false morel” are dangerous to eat. Some are edible, and some just as tasty as “true” morels. Strictly speaking, anything that isn’t a morel is a false morel. My dog is a false morel. It’s a very misleading common name with little consistency in use, and isn’t helpful. Better to learn the Latin, and use names to describe what a specimen is instead of what it isn’t.

“All fungi are edible. Some fungi are only edible once.” – Terry Pratchett, an author unclear on the definition of “edible”

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Java inspects a find