For anyone interested, I once made up a list of 8 ‘edible choice’ mushrooms that I wanted to find, positively identify and try eating. I chose these 8 not only because they were easy to find and considered the most collected and most enjoyed, but because they also tend to be (with the possible exception of the Meadow Mushroom, see the comments under that one) the least mis-identified and thereby safer of the wild mushrooms to collect and eat.
The only one I haven’t found yet is a Chanterelle. Some of the pictures of one’s I’ve found and/or identified or eaten can be seen in my photos.
The eight on my list included:
1) morels* (Morchella)
I’d already eaten those many times but I wanted to positively identify the types; Blacks, whites, common and grey
and yes, I got each – although I have a hard time telling the difference between whites and commons if I only find one of the two in the same hunt. I also found some half-free [false] morels which I have also eaten many times)
2) prairie or meadow mushrooms (pink bottoms, Agaricus campestris)
I’d also eaten these but wanted to get better at both finding and identifying them. Working at a golf course helped with this considerably – Pine View had TONS of them and they would grow from mid July through late August and I could fill about a grocery bag per week if I wanted to.
Another I found, identified and tried were ‘horse’ mushrooms which are HUGE but you have to get to them before the flies do, and the gills break down (rot) fast if you let them fully cap out as they grow in the hottest weeks of late July and August.
This is also the one most likely to mis-identify as it can look similar to the Amanita variants Avenging or Destroying Angels and Deathcaps if you are new to hunting and don’t know how to tell the difference. Don’t rely on my suggestions if you are even at all in doubt on identifying these an differentiating them from the two aforementioned (or other similar) white mushrooms. The most obvious difference between these an the other two is that the gills on these turn pink to dark greyish purple as they age. All three varieties will have the veil or fringe underneath and have a similar grainy stalk, but the meadow mushrooms tend to have shorter, thicker, often times twisted stalks that taper downward where the other two tend to be longer, thinner, straighter and are more bulbous at the bottom. Meadows grow in grass, sometimes in fairy rings (around old buried stumps) or out about 30-60 feet from a living tree, where the others are more prone to grow in dry leaves or pine needles nearer to tree trunks. Again, if unsure, get a test kit, expert advice/supervision or learn more before trying one.
Again I had eaten some but wanted to find a couple of kinds. I never really liked the giants although I found a few on state land and again at work. I tend to prefer the jewel encrusted which I’ve found from morel season in spring through hunting season in fall. There’s also another I have only really seen in fall that is a light to medium brown and shaped kind of like an upside-down gord sometimes. You’ll also sometimes see a slight purple tinge right near the crown. and pores at the base of the stem.
Puffballs tend to be one of the safer mushrooms to identify, pick and eat. The big test for puffballs is to cut one in half. If it’s solid and white inside, it’s generally edible. (again, do your homework before trying one) One possible mis-identification stems from young ‘budding’ mushrooms such as Amanita varieties that will appear as a small white ball when young – cutting those in half will generally show the soon-to-spread out cap and gills inside. The few varieties of puffballs that are inedible or not considered ‘choice’ will not be white inside not to mention a puffball that is ‘going bad’ will turn yellow or brown or have very porous sponge air-pockets starting to form. In the latter case, if the sponge area is only the lower part of the stem, sometimes you can cut it away on some varieties if the remaining portion is still solid and white.
4) Shaggy Manes ( Coprinus comatus )
Also great ones to find on a golf course. They are very very hard to mis-identify and you’ll find them on the edges of grassy areas along tree lines or banks. These are of a variety known as ‘inky caps‘ that will start to get a wet-dark ink-like consistency as they age. Native American tribes sometimes used these types of mushrooms to make dyes. If they’ve started to ink out already, I usually leave them but if you can catch them before the bottom edge starts to get too ‘gooey’ they are pretty good.
5) Hen of the Woods (Maitake / Grifola frondosa)
I was pretty sure I’d seen these before and finally stumbled on one squirrel hunting about twice the size of a basketball – THAT’S A LOTTA SHROOM! I then found a rotting one at work, and when we switched to the city course, I found 4 huge ones. (pictured in my pics) I have found them generally in mid to late fall at the base of oak trees. ( I posted a list of tips on finding these)
6) Sulfur Shelf (Chicken of the Wood / Laetiporus)
Another very unique, very hard to mis-identify mushroom. Ranging from yellow to orange to red with bands of white or lighter shades of the primary colors, it looks a lot like coral growing in the woods and sticks out considerably against the leaves and rotting wood it grows upon. The one’s I’ve seen were growing on the ground, but they can apparently also grow on the sides of trees. They call it ‘Chicken’ because it has the taste and texture of chicken if cooked properly.
7) Oyster Mushroom ( Pleurotus ostreatus )
Yeah, this is the same type you buy in the stores. It grows on rotting wood or sometimes on the side of trees. That’s where I found my first one’s when up checking out a state park in SW Oakland County. I also found some behind work while hunting 2 years ago but put it in the back of my truck before heading to my folks and forgot to take them out. They still looked good but I didn’t have my book with me and didn’t know if they’d last till I got home so I threw the second batch out. They are also so named because when cooked up they have a taste and texture similar to that of oysters.
This is the only one I haven’t found yet. They are considered to be reasonably easy to identify, I just haven’t stumbled on any yet. They can range from white to yellow to orange and occasionally tan. They also trumpet up like a funnel not much unlike the oysters except they more frequently grow on the ground. If I find one, I’ll be sure to post pictures!
I tried some Dryad’s Saddles a few years back. They weren’t bad but you really want to catch them young. If you prepare them the right way, they kinda taste like a ‘woody’ bamboo shute – they might be good for stir fries. I’ve seen these growing from spring through early summer.
I’ve also seen and reasonably identified ‘honey mushrooms‘ after I saw a guy picking a bunch at an area I hunt. A stump at work grew enough to fill 3 grocery bags so I’m going to try to get an acid kit to try some this year so I can be 100% sure none of them are Deadly Galerinas.
Another I used to see a lot at Pine View were Slippery Jacks, a type of bolete. I didn’t have the guts to try them but may if I can find more information on possible look-alikes and risks. (some people have bad reactions to boletes)
Another I may add to my list are coral mushrooms (small white guys) as I think I’ve seen some before but didn’t know what they were.
I also pick wild asparagus a lot during morel season and keep trying to find wild leeks but with no luck yet. There’s lots of spearmint and peppermint growing down at work, and I might make my own peppermint extract this fall. I am also considering making a Jewelweed infusion this year as well to help with bug bites and other things.