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MUSHROOMS: FUNGUS - EDIBLE & POISONOUS!

Believe it or not, over the human's existence here on earth, much of our knowledge today is from trial and error. 


Indeed, somewhere, sometime, someone, has eaten most every kind of mushroom/fungus growing, and has either lived - or died, or may have become extremely ill from the event! But edible fungi are excellent and flavourful, and seem to have been worth the extreme pleasure when people hit on the edible varieties, but oh - what a sad down side if the fungus was one of the bad ones!

This seemingly simplistic trial & error approach forms much of our basis/basics of knowledge of many subjects today. This is not only true of mushrooms, but of the edible & poisonous plants as well. 

Here, in this composition, I'm most interested in SHARING some of the knowledge that I have, so that you can safely go and try some of natures most exquisitely flavoured gastronomic delights! 

I've hunted and eaten the mushrooms found described here for my entire 47 year life, and these pristine, mild flavoured offerings not only satisfy the palate, they also provide me with the opportunity to get outside in the outdoors, and enjoy nature more fully; and allow me to participate within nature as part of it. 

Rather than go on with incredibly lengthy orations about every type of mushroom growing, I'll stick to four basic mushroom types, which I eat regularly, during each of their respective, and for the most part, what is regarded as their 'growing' season. 

You'll be able to enjoy one of these mushroom members nearly every season of the year, and I hope you do. 

Too, I hope that you find this information essay informative, and that you feel that you would like a bit more detailed information, and that you consider buying my "PRO REPORT"or PRO FACTSHEET(S) on mushroom gathering/eating. In this report I'll give you mushroom/fungus biology, or at least enough to 'get you buy' so that you will be able to enjoy mushroom/fungus hunting as part of your wild heritage, and keep you out of 'hot water'. The PRO REPORT is a more extensive information package that found here, but is basic, easily understood, and 'what you need to know' about mushroom hunting/gathering. It is not an extensive scientific work, that most people would find stuffy, not easily understood, and for most people, unusable. 




 

RULE NUMBER #1 - IF YOU AREN'T SURE - DON'T EAT IT - many mushrooms are deadly poisonous! 

RULE NUMBER # 2 - IF IN DOUBT - READ RULE NUMBER #1 AGAIN!
 
 


THE MEADOW MUSHROOM: This is the common mushroom, is easily recognised, and I believe the mushroom that most of the 'store bought' or domesticated (if there is such a term for mushrooms) varieties have descended (over time) from. The scientific name for this delectable fungus is Agaricus campestris. 

If you like mushrooms you buy in a store, grown most often from/in horse-poop, you'll absolutely love the mild, yet savoury flavour of these wild mushrooms! 

This wild fungus is found most often in the late summer/early fall, especially in what we regard as 'wet' years. All fungus varieties that we 'hunt' for, seem to need lots of moisture. 

I've found these mushrooms in pastures, golf courses/driving ranges, and people's front yards. They predominantly grow out in the open, and aren't what I would regard a 'bush' variety, or a mushroom that grows in the bush, or with much underbrush/cover. 

The mushroom will be white/creamish, but as the mushroom ages, it may turn a dirty creamish white to brown colour. I don't recommend eating them at this darker coloured stage though - they'll be strong flavoured. 

There is NO VOLVA (see diagram) that is often found on poisonous mushrooms. The volva of a mushroom is found just under the cap - if there is one. (I'd recommend my PRO REPORT/FACT SHEET(S) on mushrooms if you are unclear about this, or if you wish to know more about mushrooms & hunting) 

The gills underneath the mushroom's cap will be a delicate pink, just like the one's you buy in a store. As the mushroom ages, these gills will turn a darker brown colour. If they are a light brown colour they will still be fit to eat, but if they are dark brown, almost slate grey to black, they've gone too far, and unfit to eat. 

If you find a few of these mushrooms, and you are positive of their identification, then you may be able to also find a few of the 'button' stage, or these 'baby' mushrooms as they are just emerging from the ground; but even though the cap hasn't yet opened up as yet, you may be able to positively identify the mushroom by using the following method. Simply take the mushroom 'button' and break open the membrane which is still encasing the mushroom's cap, and just under the cap area. This will expose the young forming gills. If it is a meadow mushroom, and very edible, these gills, even at this stage of development, will be a delicate - but DEFINITE pinkish colour. If they are not this pink colour - don't save/eat them. 

Generally one must be extremely cautious when gathering 'button' stage mushrooms, as often several mushroom types may grow in the same vicinity, look the same, but while one could be safe to eat, the other could be deadly poisonous. 

If the weather is quite warm, be sure to check (any and all varieties) of mushrooms for worms in them. When the weather is fairly cool, worms don't get into these mushrooms. Overall, I've only had to throw out a few mushrooms; but I always check to be sure they aren't wormy - these worms, once cooked wouldn't hurt you - but I, like most - just simply don't like the thought of eating wormy food! 

THE SHAGGY MANE, is also a very common and easily identified mushroom, and its scientific name is Coprinus comatus. 

This excellent edible mushroom frequents areas of what we regard as 'poor soil', and will be found often near roadways, and where soil has been disturbed earlier in the year. 

These mushrooms, when cooked, render down into a mushy gruel texture. I like to eat them on toast. (see graphic & photo for identification purposes. They are relatively easy to identify, but could be confused with early stages of Amanita mushrooms - which are deadly poison. Be sure of identification before eating.I will pick only the very young shaggy mane mushrooms, and leave the ones which have the caps open, and turning black. These mushrooms are sometimes called inky caps; but be aware that there is a shaggy mane cousin, which is called the inky cap. Both are very edible, and delicious, so in this regard - no matter - as long as not confused as mentioned earlier with the poisonous amanita mushrooms. 

 The shaggy mane, as it gets older, will have a filamentish looking scale, which is on the cap of the mushroom. The underside of the cap, in the gill area will be dark coloured gills, almost black and if touched, you'll find yourself covered with a slimy- inky - mess - and will appreciate why they are called inky caps - and why I only pick and eat the very young ones - before they get to this rather messy stage. If you were to eat these older mushrooms, they'd probably be fine, but they'll be an abomination to look at in the frying pan, and will be a bit stronger in flavour. 

MOREL(S) are a favourite fungi of outdoor's folk, when they can find them. Fortunately, most are edible, and if unsure - don't eat them. I'll discuss several of the more common ones here. 

COMMON MOREL is indeed very common, and is found nearly anywhere - and one really 'just never knows where' they'll grow. I've found them in grassy areas, in the woods etc. I've found most common morels though, in the transition area going from a bush/woods setting into a grassy/clear area. 

Both the common (often slangily called a sand morel) and the dark morel, to be discussed below further (and often called a wood's morel) have tapered pine cone shaped head/caps. These head/caps are indented with deep ridges, sometimes called veins. The best description of this is from the photo/graphics accompanying this write-up 

The common morel(s) are a tan coloured morel, and sometimes they may be creamish/white colour. Common morel(s) can grow up to five inches high. Once morels start to dry out a bit, they are regarded as old, and we don't keep them - leave them for seed at this stage. If they are nice and moist feeling, they'll be fine fettle fare for the frying pan. 

BLACK MOREL(S) are a very fine eating morel, most often found in 'woodsy' areas, and are much smaller in size, generally, than the common morels discussed above. 

These mild morels have a head/cap that is a grey/slate grey colour, and the whole morel is, for the most part, much smaller overall than the common morel. 

GIANT PUFFBALL(s) are one of my most favoured of all edible mushrooms. If you are lucky you'll find a very large one, offering much excellent eating opportunity. The size that is best for handling, and affording much great eating, will be the size of a volleyball. The Latin scientific name for the giant puffball is Calvatia gigantea. Be sure to look at the photos here, they are easy to identify when they get larger than a softball. One must be sure not to harvest an old puffball, which is not the rich creamish white colour. Indeed, the outer thin skin of the giant puffball is a white, to a off white colour when they are fresh. Once they've aged a bit, and become older, they will turn brown/grey or greenish colour. The flesh of a giant puffball, when it is edible, is a snow white colour, and is firm and fluffy. This flesh is delicate, but firm. They don't take rough handling or abuse, so handle them carefully. 

Once the flesh starts to get old, as the outer skin also exhibits an off colour, they will turn a sickly green colour, then brown. Often a decomposed giant puffball, when disturbed, will 'puff' out millions of the dry pores from it's insides. Young people, if finding a puffball in this stage of development, can't stand not to kick or tromp on them, spewing the pores out into the air. This is fine, as this action will only serve to distribute the pore/seeds for future generations of puffballs, and for us mushroom hunting people. 

IF YOU WOULD LIKE MORE IN-DEPTH INFORMATION on all of the mushrooms here, including how to gather, when, and the type of places to look, you'll be interested in my PRO REPORT/FACTSHEETS on edible mushrooms, found in the product section of this homepage. 

These are written in easy to understand language, with great 'layperson' language, and will include 
appropriate mushroom/fungus biology - and: 

  • How to identify the edible mushrooms discussed (and graphics/photos)
  • How to gather them
  • The time of year that they grow
  • Where to find them
  • How to "get the bugs out" of morels
  • Pre-cooking preparation
  • How to cook them.
A few poisonous mushrooms to stay away from, and those especially similar looking to the mushrooms of those edible one's we've discussed in the PRO REPORT/FACTSHEET 

The PRO REPORT/FACTSHEET is a working, or practical guide to the few mushrooms that I've hunted and eaten during my whole life, and know to be safe for eating. It contains all of the items above, but doesn't go in depth into the many other mushrooms that grow that are also edible - because I'm not familiar with them, and personally have no desire to play "Russian Roulette" exploring these other species. The known and trusted, and more common varieties I do cover, allows me to eat safely, all of the mushrooms I care to, and safely.


Author: John A. Vance
Copyright © 1998 John A. Vance. . . 
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