Edible Wild Mushrooms — what to eat & what to avoid
Do you want to learn how to find and identify edible wild mushrooms?
Learning about edible mushrooms can seem like an overwhelming process, but don’t get discouraged. Let’s take it a step at a time.
Introductions to some common edible wild mushrooms
As mentioned before, there is a great diversity of mushroom species. Given limited space and time, we will only cover some of the most common and best to know here in this article.
For starters, mushrooms are the reproductive bodies or “fruits” a fungus. The main body of the fungus is in the form of white, thread-like structures called mycelium.
The structures of a typical gilled mushroom consist of a cap, gills and a stalk. The gills are the reproductive portions of the mushroom, and the produce the spores. Spores are reproductive units in the form of single cells.
One of the most common and well-known groups of edible wild mushrooms are the boletes or boletus species (Boletaceae). These mushrooms have fleshy caps, and central stalk, and the reproductive parts underneath the cap are made of tubes. These tubes open up into pores at the bottom.
Many species in this group are edible, with only a handful being poisonous. The poisonous boletus species have red or deep orange pores. Outside of the few toxic species, some species of boletus are bitter or inedible.
One method for testing the edibility of a boletus species is the taste test. You can break off a tiny piece of the cap and putting it in your mouth. It is still strongly recommend that you identify all boletus mushrooms as close to the exact species as possible before trying them. This technique is not recommend for testing the edibility of any other group of species.
Species: King Boletus, Porcini, Cep (Boletus edulis)
Cap: A medium-to-large sized cap with a tan, brown or brownish-red top. Pores are whitish in younger specimens, and mature to yellow-olive.
Stalk: Thick, often bulbous near the ground and tapering towards the underside of the cap. Stalk surface finely netted, at least near the top.
Location: Often grows with firs, spruces and pines. Also oaks and birches in some locations.
When: Early fall at lower elevations. Summer in high elevations. Occasional springtime growth.
Ediblity: One of the best! Nutty and mild fresh. Should not taste bitter or chalky.
Comments: Can grow to several pounds in weight! Can be stored sliced and dried for a years.
Species: Smith’s Boletus(Boletus smithii)
Cap: A medium sized cap with a brownish-red to reddish top. Pores bright yellow.
Stalk: Thick, generally fatter at base tapering at least slightly underneath cap. Stalk pink or pinkish-yellow. Might show some erratic bluing when cut.
Location: Found in mixed woods/coniferous forests. Often at middle to high elevations.
When: Fruits in the fall.
Ediblity: Good. Taste mild raw.
Comments: Several similar looking species. Some bitter and inedible. Also dries and stores well, as do many edible wild mushrooms belonging to the Boletus group.
Species: Zeller’s Boletus(Boletus zelleri)
Cap: Small-to-medium cap with a brown to blackish gray top. Pores pale, yellowish. Can bruise bluish.
Stalk: Short, thick. Yellow background color with a reddish color over it. Often yellow at base.
Location: Often found with Douglas firs and redwoods.
When: Early fall to early winter.
Edibility: Good. Better after drying. Taste is mild raw.
Comments: These edible wild mushrooms can grow in extensive groups. Where you see one, there are often many hidden out of sight nearby.
Species: Cracked Cap Boletus, Red-cracked Boletus(Boletus chrysenteron)
Cap: Small-to-medium cap with a tan to dark-brown. Often cracks at maturity exposing pale pinkish flesh.
Stalk: Relatively narrow to medium thickness with a yellowish base color and reddish color over it. Often with reddish base. Sometimes bleached to yellow overall.
Location: Coniferous and mixed woods. Wide spread. Often in groups.
When: Early fall to early winter.
Ediblity: Good. Better after drying. Has a acidic, earthy taste raw.
Comments: One of the most numerous boletus species in many locations. Unfortunately, they are also one of the quickest to be infected and consumed by a white mold. If they look moldy, do not collect them.
Edibility of wild mushrooms
Edible wild mushrooms should be approached with respect and with the same cautious you would show whenever you try a new food source. Edible wild mushrooms are a culinary treasure, however, they need to be approached carefully. Some species are deadly poisonous. It is very important that you accurately identify a wild mushroom before consuming it by cross-referencing several field guides, or more preferably, working with someone with experience.
Everybody is different, and everybody’s response to different foods is different. It is the same for eating edible wild mushrooms. Try each new species cautiously at first. Also, even if you are experience with certain species and wish to consume a vast quantity, it may not be a good idea. Some people have experienced uncomfortable symptoms from over-indulging when eating mushrooms.
This is in no way meant to discourage your enjoy and exploration of edible wild mushrooms. There are many wonderful colors, flavors and textures to be experienced among the mushrooms. Not to mention, the process of finding them in the outdoors can be very exciting and rewarding in and of itself.
Certainly, you can grow natural, great tasting mushrooms on your very first attempt. Identifying edible wild mushrooms is fun but you can also enjoy use different methods to grow mushrooms yourself. Click here for mushroom growing for you.