Wild Edible Mushrooms

Wild Edible MushroomsForaging for wild edibles is an exciting way to eat. There are certainly many poisonous types of mushrooms out there but as long as you follow the simple rule of being 100 percent positive of its identity before popping it into your mouth, then you have nothing to worry about. Identifying wild edible mushrooms can lead to indulging in their delicious culinary delights as well as the pure joy of collecting what you eat.


Difficulty: Moderately Challenging

How to:

Things You’ll Need:
  • Folding basket
  • Notebook
  • Camera
  • Folding knife
  • Tweezers
  • Guidebook
  • Magnifying glass (10x)
Step 1
Look for mushrooms in the spring, mid- to late summer and early fall. Take a look at the overall shape of a mushroom you have found. Do not touch it if you suspect it is poisonous. Use your tweezers to handle it if you want to examine it. Take note of the cap shape. Is it convex, conical, funnel-like, umbonate (have a protruding knob in the center like a hat), or foiled (brain-like such as Morels)? What kind of gills, spines or pores does it have under the cap?
Step 2
Take note of the surface texture. Does it look rough or scaly, grooved or shaggy? Does it look sticky or have concentric zones of growth?
Step 3
Measure how tall it is compared to your hand and how large the cap is. Also observe the color. Mushrooms can be any number of colors from orange-yellow or milky white to purple and red or dark brown. Take a photograph for a reference before you pick it up and put it in your container or if you wish to come back for it.
Step 4
If you are still unsure about the identification of a certain mushroom species then remove the cap of the mushroom and lightly place it on a piece of two-tone paper (half black and half white). Place a drop of water on the top and cover it with a bowl. After about 12 hours, lift off the bowl and pick up the cap. A distinct spore mark will be left on the paper like a stamp. Is the spore color pinkish to red, ocher to clay, rust-brown, purple--brown, black or white to cream? This is another reference you now have when sifting through your guidebook making comparisons.
Step 5
Consult a guidebook for wild mushrooms in your region and compare the mushroom you have found to those you think it might be. Use all the observations you have made so far and ask yourself if the size, habitat, range and spore color match as well as the general photo or depiction. You can never be too careful when identifying mushrooms because many of them look similar.
Step 6
Pick only fresh-looking mushrooms to put in your basket and take home to your kitchen. When picking them, use a sharp folding knife and dig up the entire mushroom, except for bolet mushrooms, which have a wide and firm stem that does not root deeply. Do not tear them from the ground as this can disturb the formation of new mushrooms. Also do not put them in a plastic bag as this increases the chance of molding and formation of bacteria. Never put a questionably edible mushroom next to the ones you know are edible.
Step 7
Clean mushrooms you have collected and intend to eat after identification by rubbing off the dirt with a paper towel or soft cloth. Washing them tends to take away some of their flavor. Mushrooms can then be sliced and sauteed, cooked, preserved in oil, frozen or dried for later use. "The Mushroom Book" by Thomas Laessoe, Anna Del Conte and Gary Lincoff offers safe suggestions for which mushrooms are best prepared in a certain way as well as several recipes.
Step 8
Cook mushroom species that are edible but you have never tasted before and only taste a small amount. It is not uncommon for people to have allergic reactions to certain proteins in the mushrooms. Shaggy parasols in particular can cause gastric upsets.

Tips & Warnings

Always be 100 percent sure of what you are eating.

Article Written By Naomi Judd

Naomi M. Judd is a naturalist, artist and writer. Her work has been published in various literary journals, newspapers and websites. Judd holds a self-designed Bachelor of Arts in adventure writing from Plymouth State University and is earning a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from the University of Southern Maine.

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