Many beginning wild mushroom hunters take the straight-line approach of learning to identify a particular mushroom they want to find and eat. They read one field guide and then go out and pick mushrooms and try to make them fit the description in the field guide. This approach can be dangerous! Before you pick that mushroom to eat, you need to learn all of its identifying characteristics, including its look alike. The old saying, “A little knowledge is dangerous” applies to mushroom identification. If you want to practice your fungal hunter/gatherer skills safely, you need to spend the time to really make sure you really know the mushrooms you want!
Here are some simple rules you should follow to safely eat wild mushrooms:
- Know all the mushroom’s identifying characteristics.
- Be aware of any look alike species that might be confused with the kind you want to eat.
- Know what color the mushroom’s spore print is supposed to be and make sure your mushrooms have that spore color.
- Get at least one positive ID of the mushrooms from an experienced mushroom hunter.
- Eat only a small amount at first. You could be allergic to the species. There are people who are allergic to Boletus edulis and Morchella angusticeps, and these species are considered excellent edibles.
- If in doubt, throw it out! If you aren’t completely sure of your identification, don’t eat it! The same comment applies to mushrooms that are old, smelly or doubtful looking. You wouldn’t eat a rotten tomato, and you shouldn’t eat mushrooms that don’t look or smell quite right!