A Guide to Edible Wild Mushrooms: What to Eat and What to Avoid

Wild Mushrooms

Edible wild mushrooms are a science unto themselves. You almost need to be a fully-fledged botanist before you can confidently spot exactly what kind of a wild mushroom have you found in the wild. The biggest issue is the fact that a lot of wild mushrooms look almost completely interchangeable in appearance. They can be easily confused with one another, and this might result in terrible consequences as some mushrooms are known to be poisonous. While the vast majority of mushrooms are not poisonous, the very small number of the poisonous mushrooms (slightly over 250) can be a cause of concern for people looking to start foraging wild mushrooms.

Pink Oyster Mushrooms

Chanterelles and Jack-O’-Lanterns

Chanterelles are a type of mushroom that have their origins in France. This is also evident by the name itself and its role in French cuisine is also quite significant. They are known for their savory flavor and versatility in terms of taste. Jack-O’-Lanterns on the other hand should be a complete no-go for anyone with a little common sense. Chanterelles are known to grow on both coasts of the US> The ones on the East coast are smaller on average while the ones on the West coast are much larger in terms of size. They are known to grow in a clustered pattern. Jack-o’-lanterns are divided between what side of the Rocky Mountains they are found. If they are on the east side of the Rocky Mountains, they will have a very potent orange color. If they are on the west side of the Rocky Mountains, they will have a color that is more reminiscent of green with some orange mixed in there. Like Chanterelles, they are found in clusters near the stem of trees.

Both of these mushrooms have a bright orange color that makes them extremely easy to spot in real life. There are very few physical characteristics that differ between these 2 mushrooms, but you need to be able to focus on those as much as possible so that you can spot the difference. The jack-o’-lantern has gills that go down the stack which are quite sharp. Another major difference between the two is the fact that peeling inside the interior of the stem of the chanterelle mushroom would reveal a color that is paler than the outside while the color would be darker in the jack-o’-lantern.

Morels and False Morels

Morels are perhaps the most uniquely shaped mushrooms out there in America. This is mainly due to the structure of the patterns on the mushrooms which can be described as being almost like a brain’s contours. This is probably not an image you wanted in your mind though. Morels are also one of the most widely growing mushrooms in America, with them being able to adapt to all the conditions that are present in the different states in America. Only Arizona and Florida state that has conditions are not conducive to the growth of morels.

It is generally best to hunt for morels during the time of the spring. This perfect story of foraging out in the early spring with the agreeable weather enhancing the experience is only interrupted by one thing. The presence of false morels. They are extremely poisonous and can cause adverse health damage if ingested. However, it is not hard at all to differentiate between these two. Remember how I described morels as being in between a brain and a honeycomb? Well, false morels are even more brain-like compared to real morels. In fact, the difference is so stark that you can almost see a brain-like shape in false morels without much difficulty. On top of that, if you really want to make sure, you can just cut the morels from the middle. If they are real morels, they will be empty from the inside. If they are false morels, they will have a ball-like substance.

What To Avoid

There are some mushrooms that you simply need to avoid at all costs. These mushrooms are so dangerous that they are known to even cause deaths in people who consume them.

Death Caps and Destroying Angels

Death caps are the stereotypical image of poisonous mushrooms that we all have in our minds. It is the same mushroom that every character in the movie ends up ingesting as well. This is mostly due to the fact that death caps resemble a very typical version of mushrooms in the national consciousness. Death caps used to actually be only grown in Europe. However, now they grow on both coasts of the US as well. Death caps have a cap that is quite large and will be sticky if you touch it.

Destroying Angels are another type of wild mushroom that is known to be extremely poisonous. I mean, just look at the name itself. They are named as such because of their white color which is the only thing that differentiates them from Death caps. Death caps don’t possess this extremely white color that is used for mainly identifying destroying angels. They mainly appear during the summer and also in autumn.

So, these are the different types of wild mushrooms out there that you should avoid or eat depending on whether they are poisonous or not. Remember that the idea is to be as careful as possible. There are also some mushrooms that will produce an allergic reaction in someone even if they are not generally known to be dangerous.