One of the interesting side effects of so much rain is the huge number of wild mushrooms that are growing in the woods across from our house. Although this year’s is a bumper crop, these woods have always been mushroom rich. I used to think that someday I would have learned enough about mushrooms so I could identify which mushrooms are safe to eat.

But it is a very odd thing… the more information I absorb about identifying wild mushrooms, the more uncertain I become that I really want to take the chance of eating them. I’m pretty sure, for example, that the mushrooms that look like a hamburger bun on a stalk are boletes… and boletes are considered safe to eat. Safe, that is, except for the few boletes that are poisonous and have red or orange pores. I am fairly certain I can correctly identify the edible orange-ish vase shaped chanterelles… but what if I confuse these with the poisonous mushroom that has the same shape and similar characteristics? Even the edible common white puffball, which supposedly is a safe “starter mushroom” for novice foragers, can sometimes be confused with one of the most deadly mushrooms of all. And on it goes. I have made spore prints, studied pores and sharp gills and rounded gills and looked for rings around the stems and cups or sacs beneath the soil. For every mushroom I think I can identify, there is always an exception or a warning that, for me anyway, makes the thought of eating any wild mushrooms somewhat less than appealing.

At this point, I’m neither brave enough nor stupid enough to rely on the bits of information I have learned about which mushrooms are edible and which are not. Especially knowing that even the most educated identification can be incorrect. Of course, not everyone shares my concerns.

Several years ago, an elderly Austrian woman stopped here and asked if she could search for mushrooms in our woods. We said she could, and she obviously considers the original permission to be an ongoing one, because at least once every year since then she has returned. She always leaves with a huge basket of mushrooms… sometimes she waves and says hello or talks for a few minutes. This year she had her granddaughter with her. The time had come, she said, to pass on her knowledge of foraging. In the beginning years I wondered if I could learn from her too. I completely gave up on that idea after the year I asked her how she identifed the edible mushrooms, and she told me she tested them with a silver spoon. Although this practice comes from folklore, most people who know about mushrooms emphatically warn that it is a very risky and unreliable test. Knowing this, I am always somewhat surprised when another year rolls around and I see that this woman is back and has survived her last mushroom hunt!

There is an old saying that there are only two types of mushroom hunters. There are the old mushroom hunters and there are the bold mushroom hunters…. but there are no old bold mushroom hunters.

That is certainly something to think about!

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There’s a mushroom festival where I used to live, every year. I went one year and found what one can do, even if one is not bold enough to eat the mushrooms– dye fiber with them! The different spores interact in various ways with different dye agents, and you can get some very vivid shades, even royal blues, out of natural mushroom-based dyes.


Those are beautiful, I have always loved the look of mushrooms. However, I am with you, and I would rather be safe than dead!


Try morels. Once you know what they look like, they cannot be confused, not even with the so-called false morels. Look them both up. Don’t pick the so-called half-free morels, just the common and black varieties. I hunted them with my mother as a child, as did all my cousins with their mothers. Yes, even a child can distinguish them with ease. My mother would never even consider eating a mushroom of any other kind, as there are so many poisonous varieties and she couldn’t be certain of their safety.

The only caveat with morels that they must be cooked before eating. Soaking in salt water makes the bugs come out of the ridges of the mushroom before cooking.


They’re really gorgeous!


Beautiful pictures!

When I used to live at an old house, every spring the lawn would have a fairy ring of small white mushrooms. They were as delicate as lace and would be gone as soon as the sun shone on them awhile.

I agree with you, I do not eat wild mushrooms. Too risky for sure!


They are beautiful, and they can be deadly. My father was a forager, he was not old.


Yet another reason I’m glad I don’t like mushrooms :-)

David B.

second one down on the right hand side of the third group sure looks like a chanterelle (a choice edible) to me, though one that’s a way past its prime. the one to its left is obviously in the chanterelle family, though i don’t know if it’s one of the choice edibles.

don’t feel too bad about not eating them, though — rule number one of eating wild mushrooms is that if you’re not ABSOLUTELY sure what it is, DON’T EAT IT.

what convinced me to start being sure enough of my identification skills to eat some kinds of wild mushrooms was when on a hike someone noticed me snacking on wild sweet cicely and was shocked someone would casually eat something so closely related to (and to many eyes — though not mine — close in appearance to) deadly poisonous water hemlock.

that, and tasting a few a friend had harvested — MUCH better than the store-bought ones.


I read a book a few years back about wild mushrooms, that made me realize for the first time what wondrous flavors and textures the variety can offer, but also how risky and dangerous to go hunting without knowledge. I know someone who does gather wild mushrooms- enough to fill a table top and feast- but I’d never be brave enough to attempt it myself, I think I’d still have doubts even if accompanied by someone very experienced.


The only wild mushroom I’ve ever foraged to eat is the morel. The rest I leave alone. They’re certainly beautiful too look at, though.


When I was a kid my Mom always picked the white puffball mushrooms that grew by the granary on our farm. She breaded and fried them in lots of butter and my Dad loved them. After eating them for supper one night he developed a terrible stomachache. They must have been worried cause they called a 92 year old neighbor who came over and verified they were safe. He had just eaten to many of them (they were very,very rich) but we didn’t we didn’t have them again for a long time.
ps: I am not as brave, I buy mine in the grocery store!