Here are 10 ways to enjoy your Autumn mushroom foraging without poisoning yourself…
1. Never eat them
Well, then you would miss out on all the magical goodness that is wild mushrooms. Part of the satisfaction and deliciousness is the fact that many of the best mushrooms cannot be cultivated. You will never know how great they are unless you pay big money. This is sad, when most of them are free and plentiful in season.
2. Always cross reference during your identification process with as many sources as possible.
For example, have at least two good mushroom books, and multiple Internet sources to make sure they all agree on what you think you have found.
3. Always double check your identification with an expert.
Although most experts will stop short of telling you “that one is safe to eat”, most are happy to confirm or deny your guess. Try your local mycology association. Keep in mind that even experts can be wrong sometimes. Get more than one opinion.
4. After clear identification is made, only try a few bites after cooking (raw mushrooms are generally indigestible)
Gorging on an unknown mushroom is never a good idea. Even perfectly fine edibles do not sit well with some individuals. Wait 24 hours, then have more if you enjoyed them.
5. Pay attention to ALL the details.
During the learning process, there are many mistakes. Be open to the fact that paying attention to the smallest details takes practice.
6. Never eat anything you are not 100% sure about.
In fact, it is wise to wait until you are confident at identification of multiple species. Sometimes this can take several years of study.
7. Never eat more than one type of mushroom at a time.
If you were mistaken, at least the hospital will be able to figure out which one was the culprit.
8. Never be too confident.
Do not be tempted to think you “know it all” with mushrooms. They can be tricky even for seasoned hunters. They change their looks depending on age, time of year, amount of rainfall, and location. Don’t skip any identification steps, even when you think you have found something familiar.
9. Know the species that grow in your area.
Many an avid mushroom hunter has made a mistake in a new environment. For example, mushroom hunters from other countries who hunt here can come across something similar to what they collect in their own country, and assume it is the same. Don’t do that.
10. Memorize identification of deadly poisonous mushrooms (not as many as you would think).
Half the battle is knowing what is NOT a good mushroom.
If you would like to learn more about wild edible mushrooms (and edible plants) and even begin foraging for them yourself, check out our Beginner’s Guide to Wild Foraging eCourse in We Are Wildness U by the author of this post, Dr. Kelley Hagenbuch. Learn identification, preparation, sustainable practices, recipes, and specific techniques to safely begin enjoying Nature’s bounty.