Mushroom Hunting

Hunting or foraging for wild mushrooms can be a very rewarding
experience, but knowing which mushrooms are edible is a key
skill to have before heading out into the woods.

In this guide we’ll share the best tips and tricks for edible
mushroom hunting, discuss the best mushrooms available for
foraging in different regions of the US, and share some
incredible recipes to make the most of your bounty.

Edible Mushrooms
Fungi foraging by Annie Spratt/Unsplash

Mushroom Hunting Basics

I went on a foraging walk with Forage
SF
last year, and our guide explained that when it comes to
mushrooms, you need to be 200% sure about what you’re
harvesting before even thinking about eating it. While the same
is true for plant foraging too, it’s perhaps even more
important for mushrooms since there are lots of mushroom
lookalikes that can be dangerous. If you’re not an
experienced forager yourself, be sure to mushroom hunt
with an experienced guide.

Learning which mushrooms grow in your region, and in which
season, can make your mushroom hunting more productive and
safer. And don’t forget to have patience! Mushrooms are
sometimes fickle little creatures, and most mushroom foragers
will tell you that some days you find a bounty, and other days
you come home empty-handed.

What Tools Do You Need to Forage for Mushrooms?

If you’re getting ready to hunt mushrooms you need few good
tools to help you along the way. First and foremost, unless
you’re an expert mushroom forager, you’ll need a detailed
mushroom field guide for your region. Be sure to review it
before you head out, and then double and triple check before
harvesting anything from the forest.

Some other tools you’ll find helpful along the way:

  • Notebook and pen for taking notes
  • A magnifying glass (to pair with your field guide to
    determine the details of a particular specimen)
  • A good knife, scissors, or a special mushroom cutting knife
  • A large basket to carry your harvest out of the forest and
    a backpack to carry all your gear
  • A light or headlamp
  • Waterproof clothing and boots
  • A local, regional, or park map and/or GPS to help you find
    your way home after adventures further afield

MushroomHunting.com
also recommends wax or paper bags to keep any specimens you are
not sure about separate; if you can’t see all the details of
the mushroom while out in the forest, you can take a better
look once you’re at home to confirm safety. To further
understand your specimens,
The Spruce
suggests both black and white paper to test
spore patterns, which can help confirm identity of any
questionable fungi.

What Types of Mushrooms Can You Forage?

There are hundreds of mushroom varieties that grow around the
US in various timeframes, geographies, and weather patterns,
but here are some of the most common mushrooms hunted in the
US.

Lion’s Mane

Edible Mushrooms
Lion’s Mane image from
ScienceFriday

This gorgeous fungi is unlike any idea of mushroom you might
have seen. It is bright white, and almost fluffy looking –
making it a ‘fool-proof’ mushroom, according to
The Mushroom Forager.
This mushroom, also called pom-pom
mushroom, is in the family Hericium, all of which
are edible – though some are more delicious than
others. Wild
Foodism
explains that this mushroom, “is one of the most
delectable mushrooms in the fungal kingdom, resembling crab
meat in taste and texture.” They also write that like many wild
mushrooms, Lion’s Mane has been found to improve
cognitive function
and can be neuro-regenerative.

Lion’s Mane fruits in the spring through summer and into fall,
almost always on dead or dying hardwood – but this species also
takes well to cultivation in sawdust and on logs at home.

Chanterelles

Edible Mushrooms
Basket of chanterelles, from Barbroforsberg/PixaBay

The golden, beautiful mushrooms known as
chanterelles (Cantharellus cibarius) are highly
regarded in the mushroom community and among chefs. WildEdible says
that these mushrooms can range in color (yellow to deep
orange), flavor (mildly peppery with a distinct fruity
apricot-like aroma), and in size (as large as 5 inches in
diameter, but 2 inches is closer to average).

Like other mushrooms, chanterelles are often found in late
spring through late summer or early fall in the Eastern United
States,
but fall and winter in
California
. These mushrooms seem to like hardwoods like
maple, poplar, white oaks, pines, birch, hemlock, and bay, and
they like slightly damp areas, so are good to find after a
rain. According to multiple sources, chanterelles are often
prone to bug damage, so be sure to inspect and clean your fungi
prior to cooking lest you enjoy some extra critters with your
mushrooms.

Morels

Edible Mushrooms
Morels in the forest from birom/PixaBay


Field & Stream
calls morels ‘America’s mushroom’ since they
are so
widespread
, easy to identify, and so very delicious to eat.
They are fairly distinct looking, and so are often considered a

safer
 option for beginning foragers. F & S explains
that the morels like to live on the edge of forested areas,
especially around trees like ash, aspen, elm, and oak trees—and
especially around dead trees. The season for morels is spring
(with temperatures between 60ºF during the day and 40ºF at
night). Later in the season, you can find them deeper in the
forest. They tend to like loamy soil, like that of a creek bed,
and they especially like burn sites or disturbed ground.

Maitake Mushrooms

Edible Mushrooms
Maitake (Hen of the Woods) from
Garden of Eating

Maitake (Grifola frondosa) are truly wild-looking
mushrooms. These are
also known
as hen of the woods (since it looks like a
fluffing chicken) or ram’s or sheep’s head. Paul
Stamets
, renowned mushroom expert, explains that maitake
mushrooms are “particularly fond of oaks, elms, and rarely
maples,” and that they feed on dead roots of aging trees. That
means these mushrooms bunches are found at the base of trees.
Also like some other mushrooms, maitakes have some great

nutritional benefits,
 including immune-boosting
compounds.

Porcini Mushrooms

Edible Mushrooms
Porcini mushroom by PalKarsen/PixaBay

Porcini grow across Europe and North America, and is nearly
impossible to cultivate, so if you’ve eaten porcini mushrooms,
they are most likely wild and foraged! It’s famous not only for
its flavor, but also for its unique structure–unlike other
mushrooms with gills, the porcini is actually quite spongy on
the underside. These mushrooms
can be found
in hardwood forests near pine, chestnut,
hemlock, and spruce in the summer and into fall. Like
chanterelles, they are often home to bugs like maggots or
worms, so check them and wash if needed. Porcini mushrooms
(Boletus edulis) are
often found dried in gourmet stores and are a great addition to
most meals, since their
meaty, nutty, or umami flavor
lends itself well to most
meals.

Vegetarian Recipes for Wild Mushrooms

Now that you know which types of mushrooms to look for in the
forests and fields, now you can learn how to cook them. All
wild mushrooms taste incredible in a butter or olive oil
saute—this preparation allows the various nutty, earthy, meaty
flavors to come through. They can be eaten plain, or tossed
with pasta, risotto, or polenta. But if you want to take your
mushroom recipes to the next level, below are some wild
mushroom recipes that you might enjoy.

Lion’s Mane Mushroom Recipes

Maitake Recipes

Morel Recipes

Chanterelle Recipes

Porcini Mushroom Recipes

 

Further Resources for Mushroom Hunting & Foraging

North American Mycological
Association
 is dedicated to the promotion of
scientific and educational activities related to fungi,
supports the protection of natural areas and their biological
integrity, and advocates the sustainable use of mushrooms as a
resource and endorse the responsible mushroom collecting that
does not harm the fungi or their habitats.

Paul Stamets is a world-renowned mushroom expert, and has
written many books on the subject. Read more about his work and

his books
.

Poisonous mushrooms to avoid from AmericanMushrooms.com

Wild Foodism,
Easy to Identify Edible Mushrooms for the Beginning Mushroom
Hunter

Detailed guide on finding morels from
MushroomFarm.com

Book:
Mushrooms and Other Fungi of the MidContinental United
States

Book:
Edible Wild
Mushrooms of North America: A Field-to-kitchen Guide

Feature image (mushroom in the forest) by Sandis
Helvigs/UnSplash


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